How Do You Ask for What You Want?

Ask_for_what_you_wantAll request are not created equal.  There are a variety of ways to ask for something and some ways are more effective than others.  There are certain words we use to make a request. The stronger the word the more authority the speaker has.

  • Order
  • Command
  • Demand

These types of words require responsibility from the speaker.  The court can order you to do something. An officer can order or command the soldiers under him.  Parents often demand things of their children.  When this is done to maintain the law or for safety it may be well received. But when the speaker abuses his authority he may be perceived as a dictator demanding obedience to control others.  This creates resentment in the listener and even if the consequences are very high for not obeying and even if they do what is required they will promise to someday, somehow, someway get the speaker back.  Countries take decades to rebel against a Dictator and children may spend a rebellious lifetime attempting to “get” their authoritative parents back.

Let’s take a look at words on the other end of the spectrum.

  • Try
  • Please
  • Beg

These words are weaker and reflect the lower position the speaker has or thinks they have in the relationship.  I beg the court to hear my case.  Would you please try to be home for dinner?

At the very bottom of this list is not asking at all.  How often do you not even ask? What do you think stops us from asking? Maybe we don’t want to inconvenience someone or maybe we’re afraid they will say no and we won’t get what we want.

If you don’t ask, the answer is already no and you have no chance of getting what you want.

There are words that are in the middle.  These words reflect that the relationship has mutual respect.  They don’t come across as demanding or begging.

  • Request
  • Ask

We can simple say “I have a request” or “ I’d like to ask something of you”.

How do you ask for what you want? How is this a reflection of the way you perceive yourself in the relationship?  Are you a demanding dictator, barking out orders because you are afraid of not being in control? Maybe you beg, whine or plead because you don’t hold yourself as valuable or worthy?  Do you ask others to please try to do something for you because you don’t’ want to be a bother? Maybe you always give them a way out because you fear that if they say no it means they are rejecting you?  


  • No doesn’t equal rejection.
  • No equals I decline.  (I’m either not willing or able to do what you’re requesting at this time.)

Words are very powerful.  By changing one word in a sentence you can shift the entire context of a request and this can shift the entire context of a relationship as well.

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