The tone of success

Why, when asking someone for something, do we often close with something like…

“When you have time…”

My dad used to do this when I was a kid, and it drove me crazy.

I knew he didn’t mean it. I knew he wanted it done. Yesterday.

But he was holding me to be the one to voluntarily do it right away.

The thing is, by giving me an open door, as a kid, I, of course, took it.

I’d wait. And wait. All the while, he’d grow more and more impatient. Finally, he’d erupt in anger that I hadn’t finished the task yet.

He’s not alone. I do it too. As have many of my past bosses, coworkers, friends, etc…

When you can…
If you don’t mind…
When you’re not too busy…

When the lazy human brain hears this, we tend to not do it. We become indolent. We put it off.

Why aren’t we more direct with each other? Just a little…


By approaching people with the wrong attitude — by using a weak, guilty, passive tone and the wrong words — we open the way for differences of opinion which never needed to arise in the first place.


Why do we leave people a wide open door to refuse us when we ask for something?

Don’t waste their time and energy (or your own patience) by
suggesting (even indirectly) that there is more than one course of action.

The work to be done takes half the time if their attention is undivided and they’re free to go on with their lives more quickly.

Then, they can refuse or accept. Two options. Easy for them. Easy for you.

No guessing games. No reading into it. Simple and powerful.

Hey Jonas, I need the X.

Done. No response required on my part. No obligatory door held open with frustration and false patience.

It’s like when we go to the store or other place of business with a special request and feel like we’re asking the world of someone…

”Yyyyeah, hi, I’m sorry. I hate to bother you, and I know you guys are busy, but, if you have the chance, could you please put through a special order for suede loafers with tassels — when you’re not too busy — if you wouldn’t mind?”

What power are in these words?! None! What red-blooded human would give the time of day to a request like that?

But we feel the need to pander to them. Like we’re giving them their death sentence.

This only gives them the leeway of (a) doing a shitty job and (b) making us frustrated. Two things we should have never left the door open for in the first place.

Same thing happens with our friends…

Think of a friend who’s being (or has been) a jerk face… Shouldn’t be too hard to think of one. Got it? Now, which of the following statements do you think would work better?

(Option A) Hey, if you don’t mind — and please don’t take this the worng way — but would you be a kinder person? Not that, you know, you’re THAT bad. You’re certainly not the biggest asshole I know. But if you could just be a LITTLE nicer — when you have time — that’d be grrreeeeat.

Or…

(Option B) You’re being a dick. Stop it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d go with option B every day. And if I were on the taking side of this, I’d still go with B.

Not that we have to be rude, off-putting, or douchey. We can be kind. It’s not so much the words, but the tone behind the words.

What we’re looking for is, like Cesar Milan suggests when working with dogs, a state of being calm and assertive.

Try going over your day in your imagination before you begin it. Think of all the contacts with other humans you’re likely to have and how they can best be handled. Listen to your own voice and correct it until you get the tone which is both courteous and undeniable. This is the tone of success.

You’ll find that you’ll get through your day with less fatigue. With that extra time, you can begin to realize things that you have long dreamed in secret.

Be nice. Carry your words with love. But be direct and have your own back.

And stop being such a jerk.

When you have time, of course:)


If you enjoyed this piece, proclaim your love to the world by recommending it below. Thanks!

Jonas writes short daily essays here at Higher Thoughts. To get them delivered straight to your inbox as soon as they’re live, click here.