Asking someone for something can feel uncomfortable. We feel like we’re imposing on them or encumbering them in some way.
These uncomfortable feelings apply to strangers, colleagues, and friends alike. In fact, sometimes with the people to whom you are closest, the feelings can be even more acute!
Whatever the case, at the end of the day, no one wants to come across as demanding, pushy, or aggressive.
So today, we’re going to discuss how to ask for things you want with a polite, non-aggressive way.
Alright, so let’s talk about making requests.
Let’s start with an example of what not to say: “We’re moving to a new city. Please let me know of any moving companies you recommend.”
In theory, this request is polite, because it starts with “please”. But in practice, it comes off as a bit demanding because it doesn’t give the recipient any flexibility. It’s essentially saying, “you must do what I ask” and it implies that they should know moving companies. They’ll feel obligated to help you, and if they aren’t able to be helpful, they’ll feel bad about that.
So what’s a better way to ask someone for something?
I have a magic trick for you! Are you ready?
Frame your request as a hypothetical.
Let’s revisit the example using hypothetical phrasing: “We’re moving to a new city. If you happen to know any moving companies, I’d be grateful for any suggestions”.
This time around, the request is no longer a demand. Instead, the request is presented merely as a possibility. We aren’t assuming the recipient knows moving companies. We are simply letting them know that, should they be aware of any options, we’d appreciate their input.
So the key operating phrase here is “If you happen to.”
Moreover, we reinforce this hypothetical sentiment by closing with “I’d be grateful for any suggestions”, which is much less demanding than saying “please let me know”. "I’d be grateful for” is not a request. It’s really just an FYI that you are on the lookout for suggestions.
When it’s phrased this way, the recipient will eagerly present their ideas if they have any, and they won’t feel guilty if they don't.
Let’s look at a few more examples.
Instead of saying: “Please bring some smoked salmon for our brunch.”
Say: “If you happen to swing by a deli on your way over here, would you mind picking up some smoked salmon?”
Once again, this hypothetical phrasing is much less demanding and gives the recipient an easy out if they need it.
Let’s look at one more:
Instead of saying: “Can I borrow your yoga mat?”
Say: “If you happen to have a spare yoga mat, would you mind if I borrowed it?”
Same deal here. Your request is no longer a demand. It’s simply letting them know you are in the market for a yoga mat if they happen to have one.
So there’s the secret to making non-pushy, non-demanding requests.
Phrase your requests as hypotheticals. That way, the recipient doesn’t feel obligated to do anything if they don’t want to.
Most of the time, they’ll be eager to help you, and since it was phrased so politely, they’ll even try to go the extra mile for you.
And as you probably noticed, “If you happen to...” is a great phrase for doing that. But there are other excellent options, like “Would you mind if...” or “Would it be possible to...”
Sure, this phrasing might be a touch more wordy, but it almost universally achieves better results and gives people a better impression of you.
So it’s well worth the extra effort.
Now that I've shared our thoughts, I’d love to hear your own ideas for making a polite request. What other ways do you think you could ask for things without seeming pushy? Share that with me and the Explearning community in the comments down below.
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With that, have an awesome week, Explearners.
Thank you so much for joining me and I’ll see you next time for your next Explearning lesson.
Happy Explearning ⚡