Work that Matters
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Work that Matters

The #1 reason we don’t get what we want

We don’t ask for it.

Most of the time, we don’t get things we want in our life only because we don’t muster the courage to ask for them. I believe not asking for what you want is quite unfortunate. Because many don’t know what they want in their life. And when we know what we want, we are not sure if what we want holds value for us and the larger good.

I would want to share one of the incidents which happened recently. We are in the midst of the spin-off of our company. As a result of this, few tools which many teams use were not being included in the new company. They were one of the best Project Management tools.

I decided to write an email to the manager of the IT team. But unfortunately, I couldn’t connect with him. I tried to find out the internal slack channel where I could raise my concern. But it didn’t help me either.

At last, when none of the options worked for me, I decided to write an email to the company's CEO. I explained to him why those tools were important and how they will impact the employees' productivity. He was kind to reply to my email, understood the concern, and connected me with the right person. Finally, those tools were included, and many like me are very happy with this decision.

It is always a good idea to be absolutely sure of what you want. Once you know what you want, just ask for it. People live with various inhibitions of not getting something, and my question to them is “Did they ever ask for it?”

Why we don’t ask…

Are you really sure you want it?

Have you ever seen a kid how confidently and insistently he asks for toys or chocolate? Do you know why they are so confident about it? They're confident because they are sure of what they want. They are sure because it really really matters to them.

If you are sure you want something, then what’s stopping you?

The answers to this question are fear and prejudices. We are scared of being denied what we want. We are scared of being identified as an idiot, the repercussions of the question we ask. We think we are always subject to somebody's mockery. Finally, there is a fear of friction with whom we are asking from something. We also carry certain assumptions like:

  • The people who ask questions by default considered dumb.
  • It doesn't matter to me; I will find a way out myself.
  • If I am not going to ask somebody else will ask if it really matters to them.

How to overcome this phobia and aversion to asking for something?

Suppose you bang your car to another car, it’s possible that you don't know how to drive. If you are making the first dish for lunch, the possibility is you are not following the right recipe. Similarly, if you are scared of asking for something, you might know how to ask. It will help if you try to figure out how to ask.

Asking for Information

“I’m interested in more information about A, and I found you via B. Are you the best person to ask about this?”

Keys to information-seeking questions:

  • Be specific about the information you’re looking to obtain.
  • Give context by referencing why you’re contacting them and how you found their contact information.
  • Make it easy for the recipient to refer you to the best resource as quickly as possible, saving you both time.

Asking for Clarification

“Based on our conversation about A, it sounds like B is the case. Is that correct?”

Keys to clarification questions:

  • Include a summary of the topic for context.
  • “It sounds like…” leaves room for clarification without being confrontational.
  • “Is that correct?” (or a close variant) is clear, concise, direct, and polite.

Asking for Help

“I’m trying to A, and I’m having trouble. So far, I’ve tried B with result C, and D with result E. Now I’m stuck. Any guidance?”

Keys for asking for assistance:

  • Be clear and precise about what you’re trying to do.
  • Give context by including what you’ve tried so far, which clarifies that you’re doing your own work and not asking the recipient to solve your problems for you.
  • “Any guidance?” or “What should I try next?” sets up the recipient as the expert and doesn’t transfer responsibility for the problem.

Asking for Agreement

“Based on our previous conversation about X, we decided Y is the best solution. The next step is Z. Agreed? If so, I’ll get started right away.”

Keys for asking for agreement:

  • Use this question to get important decisions or agreements in writing. (This question is instrumental in confirming business agreements.)
  • Spell out the decision in as much detail as possible.
  • “Agreed?” leaves room for recipients to voice disagreement without equivocating in your description of the original decision conversation.
  • “I’ll get started right away” adds useful urgency and makes it clear that any clarifications or changes need to be made right away.

Asking for Advice

“I’m working on A. My priorities are B, C, and D. I’m considering E, but I’m not sure it’s the best option. If you have a moment, I’d appreciate your thoughts. If not, no worries. Thanks!”

Keys for asking for advice:

  • Be clear and precise about what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Be clear about your priorities, and include any known tradeoffs. The recipient can’t read your mind or set your priorities for you.
  • Make it clear you’re asking for advice or perspective, not for the recipient to decide for you.
  • Give the recipient an easy out — you’re asking for a favor, so be polite.

I know it's a lot to digest. But as I said, if it truly matters to you, and if you are really sure that you want it, you will not hesitate to ask. And you will take care of all the above points to ensure that you get what you want.

So is there something that you want, and you haven’t got it yet? Maybe the only reason you don't have it with you is you haven’t asked for it yet.




Our work is a major component of our life and also an expression of who we are. Whether you are a parent, homemaker, writer, employee or a CEO, there are traits of us which require to give our best and love whatever we do.

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Nilay Shrivastava

Nilay Shrivastava

I write about increasing Productivity, Time management and for the work that matters.

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