The Confident Way to Ask People for Things (without Being a Wimp or a Dictator)

When you want someone to do something for you, like having them do you a favor or asking the clerk for something behind the counter at the store, how do you ask them?

Have you ever stopped to identify how you do it and also considered how your request causes them to perceive you and how they feel about obliging you?

These are important questions to ask because how you answer them will reveal a lot about your character and how others view you.

There are three manners in which people ask for things. One way makes you come off weak and submissive, while another makes you look domineering and aggressive, almost like a bully. Both are approaches to be avoided, as they communicate a lack of character. But then there’s the middle ground where you come off confident and yet respectful of the person you’re requesting something of.

These three approaches reveal themselves in the words that are used.

So let’s take a look at each of them.

The Wimpy Approach

The key word in the wimpy approach is the word “Can,” which is the first word that comes up in the request.

When asking a favor of someone, a wimpy person will say something like, “Can you please wash the dishes?”

Or at the store, they say, “Can I have a case of Budweiser?”

The wimpy approach is one that looks for permission, which is a very weak position to be in. It immediately places the other person in a position of power or authority and yourself in a needy role, where the other person’s choice determines the outcome you want.

In fact, if you’ve ever used the “Can I” approach in requesting something at the store, I’m willing to bet the clerk has said something like, “Yes, you can,” in a somewhat snide manner, as if they’re doing you a huge favor and you’re in their debt.

But this isn’t really their fault. It’s yours, if you request things from a passive position.

When you ask for things, stop using the words “Can you...” or “Can I ...”

It will just make you come off weak and submissive, and that’s likely not what you or anyone wants to communicate.

The Domineering Approach

The key words in the domineering approach are “command” words. They’re verbs, followed by the request.

When “asking” someone for a favor, the domineering person will say something like, “Wash the dishes!”

Or at the store, they’ll say, “Give me a case of Budweiser!”

The domineering approach is one that is demanding and doesn’t take into consideration the idea of consent. It assumes the other person will consent to the request without first respecting other peoples’ free wills.

If you’ve ever given commands to clerks at the store, I’m willing to bet that if you watched closely or paid attention t0 their facial expressions and the manner in which they complied, you’ll have observed that they served you in a very reluctant, half-hearted way. The only reason they complied was because that’s how they’re getting paid.

When you ask people for favors or requests and if you don’t want to be a “bulldozer,” stop using command words in your requests.

It will just make you look like a dictator and a bully, and that’s probably not how you want others to perceive you.

The Confident Approach

The key word in the confident approach is “Would,” or a statement of desires. We’ll talk about what that means shortly.

When asking someone for a favor, the confident person says something like, “Would you wash the dishes?”

Or at the store, they say, “I’d like a case of Budweiser please.”

In the first case, they ask for consent. Not permission, like the wimpy approach. But consent. They recognize the other person’s free will and ask them if they’d be willing to do what they want. It gives the other person the choice to comply, which is key in earning the respect of others.

And in the second case, they’re stating their desires as their request. Instead of asking or demanding, they make their wishes known and let the person take that as their cue for what to do.

This is the approach in asking for things that will win the respect and esteem of others, without making you look like either a wimp or a dictator.

What’s Your Current Approach?

With all that said, again, let me ask you:

How do you ask for things?

Do you find that you say “Can you ...” or “Can I ...” when you frame your requests of other people?

Or do you find yourself demanding things of others in the form of commands, like some kind of army general?

Or do you respect other peoples’ choice and ask them if they “Would ...” do what you want them to?

I would encourage you to pay attention to how you ask things of people over the next few days, as the manner in which we do is often unconscious. Notice which approach you take. And if you find it’s either the wimpy or domineering approach, start training yourself to take the confident approach instead.

How do you do that?

Every time you’re anticipating asking something of someone, silently rehearse the question “Would you ...” in your mind before you open your mouth — or “I’d like ...”

You’ll win more respect and esteem if you do, because you won’t come off like wimp who others can easily push around and you won’t come off like a jerk that pushes others around.




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