Category Archives: The Language of Asking

Three Key Words for Successful Asking

There are three words that I believe are critical to a successful asker:  “please” (which seems a bit obvious) and “thank you” (which often gets overlooked). Expressing gratitude to those who deserve it has become a challenge in our culture. Many of us do the internal stuff–thanking the universe, making our daily gratitude lists–but how many of us do the external stuff? For example, when was the last time you said “thank you” to someone?

Coffee Party:  Wake Up and Stand Up
The same wise woman just referred me to the Coffee Party. Take their Civility Pledge!

Several years ago, I was sitting in a staff meeting. The topic of discussion was, “How to Better Motivate Our Employees”. Most of us immediately leapt to staging big team-building events, which the company could not afford. Then, a very wise woman (and tiara wearer) said, “How about we all start saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’?” Dead silence in the room. How beautifully simple! Just say “please” and “thank you”. Have you ever been loath to take on an additional task because you hadn’t been appreciated for doing the extra work last time? Using these three little words made a world of change in my department in this company. My team was happier and more motivated, and other people were dying to come work in my group.

Start expressing your appreciation and gratitude today. Here’s an easy way to begin (and one of my personal pet peeves):  If someone holds a door open for you, SAY “THANK YOU”. Is that really so hard? Do you really have so much on your mind (or such a high opinion of yourself) that you can’t take the fraction of a second? Or will it take a door slamming on your head or hand or foot to wake you up and make you appreciate us door-holders?

OK, rant over. My point is, will you start appreciating what you receive (and the person or entity that gives it to you), or will you continue to live in your bubble until a door slams you in the head?

Frightened by the New Economy?

When Oliver asked for more, the warden gave him more anger. He should have been more specific.

We hear it all the time, from all sorts of places.

You can’t do that in the new economy.

You can’t expect that in the new economy.

That just can’t happen in the new economy.

So many people are waiting until the new economy turns around, rebounds, transforms into the new new economy. They are afraid to take a risk, afraid to try something new, afraid to ask for anything. It’s like that famous scene in Oliver! where all the children are hungry because no one wants to ask for more.

People and organizations are paralyzed with fear. Fear of risk, fear of losing, fear of being slapped by the head of the orphanage. Call me crazy, but I think there’s opportunity to move when everyone else is standing still. It’s all about clarity and focus.

Lately, I’ve found it easier for people to respond with a “yes” when my asks are much more specific than usual. Here’s an example:

Non-specific Ask and Response:
Would you be interested in working with me?
Well, not right now. I’m still investigating other options. I don’t know if I’ll have the time.

Specific Ask and Response:
Do you think you could invest 10 hours over the next 90 days to get your message refocused and get over your fears of asking for what you want?
Yes, I think I can take that on. What’s the next step?

You can help people break their paralysis. Try asking them for something specific, maybe something small initially. That small, initial “yes” can lead to a bigger, deeper relationship and a much larger “yes” down the road.

What Are You Asking For?

Now, those of you that know me well may have read the title of this post with a New Yawk accent, and a slightly obnoxious attitude. Like, “Whaddya askin’ for?” And expecting it to be followed closely by, “Who wants to know?” You would be wrong.

I simply mean to get you to think about exactly what you are asking for. Especially when you’re asking for money.

Pile of dollar bills
Don't you really want to ask for this?

There are lots of words for money. Here in the US, we sometimes call it “moolah”, “Benjamins”, “bucks”, and “greenbacks”. We also know that when we hear those words, the speaker is referring to a pile of paper legal tender. Too often, we are way less clear when we are actually asking for some of the stuff.

We ask for “support”. We ask for “resources”. We ask for “assistance”. If we’re being slightly less nebulous, we ask for “funding”. Or we ask for “investment”. When was the last time you actually used the word “money” when you were asking for money?

Much of this obliqueness (is that even a word?) comes from our fears and discomfort around money. We’re not supposed to talk about money. We’re not supposed to ask other people about their money. We’re not supposed to volunteer how much money we make or have in our bank accounts. Why do we have these fears? Too many hypotheses to put into this post. Suffice it to say that most of us have some fear or discomfort around talking about money.

Well, here’s a new hypothesis for you. How about asking for exactly what you want?

I just heard all of you gasp.

What, you don’t want to ask that investor to actually write a check? You don’t want to tell the potential donor you need her to give you money? You’re uncomfortable asking a client to pay you dollars commensurate with the value you provide?

Pile of old computers
How do you feel when you think you're asking for money, and you get stuff like this?

Look at the flip side. Should you be frustrated when the investor wants to trade stock in her company for stock in yours? Would you happy if the potential donor gave you her nasty old office furniture instead of cash? Does your work suffer if you’re secretly thinking, “they aren’t paying me enough”?

Be clear about what you want. It makes it much easier for people to give it to you.

If you’re still uncomfortable using words like money, cash, dollars, income, revenue and profit, you might want to check out my special report: 10 Biggest Fears Professional Women Have Around Asking for Money…and How to Conquer Them! You can get it by filling out the form on the right.

Or, get yourself the newly-released How to Ask for Money Quickstart Program. Three powerful tools to help you overcome your fears, embrace your leadership qualities and ask for—and get—the money you deserve.