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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 Personal Costs

1. Selling Yourself Short

You might think you’re being modest or realistic by not asking for what you want, but what you’re really doing is selling yourself short. When you keep your goals, desires, and needs to yourself, you miss out on valuable feedback and potential connections. Think about it: How can anyone offer help, advice, or opportunities if they have no idea what you're seeking in the first place?

2. Limiting Your Own Learning

The truth is, you won’t get everything you ask for, and that’s okay. Each 'no' is a lesson, a stepping stone on the path to getting what you want. By asking for something and not getting it, you learn to refine your approach, to be clearer in your communication, and to better understand the landscape of possibilities.

The Ripple Effect

1. Clearer Understanding for Others

People can't read minds. They can’t know what you aspire to, what challenges you, or what might help you grow unless you tell them. When you share what you want, you allow those around you to see you clearly, as you are and as you wish to be.

2. The Unforeseen Payoffs

You may think that asking for something has a single, point-in-time payoff: you get it or you don’t. But the benefits are often less immediate and more nuanced. Someone might remember what you’re looking for weeks or even months down the line. They might stumble upon a relevant job opening, training opportunity, or partnership and think of you. You won't just be 'someone they know'; you'll be 'someone they know who is looking for X,' making it easier for them to help you.

The How: Breaking Free from Hesitation

1. Define What You Want

Start by clearly defining what you want. Break it down into manageable, concrete parts. If your aim is nebulous or ambiguous, it'll be hard to communicate it effectively.

2. Practice in Safe Spaces

Before asking in a high-stakes environment, practice in safer, low-risk situations. Ask a friend for feedback or role-play a scenario. The more comfortable you get with asking, the easier it will be when the stakes are higher.

3. Be Ready for ‘No’, but Expect ‘Yes’

Prepare yourself for rejection, but don’t let it dominate your thoughts. Go in expecting a positive outcome, and let that confidence shine through. If the answer is 'no,' don’t see it as a loss but as a learning experience.


So speak up. Let people know how they can help you. The rewards, both immediate and long-term, can surprise you.