ask the right questions to get what you wantHow do you negotiate the push and pull for resources? What are the best strategies to promote your agenda ahead of those competing for the same space and attention? How do you get what you really want and have others support you in your requests? The answer to these questions is simple.

First, consider what you want before you attempt to influence or negotiate. Then, ask for what you want and support your requests with good business reasons. Those who achieve the best results are those who have the courage to feel fear and ask anyway.

Ever stop yourself from asking for something big and later see someone else get exactly what you wanted? You’re not alone. According to the responses from almost 1,200 professionals in a wide variety of fields, 35 percent of us have failed to ask for something we could have had.

In fact, the great majority of us hold ourselves back when making requests. Ninety-six percent of people report they could have improved their results by asking for a little bit more or by taking more of a risk. Ranked in order, the top reasons people say they’re afraid to ask for what they want are:

  1. I will overwhelm or bug the person I’m asking.
  2. I will use the wrong words.
  3. I will embarrass myself or look stupid.
  4. I will be told no.

Surprisingly, people would rather be told no than feel they are bothering someone to get what they want. This fear of bugging someone leads to self-monitoring and reluctance to ask. Don’t confuse “outrageous” with “obnoxious.” An outrageous request is anything that is outside your comfort zone. Not asking prevents you from receiving results within your grasp.

The people you could ask may not be surprised. They may hear requests like yours all the time. They may assume you are happy with the current state of affairs because you haven’t asked for a change.

When asking for what they want, people worry about the wrong things. The top reasons people think their requests are denied is because:

  1. The other person lacks the information needed.
  2. The timing is wrong.
  3. The person I’m asking doesn’t want to spend the money.

But none of these are the main reasons they are told no. Actually, respondents say they deny requests or say no when the other person:

  1. Is asking for something inappropriate.
  2. Is someone I don’t like, respect or trust.
  3. Can’t respond intelligently to questions about the request.

To focus on what really matters and overcome the real reasons people report saying no to requests, focus on the following:

WII-FT? What’s in it for them? Nearly everyone has heard of WIIFM or “What’s in it for me?” Yet, it is surprising how many people need to be reminded to consider the needs of others. The No. 1 reason people report saying no to others is when the request is “inappropriate.” A request can seem inappropriate when the person asked doesn’t possess the authority to say “yes” or fails to see the benefits of the request. People are less willing to listen to someone who hasn’t acknowledged their needs or realized their limitations.

Ask yourself WII-FT, “What in it — for them?” When asking for additional resources for your department or a budget increase, remember that everyone is concentrating on his/her own best interests and has their own set of work goals. Revise your requests to consider what others may want.

For example, can you show that adding the resources needed for your leadership development initiative will positively impact several departments’ objectives? How could you show that your proposed programs, which improve communications, accountability, and strategic problem-solving, also address other departments’ goals?

Wintegrity: Wintegrity is winning with integrity or acting in an ethical manner to promote the best outcomes for all involved including one’s self-interests. Wintegrity produces the best long-term solution.

Asking gives you the opportunity to listen and establish trust. Don’t forget to be polite. Alongside ethics and integrity are manners. One-third of people report they are more likely to say no to a request if the person is inconsiderate or has bad manners.

Remain calm. When you make an unanticipated request you may meet with resistance or an emotional response. Although your request seems logical and well thought out to you, it is new information to the other party. Slow down, communicate and walk them through the basics. They may need time to reflect or ask for approval from their boss. Consequently, when you are faced with an unanticipated request, ask questions to clarify such as:

  • “I’m not sure how to respond to your statement. If you were in my position what would you be asking now?”
  • “This request is new to me. Can you fill me in?”
  • “That’s a surprising request. What are our options?”

Asking outrageously may be all you need to push your agenda and fight for the budget you or resources you need. Don’t become too attached to how your requests are fulfilled. Rarely is there only one solution. When you ask outrageously, the results become bigger and so do your chances of success.

Linda Swindling is an author and former employment attorney. She has authored or co-authored 18 books, including “Ask Outrageously! The Secret to Getting What You Really Want.” Comment below or email



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