In today’s world of business, so much of the advice provided to women is that we have to ask for what we want. Unfortunately there are a few problems with this: 1) we’re afraid to ask for what we want because we fear the answer will be no and 2) we actually don’t even know how to ask so that the answer could be yes.
Luckily for me (and now you!) I was able to attend a lunch and learn called “The Art of Ask” with a wonderful speaker named Sandra Tisiot, the founder and CEO of the Women in Business Conference. During this talk, she spoke to us, very candidly I might add, about how to ask for what you want so that you actually get it. Such an inspiring presenter, if you haven’t had a chance to hear her speak, I highly recommend registering for the upcoming Women in Business Conference on March 8th, in Ottawa (tickets go on sale on October 1st).
Here are 5 tips she shared to help you ask (and get) what you want:
Be clear about what you want
If you don’t know what you want, how do you expect the person you are asking to give it to you? Before you plan to ask for what you want, it’s important to know what your end goal is (what are you hoping to achieve by asking – a raise, a new role, the ability to work remotely?). Personally, I find it helpful when I write down my goals. This is also a great way to make sure your ask is SMART.
Earn the right to your ask
It should go without saying that in order to ask for something (like a promotion), you need to put in the work to get it. We all know those people who believe that because they have been in a role for the last 5 years that this somehow entitles them to a promotion or a raise (hint: it doesn’t!).
If you want a promotion, meet with a colleague or person who is currently doing the role you want and ask them about their journey. Schedule a quick coffee and bring some questions. Ask to shadow someone in the role you want. Hell, start doing the role of the level higher than you if you want to move up (as long as it doesn’t impede your current role, of course).
On top of that, find out what roadblocks are getting in the way of what you want. Do you need to have a specific skill set or designation (find out and work towards that before you ask!). This will also help with negotiating your ask, if it comes down to that, and will show the person you are asking that you came to the party prepared (hint: this will make them respect you!).
Pick the right time, place and person to ask
Think about the last time someone approached you to ask you for something. Was it the right time and place to ask? Make sure that you are not catching the person you are asking off guard and in a setting they are not comfortable in. When you’re asking someone for something, you want to make sure they feel safe so they are not already in defense mode (aka more likely to say no).
Not sure who to ask for what you want? Nowadays there are people called ‘gatekeepers’. These are people who you have to talk to before you can talk to the person who can give you what you want (think call centre supervisor when you’re calling to get a discount on your phone bill). Whenever you spend the energy to ask, you want to make sure that the person you are asking is actually the person who can give you what you’re asking for (refer to the R in SMART).
Ask with enthusiasm
This is an important thing to remember – by nature people want to help other people. As human beings, building connections is important and one of the easiest ways to do this is by helping others. However, another thing to keep in mind is that people often want to build connections and give help to people who they like. Therefore, when you are getting ready to ask someone for something, it is important that you are enthusiastic about your proposal (refer back to the M in SMART, make it meaningful for them so they want to help you).
On top of that, don’t be a pest. It’s important to build up the energy to ask for what you want (also known as ‘saving your asks’). If you are constantly pestering people for things, they will be less likely to want to help you.
Say thank you
Hooray you asked! So are you done? Um, no! Make a point to thank the person for their time (and this is important: even when the answer isn’t what you wanted). If this time you were unsuccessful in getting what you asked for, don’t fret. Have confidence in the fact that at least you asked and can work towards getting a yes in the future. Always remember a “no” from one person does not mean it will be a “no” from the next.
So now that you have learned the art of asking, the next time you want something, remember these tips and just ask. Who knows, you just might get it!