Most of us need to enlist others outside of our team to help accomplish some tasks. Since the others are not required to say yes, you must finesse how you ask. In fact, even if the person is on your team, s/he may not be obligated to help you if what you’re asking is outside his/her area of responsibility.
It’s important to build relationships before you need to ask for help. People are inclined to help others they like, respect and trust. So ensure you are treating everyone you encounter in the best possible way. If someone asks you for assistance and you are able to provide it easily, then help them out. While requests are never to be quid pro quo, it often helps someone say yes to you if you’ve helped them. But don’t expect it or make them feel badly if they can’t help you in return.
In asking, your timing, tone of voice and word choice are critical.
People are more inclined to say no when feeling stressed. This could be because they have just been given other tasks by their boss, they are running late for a meeting, or are about to leave for the day. So before you tender the request, ask if s/he has a minute to talk.
“Hey James. I want to ask you something. Do you have a few minutes?”
“Sally, I’d like to briefly discuss something with you. Is this a good time?”
“Pat, it seems you’re about to leave. I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes but don’t want to hold you up. Can we touch base when you return?
Tone of Voice
It should go without saying that as professionals we need to be conscious and respectful in our tone of voice with co-workers, especially if we are asking them to help us. However, I’ve witnessed colleagues use brusk, demanding and condescending tones when asking for help. Needless to say, their requests aren’t granted.
To ensure your requests are accepted more often, check yourself before starting the conversation, whether in person, on the phone, or via text. If you are feeling stressed, that may come out in your tone so spend a moment taking a deep breath and calming yourself first.
Remember, since this person is not on your direct team, s/he is doing you a favor so treat him/her respectfully and appreciatively. Make sure that is reflected in your attitude and tone when you approach them.
Your word choice is critical. Assuming you have timing and tone of voice in order, how you ask is the key to getting the other person’s acceptance.
Spend a moment practicing or drafting your words. Yes, really. You want to be authentic as well as confident. You don’t want to say the wrong thing.
Respectfully request without demanding or manipulating
- “Would it be okay with you if…”
- “Might you be willing to…”
- “Would you be open to…”
- “How would you feel about…”
- “Would you be willing to consider…”
- “Would it be possible to…”
- “Is there any way you could…”
Express your willingness to negotiate
- “If this doesn’t work for you, please say no.”
- “I’m hoping my request won’t inconvenience you…”
- “Let me share what I need and see how much, if any, you could help with.”
- “Tell me what parts of this you could do and which parts you can’t or don’t want to do.”
Show you want them to feel good about granting your request
- “I’m wondering if we can explore how to create a win/win…”
- “Let’s both share how this would work in our perfect world…”
- “Is there any part of this that wouldn’t work for you?
If they decline, thank them for considering it and move on. Don’t admonish or guilt them as they will resent it and hold that against you the next time you ask them for something. However, if you graciously thank them, they will be open to at least hear your request next time.
When you combine all three components, you will find most people will grant your request if it is something they can accomplish within your time frame.
When you do get the yes, show your appreciation at the time of acceptance and when they deliver what you requested. If appropriate, let others know how they helped you accomplish the task. You will be building a climate of trust and appreciation with the person who helped as well as others who witness your respectfulness and appreciation so more people will be open to your requests in the future.