I enjoy pushing the envelope, and advocating for myself, my family, and those I work with. This often means asking questions that may or may not result in receiving what I hope for. It also means being comfortable dealing with a response that is less than ideal.
One key to asking questions to advocate for ourselves or others is to ask well once, and then let the chips fall where they may.
Here are two examples of this, both from professional experiences I’ve had recently.
First, as I am attending the ASCD national conference, I was interested in doing some writing for a number of different organizations while at the conference. So, I sent out an email to a number of media outlets with the ask. It was polite and to the point, and it provided an easy “no” for those who I was asking (it is always important to not make others feel uncomfortable with your ask). While I only heard back from one outlet, it was a positive response, and I worked with them to put together a structure that I can write about. For the other outlets? I simply let the lack of response tell me all I needed to know. There was no reason to follow-up and risk harming a relationship.
Second, as I was flying out to Los Angeles on Friday morning, I noticed a really happy gate agent working my flight. I walked up and said good morning and we chatted briefly. I asked if there were any upgrades available, which there were, at a cost. I asked if she would let me know if the cost status changed. As we boarded, she told me that while she couldn’t provide me with an upgraded seat, she could give me the last row, all to myself. The seat wouldn’t recline, but I would have plenty of room to spread out. So, I adjusted my seat, and was incredibly comfortable throughout the flight.
In both cases, I made an effort to be polite, make a clear ask, and dealt appropriately with whatever the answer was. In this case, both my requests worked out, but in many cases they don’t. The thing about advocating for anyone is that you don’t know, unless you ask.