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How to Ask for What You Want

how to ask for what you want

To get what you want, you have to ask for it.

Do you ask for what you want?  Most people don’t. They yearn, they hope, they hint, and they drop vague innuendos, but they don’t ask.

Yet a fundamental truth in life is that it is by asking that you receive. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.  This applies to everything in life. Look at the following:

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  • If you’re in sales, you have to ask for the sale.
  • If you go on a job interview, you have to ask for the job.
  • If you want a raise at work, you have to ask for it.
  • If you would like to get more acknowledgement from your loved ones for the things you do for them, you have to ask them for it.
  • If there’s something that you really want to get as a gift from your spouse for your birthday, you have to ask them for it.
  • If you need help, you have to ask for it.

Whatever it is that you want to achieve in life, it’s almost certain that someone else has something that you need in order to achieve it, and you’re going to have to ask them for it. However, most people don’t know how to ask for what they want.

This blog post will show you how to ask for what you want and increase your chances that you’ll get it.

Why We Don’t Ask for What We Want

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, co-authors of the bestselling “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, wrote an entire book on the subject of asking for what you want.  It’s aptly called “The Aladdin Factor”.

Canfield and Hansen believe that most people fail to get what they want–despite reading lots of books on success and goal achievement–because they skip the crucial step of asking.

But, why don’t people ask for what they want? In “The Aladdin Factor”, Canfield and Hansen indicate that it’s because of the following 5 reasons:

1. Ignorance.  This encompasses several different things:

  • You don’t know what you want;
  • You don’t know what’s available; and/or
  • You don’t know how to ask.

2. Limiting and inaccurate beliefs. Many people believe that they don’t have to ask for what they want.

For example, you may think that if you work hard and get good results for your company, you’ll get a raise. Or you may think that if your significant other really loves you, they’ll be attuned to all your needs and will give you what you want.

These beliefs are wrong. It’s rare that a boss will offer a raise to an employee who doesn’t ask for it. And it doesn’t matter how much your significant other loves you, he or she is not a mind-reader. If there’s something that you want from them, ask them for it.

3. Fear.  Fear often stops us from asking for what we want. We’re afraid of rejection, of being ridiculed, and of looking stupid.

4. Low self-esteem.  One of the reasons that people don’t ask for what they want is because they feel that they don’t deserve it.

5. Pride.  There are some who feel that asking for help makes them look weak. They think that they should be able to figure everything out by themselves and find a way to get what they want on their own.

How to Ask for What You Want

In order to get what you want, ask for it by doing the following:

  • Ask Someone Who Can Give It to You
  • Ask With Confidence
  • Ask Clearly
  • Come Up With a Good Strategy for Asking
  • Ask Consistently

Each of these points is explained below.

Ask Someone Who Can Give It To You

You need to assess carefully who can give you what you need.  For example, if you’re thinking of asking family members for financial help with a start-up, don’t ask your sister who is newly married and has just started a family.

Even if she really wants to help you, unless she’s very wealthy, she’s just not in a position at the moment to give you financial help.  In addition, don’t ask your tightfisted uncle who has never lent anyone a cent in his life.

When you ask for something, make sure that you’re asking the right person.

Ask With Confidence

While it’s not a good idea to try to get what you want by making demands, when you ask for something you should appear confident.  You can project confidence with your body language, your tone of voice, by making eye-contact, and by choosing the right words.

John Chow–from the blog John Chow dot com–explains that he has two friends who wanted to go to a conference that was coming up.  Chow recommended that they write to the conference organizers asking for a press pass.  The friend with the bigger blog wrote the following:

“I was hoping I could receive a free press pass to the San Francisco Ad:tech conference. I am a web entrepreneur and blogger, and would be covering the event from my popular blog which has an RSS readership of over 1,400.

It will be my first conference ever attended, so I am a bit unsure as to how the process for press passes goes. Would I be correct to assume that it would be equivalent to the Full Conference Pass?”

The friend with the smaller blog wrote the following:

“Hello this is [insert name] from [insert blog] and I need a press pass to cover Ad:Tech. I was notified by ValueClick and Google about your show. They said we should check it out.

Our site covers [Insert topic here]. See you in San Francisco.”

Who do you think got the press pass? The second one, even though his blog has a smaller audience. Ask as if you expect to get it.  Confidence goes a long way.

Ask Clearly

Take the time to prepare so that you’re very clear on exactly what it is that you want.  Then express your want as plainly and as directly as possible. The clearer your request, the more likely it is that the other person will be able to meet it.

For example, don’t just tell your spouse that you need for them to help out more around the house.  Instead, tell them exactly what you need for them to do. Here’s an illustration:

“After dinner I need to get the kids ready for bed, so I would really appreciate it if you could clear the table and put the dishes in the machine.”

Come Up With a Good Strategy

Before asking, come up with a good strategy for getting what you want.  When you ask for something, you have to tell the other person what’s in it for them. As Zig Ziglar says, “You can get everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”

For example, a lot of people email bloggers with a large subscriber base and ask them to link to their blog.  That’s a really bad strategy.  Why would a popular blogger link to your blog when there’s nothing in it for them?

A much better strategy is to find large blogs that accept guest posts and write a fabulous post for them (make sure to follow their guest posting guidelines).  That way, they get great content for their blog, and you get a supercharged link back to your blog.

As another example, if you’re going to ask for a raise at work, make sure that you can show your boss that you’re worth more to the company than what you’re currently being paid. Do the following:

  • Have clear examples of how you’re saving the company money;
  • Show your boss that you’re taking on responsibilities that go beyond your job description;
  • Have concrete evidence of the positive impact that you have on the corporation.

Telling your boss, “I need more money because I’ve had some unforeseen expenses”, is not going to get you a raise.

Keep the following in mind as you create your strategy for asking for what you want:

  • When and where should you approach the person you’re going to ask for what you want?
  • What’s in it for them?
  • What language should you use?
  • What steps can you take to make it more likely that you’ll get what you’re asking for?

Ask Consistently

My sister has two little boys.  One of them is three-years-old.  When the three-year-old wants something, he unabashedly asks for it.

  • If you tell him “no”, he wants to know why not.
  • If he can’t have it now, then he wants to know when he can have it.
  • If he asks for ice cream and is told that he can’t have any, then he asks for chocolate milk.
  • If he’s also refused the chocolate milk, then he moves on to orange juice.

As you can easily guess, he always walks away with something.

The same concept applies in sales.  Salespeople know that they’re probably going to be turned down several times before they make the sale.  Therefore, they listen to the customer’s concerns and then they try again by offering a different solution to the customer’s problem, or by addressing any fears they may have.

In addition, this concept applies to all areas of life. When you ask, be ready to encounter some resistance. Then, instead of backing away, deal with that resistance.

While you shouldn’t simply repeat your original request like a broken record if you’re rejected, instead of giving up, start looking for alternatives. “No” means “not now”, “not here”, “not yet”, or “you need to change your approach”. It could also mean that you’re asking the wrong person.

Modify your approach, find the right person to ask, or wait for the right moment. But keep asking.

How to Get Over the Fear of Asking for What You Want

As was stated earlier on in this post, one of the reasons that people don’t ask for what they want is because of fear.

Maybe you want to ask your boss for a raise, turn a work colleague into a friend, or ask a couple of friends to look over your business opportunity.  First, you have to be willing to be a little afraid. You don’t have to give in to the fear, but you have to be willing to feel it.

Then, instead of saying, “I’m afraid to do these things”, Canfield recommends that you come up with a statement that reflects how you’re scaring yourself.  Your statement could look like the following:

  • “I want to ask my boss for a raise, and I scare myself by imagining that he’ll say ‘No’ or that he’ll get mad at me for asking.”
  • “I want to ask my friends to look over my business opportunity, and I scare myself by imagining that they’ll think that I’m only after their money.”

Acknowledge that you are creating your fear, and you’ll start to triumph over it.

A second approach to getting over the fear of asking for what you want is one suggested by Marcia Martin–one of the original pioneers of the Human Potential Movement.  She says the following:

“What I point out to people is that it’s silly to be afraid that you’re not going to get what you want if you ask. Because you are already not getting what you want. They always laugh about that because they realize it’s so true. Without asking you already have failed, you already have nothing. What are you afraid of? You’re afraid of getting what you already have! It’s ridiculous! Who cares if you don’t get it when you ask for it, because, before you ask for it, you don’t have it anyway. So there’s really nothing to be afraid of.”

If you ask, you might get a “yes”. But if you don’t ask, you’ll always get a “no”. To get what you want, you have to have the guts to ask for it.

The Other Side of the Coin: Giving

As you start asking others for what you want, remember that the flip side of getting is giving.

  • If you’re going to ask someone for help, why not lend a hand to someone who approaches you asking for advice?
  • If you want to ask your spouse to acknowledge all of the work that you do around the house, why not acknowledge them for going out to work each day so that you can stay home with the kids?
  • If you’re going to ask others for what you need in order to accomplish your goals, why not share your resources with others so that they can achieve their goals?

Just as others have things you want, you have things others want. If someone asks for something reasonable that you can give them, and they follow the guidelines above, why not give it to them?

An Exercise to Help You Start Flexing Your “Asking Muscles”

Get started asking for what you want right away. Just download the exercise I created for you below.



I used to be scared of asking for things. But I’m not anymore. When I want something, I ask for it. Sometimes I get a “no”, but most of the time I’m given what I ask for. I attribute my high success rate to the fact that I follow the process I laid out above.

Here are three things I’m going to ask you for:

1. If you haven’t subscribed to my blog, do so now and you’ll be notified every time I publish an article with great tips on how to live your best life.

2. Get The One-Hour-A-Day Formula: How to Achieve Your Dreams in Just One-Hour-A-Day and move your most important goal forward in just one-hour-a-day.

3. If procrastination is the bane of your existence (as it used to be bane of mine), get Make It Happen! A Workbook For Overcoming Procrastination and Getting the Right Things Done and conquer procrastination once and for all.

Live your best life by learning how to ask for what you want.


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