The fear of asking: 5 steps and 2 quizzes
“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure” - Sven Goren Eriksson.
Whether you are the manager of a top football team, a member of staff or self-employed, as a student, a parent and a friend, a customer and a patient – you need to be able to ask and to do so in a polite and assertive way.
Think how many times you may need to ask even in the course of a single day!
As a life coach specialising in assertiveness, I am often approached by clients for help to address their fears about asking and their worry it will end in failure.
You can give yourself courage by:
- Recognising your right to ask.
- Identifying your difficult requests.
- Understanding the nature of your barriers to asking.
- Considering the benefits of asking.
- Planning and practising how to ask constructively, politely and assertively.
1. The right to ask
The Assertive Charter of Personal Rights states: “I have the right to state my own needs and ask for what I want”. This is not about riding roughshod over others, being selfish or inconsiderate, but simply recognising you have certain needs and conveying them reasonably, effectively and politely.
2. Quiz: hard to ask
Look through this range of requests. What do you find hard to ask?
- The doctor for an appointment – soon.
- A colleague for advice on a piece of work.
- A member of your team to do a piece of work they don’t like.
- A salary increase and/or promotion or better conditions.
- A regular weekly meeting with an elusive boss.
- A waiter/waitress in a restaurant to heat up your food or change your order.
- A decorator to redo part of their work.
- A neighbour to turn down their music.
- The family to tidy up up.
- A friend to return the money they owe you.
How many more requests can you think of that you’d find hard to make?
3. What stops you?
If you find it hard to ask, consider what it is that affects you. Perhaps you find it harder to ask some people than others or you might feel less confident and more vulnerable on some days than on others. Identify your barriers to asking in the quiz below:
Quiz: blocks and barriers
- Being unclear about what you want.
- Expecting the answer to be “no”.
- General fear of rejection.
- Worrying the person will resent you for asking.
- Feeling you don’t have the right to ask.
- Tending to put your own needs to the back of the queue.
- Anxiety about bothering people.
- Shyness and lack of confidence.
- Fear of being seen as selfish.
- Fear it will lead to a confrontation and/or aggressive response.
- Feeling you ‘shouldn’t have to ask’, that others ‘should’ know what you want.
- Not knowing how to ask in a positive and assertive way.
What other barriers can you identify for yourself?
4. Benefits of asking
Consider the benefits of asking. If you summon the courage to ask, you at least have a chance of a ‘yes’. Otherwise the answer can only be ‘no’. Asking makes for honest, open relationships rather than storing up resentful feelings. Asking may well give you the confidence to ask again, even if sometimes a refusal follows. Remember too that we all have the right to say both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
5. Planning and practising
Take it easy – don’t address the most difficult situation in your life first. After all, if you were a beginner carpenter, you might start with building a shelf, not a set of fitted wardrobes! Draw up a list of five situations where you want to ask. Number them in order of difficulty, with one being the easiest and five the hardest. Deal with them in order of difficulty, the easiest first and the hardest last, in order to gain practice and confidence.
Be clear about your objective(s) in asking, before deciding what to say. Be polite and specific, use the confident, assertive ‘I’ and thank people when they agree to your request. If they say ‘no’, remain courteous.
Here are examples of how to be polite and to the point.
To a friend: I’d be grateful if you could return the £20 I lent you last week when we went to the theatre.
To the doctor’s surgery: I’d like to book an appointment for this week please.
To a colleague: I’d appreciate your help with inputting this data. I’m not familiar with this system.
To your boss: I’d find it helpful if we could have a regular meeting/catch-up at the start of the week, ideally at the same time every week, so that I am up to speed with events and clear about the priorities.
To the children: I’d like you to do your homework now so that you’re ready for dinner at 7pm.
And finally, ask for what you want, without downplaying or minimising it. In the words of Jim Rohn: “Don’t go to the ocean with a teaspoon.”
Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.
About Lucy Seifert
Our personal challenges can affect us at home, work and in our relationships. My 25 years of coaching and training experience help you build confidence and design strategies to make positive changes. You’ll find that I have a warm coaching style, with integrity and professionalism. Also, I’ve authored five books about coaching and assertiveness.