HOW TO ASK


I promised some weeks ago that I will continue the life skill of asking and go further to show you “how to ask.” Asking is a skill. You have to graduate from the “spirit of gi’mme” that babies acquire from the womb and mature to making life-changing requests — requests that will make a difference in your life.

Let me fire the first shot. “Anything Is Possible… When You Unleash Your Power to Ask!” Life is there for the taking but first, you have to ask. It is in your best interest to ask for what you want. Stating what you want enables the other people to know how to react.

As you go along in life, by now you would have realized that nothing comes to you effortlessly. You need to ask. Applying for a job is asking for the job. Telling a girl your life story so that she can change her surname to yours takes asking. You are getting my drift.

Asking demands a level of vulnerability. When we realize that we are always at the mercy of the next person, we will see that being vulnerable adds authenticity to our humanity. It takes a lot to ask — the sessions of self-psyching, self-doubt and rejection — stares one at the face on the eve of preparing to ask. It is what it is, and you have got to do what you must do.

Here are a few nuggets to know and prepare before you make that request.

  1. Values Alignment: The easiest way to get across to anyone is to align with his/her values. If you bring your admission result to a man who believes that education is the way to democratize access to a good future and discuss your plans, there is a likelihood of being heard. I remember once in the office a young man came and spoke favourably of Manchester United. The conversation went well and at the end of the day, the Manchester United fan he was having the conversation with ordered expensive paraphernalia from Old Trafford for this “new found friend.” Value alignment at its best. You don’t ask a Liverpool fan to support Everton. Yes, they are in the same city, but they are rivals. You don’t ask a staunch Democrat to vote for a Republican. Yes, they are both Americans, but they believe different things. There are request you make that makes the other party know that you know nothing about them.
  2. Compelling Reasons: What is your story? The reason why you made the request in the first place. What will go wrong if you don’t get what you want? Is it life changing or a nice to have? The raison d’etre must be established. Some young people I was mentoring came to me once to ask for money so that they can “go out.” I did not get it. I asked them to state what will go wrong if I did not give them the money. They said “nothing.” We both left it at that. I think since I made some things easy for them, they thought they had an open cheque. I took another instance to educate them to screen their request before making them. It shows maturity and thoughtfulness (remember the principle of scarce resource and opportunity cost in Economics 101? I took them through that).
  3. Ask for What You Want: Be clear about what you want and try your best to go straight to the point. Most times the people you need to make a request from are busy people and they will be happy if you do not waste their time. State exactly what you require. Don’t ask for something less or more. When you are definite in what you require, you will be able to articulate why you need that thing. I have second guessed myself and asked for something lower than what I really wanted, and the person gave it to me effortlessly. It was there and then it dawned on me that I could have asked for what I really wanted. But it was too late. Since then, I try to ask for what I want.
  4. Don’t Talk Yourself Out Of Any Deal: I wrote an article on this before “Don’t Count Yourself Out.” Don’t talk yourself out of a request. It is one of the worst things you can do to yourself. The very thing that you think is an issue might never even occur to the person/people. It is a disservice to talk yourself out of anything that you really want. I have applied for jobs that the advert criteria excluded me. I have talked to people whom people say I should not bother with. Both scenarios ended with successful outcomes. I always ask myself, “what is the worst that can happen?” Using that I walk through the scenarios mentally and prepare before I make my request.
  5. Go with Something in Hand: Assuming you needed to start a business and you needed a loan or new business from a client, please go there with evidence of what you have done before. Show them previous supplies, where you are on your journey and why you need this assistance. It is always easy to help someone who is going somewhere and has already started the journey. The person you need help from might point you to another direction that is more profitable or easy to navigate. Most times people are willing to help but at the same time, they do not want to give you ideas and help you run with it. They want to work with proven implementers — people with a track record. Assuming you want someone to mentor you, the person will happy to know that you have done your research about him/her before making the request. You need to demonstrate that. “I listened to the address you gave at the National Business Convention and I have read your works on Ethics and Management In the 21st Century,” is a good way to start the conversation when you are asking for mentorship/coaching.
  6. Be Polite: Ensure your request is made politely. There are times people refuse to grant you what you require because of your attitude. If you go with an entitlement mentality, they will be happy to put you in your place.
  7. Glory in Infirmities: I meet people who say, “You know I am not the asking type” or “You know I am shy.” My perfect response is that there is no award for shyness. Please do not glory in your “weaknesses.” Find a way to manage them or conquer them if you can. Great people find a way to handle things that limit them. If you intend to get there, then you need to offload these self-limiting mental conditioning. Successful people know how to ask. Some ask for things with their eyes closed.
  8. Provide Feedback/Appreciation: Most people do the “fly away Peter, fly away Paul” syndrome after they have obtained their request. My grandmother taught me never to do that. She said that you will imprint yourself in people’s heart if you go back to give feedback. I have practised this over the years and it works. It shows you are responsible. People are more willing to help next time. If a colleague helps you to beat a deadline, take out time to go and thank the person. If someone helps you through school, take out time to say thank you. If you stayed in someone’s home, please call them when you get back to your house. Thank them for the hospitality. In fact, make room for your spouse to also say a word of thanks. Remember the story of Jesus and the lepers. He cleansed ten and only one went back to thank Him. It was recorded that the one that went back was made whole. Biblical scholars say there was a difference between the first cleansing and being made whole. We can argue that but what we cannot argue is that Jesus was impressed. Take a cue from him.

Well, I have kept my promise on this one. When next we connect, I will take another life skill and expound on it. Take care.

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