5 Tips on Asking for What You Want

posted by Nick Nielsen on Monday, November 06, 2017 in Unified Communications and IT Blog

Whether we’re trying to get buy in on a project, have others to support our idea, or have someone complete a task, we have a lot of asks both professionally and personally. There are 5 tips that can help you successfully ask someone for something, regardless of the context. To put this in perspective, I’d like to recount a recent conversation I shared with my 7 year old son. He wanted a pair of football gloves. They were a specific pair of Green Bay Packer gloves, they were ONLY $25, and they were to be the perfect complement to his helmet and jersey.

To provide context, you should know he really, REALLY, REALLY wanted them. They were, in fact, only $25. Did I mention that? This is how our conversation went:

“Dad, I REALLY want Packer football gloves.”

“Son, your birthday is only a couple weeks away. You should put it on your wish list.”

“But Dad, you’ll forget and I won’t get them in time.”

“In time for what?”

“In time for Halloween! I need them for my costume.”

(This is when I revert to one of the classic parent maneuvers…the Deflection) “Well, let me talk to your mom.”

“UGH (loud sigh and foot stomp), I know what that means Dad, you aren’t going to get them!”

“Well, maybe we could use your allowance and you can save up for a few weeks…”

“Dad, I only have $2 in my piggy bank right now, and it would take 2 months allowance and another $3 dollars to get them” (At this point in time, I’m more impressed with his math skills than anything else…but he’s not amused and is becoming emotional.)

“Son, let’s stop and talk about how to ask for something that you really want.”



I was, in fact, sympathetic towards his cause. What proud father wouldn’t want to see his son march around in a new pair of Green Bay Packer football gloves? I knew he would love them, and I would love the hours of bonding time while playing catch with him in the backyard.

His question was a reasonable one, but what turned me off was his approach. So I decided to stop and reframe his approach. I explained to him that in ‘Sales’, you have to ask people for things all the time; and that it’s not always what you are asking for, but how you go about asking.

So, I conjured up my wisdom from many failed asks over the years and offered him these five tips on how to ask:

  1. Be Polite. Prepare your mom first, “Mom, can I ask you a question?” Then let her take her coat, purse and shoes off before you bombard her.
  2. Be Flexible. Let your Mom know that you’d be willing to give up your future allowance, or to take on extra chores or responsibilities. This will let her know that it’s something you are serious about and willing to work for.
  3. Be Reasonable. If your Mom agrees to the request, don’t expect that we are going to pile in the car and drive immediately to the sporting goods store. Understand that her decision will be based almost as much on convenience as it is ethics and economics.
  4. Be Gracious. Even if you don’t get your way, try to understand her decision. Don’t pout, don’t storm off, and you’ll have better luck next time; and if things do go your way ALWAYS be sure to say ‘Thank you’. Hugs are acceptable too.
  5. Remember Practice Makes Perfect. Asking for things is hard, especially when you REALLY want something. Try to prepare by practicing so you can choose your approach wisely and temper your reaction.

After our father-son bonding moment ended, we practiced, and practiced again, and when his Mom came home, I hid in the next room and listened to him work through each of the tips one by one. He was AMAZING! I was so proud of how well he adjusted his approach and approached his ask this time around. But, did it work for him?  Take a look and answer yourself.

I encourage you to take a minute and frame your own approach the next time you have to ask someone for something, whether it’s at home or at work. Follow these five tips and you might be surprised how much easier it is to gain cooperation from others.

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About The Author

Nick Nielsen began his work in the telecommunications industry in 2001. Prior to that, Nick attended Coe College, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Communication, was a student-athlete, served as a coach post-graduation, and also met his wife, Wendy. He then went on to earn his Master’s from the University of Iowa’s Tippie MBA program. Today, Nick serves as Vice President of Sales for GreatAmerica Financial.  Prior to joining GreatAmerica in 2008, he served in various leadership positions with U.S. Cellular.

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