Ask For What You Want

For those of you who have had kids, you’ll remember hearing this phrase over and over from your children: “I want ___________.” Every time we went to the store, my sons always wanted something and they would ask over and over and over. I don’t specifically remember, but I’m guessing that I (and you) did the same thing when we were young. But somewhere along the line we were told, taught or trained to stop asking for what we want. Instead, we learned to be grateful (perhaps) for what we had and to not be selfish or greedy (by asking for what we want). These are certainly noble ideas (in context), but this training caused many of us to give up one of our most empowering choices – the choice to ask for what we want. No wonder we don’t get what we want because we typically fail to ask for it, and its time to reclaim your power by doing what you did so naturally when you were young – ask for what you want!

This may sound simplistic, but I’ve found that if I don’t ask I usually don’t get. Yes, there are times when I get things (or outcomes) without asking, but that’s not the norm. For some strange reason I actually seem to believe (at least my actions say so) that whatever I want will come to me or be offered to me (usually by someone else) simply because I want it, but without asking for it. While this may involve actual things or items, it’s more often some outcome or some action from another person. It might also involve something that you want someone to stop doing, but the common thread is that if you want something to change you have to ask for what you want.

This past fall I had the honor to speak to a group of students at North Carolina State University. The topic was leadership and several weeks later one of the students emailed me to ask if I’d be willing to talk to her. I promptly responded and agreed to meet with her when I was back in Raleigh. She was very grateful and said that she was surprised that I would take time to meet with her. Without going into all the reasons that she (or anyone) might question my willingness to make time to meet with them, I told her that I agreed because I respect people who ask for what they want. You may not get it every time, but you generally won’t get anything that you don’t ask for.

Similarly, if you want a certain behavior to stop, it’s up to you to ask for what you want – to ask someone to stop doing that behavior. Make no mistake – you still may not get what you want, but you have a much better chance of getting what you want when you ask for it (than if you just hope for something to change without asking for that change).

Perhaps we think it’s rude to ask. Perhaps you were told that it’s selfish to ask for what you want. Perhaps it feels pushy to ask for what you want. Whatever the hesitancy, if you want things to change then it’s up to you to create that change – by taking new or different action yourself AND by asking for what you want from others.

Don’t assume that people know what you want, ask. Don’t expect people will stop a certain behavior, ask. Don’t hope to receive something that you’re unwilling to ask for. No matter what the situation, if you’re unwilling or unable to ask for what you want, then perhaps you don’t really want it (or deserve it).

Ask for the meeting. Ask for the date. Ask for the best deal. Ask for the business. Ask for the time. Ask for the conversation. Ask for the raise. Ask for the opportunity. Ask for an explanation. Ask for advice. Ask for a do-over. Ask for forgiveness. Ask for Ask for help. Ask, ask, ask!

What do you want that you have thus far failed to ask for? What do you want to stop that you have failed to ask for it to stop? What are you waiting for? Ask for what you want!

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