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Ask for What You Want – Set Expectations

Think about all the people in your life who frustrate you. The employees who turn in work without checking for errors. The person who offices next to you and takes phone calls via speaker phone. The person who is always late for meetings and then proceeds to text under the table, like no one can see him. And in personal relationships, our friends who come late, cancel, or just aren’t in touch as often as we’d like.

These situations annoy us, but we often donask for what you want’t say anything because giving feedback is simply too hard. Why risk the person’s defensiveness? Or we don’t think addressing the situation will make a difference.

Giving feedback can be hard. Asking for what you want is easier, but most of us don’t do it.

The question is why? If making a request is easier than correcting someone’s behavior, why not ask for what you want upfront? Why wait until expectations are violated to make a request?  The answer is simple.

We don’t think we should have to make requests. We assume our employees, coworkers, and friends will do things as we do.

We would never turn in work without checking it for accuracy or come to a meeting late. So we assume others won’t either. And when they do, it feels too hard to speak up, so we don’t.

I’m going to suggest you approach relationships differently –more proactively.

Ask for what you want at the beginning of a relationship, project, meeting – anything new. Set clear expectations. If you want to start and end meetings on time, tell people that during your first meeting.  And if you have an existing behavior you want to shift, simply say, “I realized I didn’t tell you that starting and ending meetings on time is really important to me. Going forward, we’re going to start and end all meetings on time. So please be ready for that.”  If you need a quiet work environment, when you get assigned a new desk or seat mate, tell your coworkers that you are easily distracted by noise and ask them to take all calls via a hand or head set and to limit posses of visitors. If it bugs you when people wear shoes in your house, tell them when they arrive. Don’t expect people to guess you’re frustrated  and alter their behavior without you making a request. It’s not going to happen.

Consider all the things that annoy you. Then consider what you did or didn’t ask for. If you haven’t made your expectations clear, it’s not too late. Asking for what you want is easier than you think.


Shari Harley is the founder and President of Candid Culture, a Denver-based training firm that is bringing candor back to the workplace, making it easier to give feedback at work. Shari is the author of the business communication book How to Say Anything to Anyone: A Guide to Building Business Relationships that Really Work. She is a keynote speaker at conferences and does training throughout the U.S. Learn more about Shari Harley and Candid Culture’s training programs at

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