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Possibilities if you don't ask for what you want vs. if you do

September 4, 2023

When you hesitate to ask for what you want or need, you aren't just missing out on immediate rewards or opportunities. You're also doing a disservice to your future self and others who might benefit from knowing what you’re after. Here's why you should nip that hesitation in the bud.


Illustrated by Liz Fosslien

The Power of Asking: Unlocking Your Potential by Advocating for Yourself

We often find ourselves at critical junctures, yearning for change, growth, or new opportunities. However, the fear of asking for what we truly want can be a formidable barrier, holding us back from reaching our full potential. Whether it's requesting a well-deserved promotion at work, seeking a favor from a close friend, or garnering support for a personal project, advocating for ourselves can be a daunting task.

Yet, the cost of staying silent is far greater than the temporary discomfort of speaking up. By not asking, we not only limit our own growth and possibilities but also deprive others of the chance to contribute to our success.

Illustrated by Liz Fosslien

The Silent Saboteur: How Not Asking Holds You Back

1. The Invisible Ceiling

When we hesitate to ask for what we want, we unknowingly create an invisible ceiling that limits our potential. We settle for less than we deserve, not because we lack the skills, qualifications, or passion, but because we fail to communicate our aspirations effectively.

By not asking, we rob ourselves of the chance to grow, learn, and achieve more. This invisible ceiling can manifest in various aspects of our lives, from our careers to our personal relationships. We may miss out on exciting projects, leadership roles, or even the opportunity to deepen our connections with others, simply because we did not voice our desires.

2. The Feedback Loop

Asking for what you want isn't just about the end goal; it's also about the invaluable journey of personal and professional growth. Each time you ask, you open yourself up to constructive feedback and insights. Even if the answer is 'no,' you gain a clearer understanding of what you can improve, how you can refine your approach, and what steps you need to take to get closer to your objectives.

Without asking, you miss out on this crucial feedback loop that propels you forward. Feedback is the fuel that drives growth, allowing you to course-correct, develop new skills, and build resilience in the face of challenges.

3. The Confidence Paradox

Ironically, the act of not asking can erode our self-confidence over time. When we continuously hold back from expressing our needs and desires, we subconsciously reinforce the belief that our wants are not worthy of being voiced. This can lead to a vicious cycle of self-doubt and missed opportunities.

On the flip side, each time we ask for what we want, even if the outcome isn't what we hoped for, we build resilience and confidence in our ability to advocate for ourselves. We learn that our voice matters and that we have the power to shape our own destiny.

The Ripple Effect: How Asking Empowers Others

1. The Power of Clarity

When you articulate your goals and needs clearly, you provide others with a roadmap of how they can support you. People cannot read your mind, and they may not know what you need unless you explicitly communicate it. By asking, you empower others to be active participants in your journey, fostering a sense of collaboration and shared purpose.

When you are transparent about your aspirations, you create opportunities for others to contribute their expertise, resources, and guidance. This clarity not only benefits you but also strengthens your relationships and builds a network of support.

2. The Serendipity Factor

Asking for what you want sets in motion a chain of events that can lead to unexpected opportunities and serendipitous encounters. When you share your aspirations with others, you never know who might have the resources, connections, or expertise to help you.

Someone might remember your request weeks or months later and present you with an opportunity that you never knew existed. By asking, you open the door to possibilities that extend beyond your immediate network and expand your horizons in ways you could never have imagined.

3. The Reciprocity Effect

When you ask for help or support, you also create an opportunity for others to feel valued and needed. People often derive a sense of fulfillment and purpose from being able to contribute to someone else's success. By asking, you give others the chance to make a positive impact, fostering a culture of reciprocity and generosity.

When you are willing to ask for help, you also become more attuned to the needs of others and are more likely to offer your own support when the opportunity arises. This creates a virtuous cycle of mutual support and collaboration.

The Art of Asking: Strategies for Success

1. Clarity is Key

Before you ask for anything, take the time to clarify your goals and needs. Break them down into specific, actionable steps. The more clearly you can articulate what you want, the easier it will be for others to understand and support you.

Be specific about the kind of help or resources you need, the timeline you are working with, and the potential impact of your request. When you have a clear vision of what you want to achieve, you can communicate it with confidence and conviction.

2. Start Small, Dream Big

If asking feels daunting, start with small, low-risk requests. Practice asking for feedback from a trusted friend or colleague. Seek advice on a project you are working on or request a small favor that will help you move closer to your goals.

As you build confidence and experience the positive outcomes of asking, gradually work your way up to bigger, more significant requests. Each small success will serve as a building block, giving you the courage to dream bigger and ask for more.

3. Embrace the No

Remember that rejection is not a reflection of your worth or the validity of your goals. Each 'no' is an opportunity to learn, grow, and refine your approach. Instead of seeing rejection as a personal failure, reframe it as a chance to gather valuable information and feedback.

Ask follow-up questions to understand why your request was denied and what you can do differently next time. Use the 'no' as a catalyst for self-reflection and growth, and keep moving forward with resilience and determination.

4. Practice Active Listening

When you ask for something, be prepared to listen actively to the response. Pay attention to the feedback, concerns, or suggestions that others offer. Show that you value their input by asking clarifying questions and expressing gratitude for their perspective.

Active listening demonstrates that you are open to collaboration and willing to adapt your approach based on the insights of others. It also helps you build stronger, more trusting relationships with those around you.

5. Timing is Everything

Consider the timing of your request carefully. Be mindful of the other person's schedule, workload, and priorities. If possible, schedule a dedicated time to discuss your request, rather than catching someone off guard or interrupting them in the middle of a busy day.

When you show respect for others' time and energy, they are more likely to be receptive to your ask and give it the attention it deserves.


Asking for what you want is not an act of selfishness or entitlement; it is an act of self-advocacy that unlocks your potential and empowers others to support you. By overcoming the fear of asking, you open yourself up to a world of possibilities, feedback, and serendipitous opportunities. You give others the chance to contribute to your success and build a network of mutual support and collaboration.

Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single ask. So take a deep breath, clarify your goals, and start asking. Embrace the power of your voice and trust in your ability to shape your own path. As you navigate the ups and downs of asking, remember that each request is an opportunity to learn, grow, and move closer to your dreams.

Your future self will thank you for the courage to ask, the resilience to persevere, and the wisdom to learn from every experience. So go ahead, take that first step, and unlock the incredible potential that lies within you. The world is waiting for you to ask.