How to Ask for What You Want – The Art of Persuasion

Bless my patient husband’s heart. Living with a dreamer like me can be a real trial. I constantly have ideas. Lots of ideas. I have ideas about businesses I want to start, trips I want to take, projects I’m ready to begin, activities to do with the kids, and new parenting tips I want to try. Many of my ideas require his help or support, but since I don’t always take action on every idea, he listens to me talk and philosophize and then patiently waits for me to narrow them down before he involves himself. It’s a lesson he’s learned over time.Working Smarter.Not Harder-3

Over the years I’ve also learned a few things, including the difference between sharing my ideas and dreams and actually enrolling people in them. Persuasion is powerful, but it can often turn into manipulation if we’re not careful. On the other end of the spectrum, sometimes we think we are enrolling people, when in actuality we aren’t even clearly stating our needs. Many peak performers are good communicators by nature, but if it’s not a skill you have, it’s definitely one you can master with practice.

I had to learn this the hard way. I hit bumps on my road to fine tuning this craft. For example, I produce events for entrepreneurs, and for years Startup Princess held an annual conference every fall. The second year I was involved I remember having especially busy a week before the date of the conference. I thought I was enlisting the help of my husband each time I made a statement such as, “There’s so much to do.” or “I don’t know how I’m going to get all of this done.”

I was frustrated that he wasn’t getting it, and I continued on this way until I finally snapped. In a moment of anger I barked at him, “Don’t you remember I have a big event this week?” Still, he didn’t interpret this as meaning, “Will you please help me?” Instead, he calmly responded, “You’re a smart, capable woman. You seem like you had everything under control.”

I’m ashamed to say that this experience eroded a little of my most important relationship, and it was no one’s fault but my own. I hadn’t been expressing my needs clearly, yet I was upset when my husband didn’t read my mind and come to my rescue. It was a communications breakdown on MY part.  When we have expectations without expressing them, we’re the ones at fault.

Has something like this ever happened to you? Stop expecting the people in your life to have a crystal ball. If you want help, support, or encouragement, ask for it!

When it comes to peak performance and goal achievement, we can all do better at enrolling people in our vision. Giving orders, dictating assignments, or yelling commands won’t entice people to willingly support your mission. I’ve found the most effective form of persuasion is enrollment.

What is the difference between simply asking for help and enrollment?

Enrollment is a conversation where you share your vision with another person, discuss the desired outcome, and then agree on a course of action.

Lucky for you, I’ve done the dirty work on what works and what doesn’t when it comes to enrollment. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve fine-tuned a simple formula for negotiating and creating a solid win-win agreement you can use to get the results you want.

As I lay out the steps, consider how enrollment can work in relationships with your spouse, boss, employees, friends, kids, family, and others. The words and the approach may be different, but the general idea will be the same.

First, share the vision. Explain your goal and tell them why it’s important to you. Help them understand the passion driving you to chase this dream and what it will mean to you when you achieve it. Passion is contagious.

Second, commit to the goal. You may even want to say the words, “I’ve thought this out.” This one has been especially helpful in my relationships since ideas flow out of my mouth freely. I want whoever I’m talking to to know I’ve sifted through other ideas, and I’m committed to this one. In some cases you have to acknowledge that you realize past goals have flopped, but you’re committed this time.

Third, explain the plan and outline the specific support you need to accomplish your goal or project. What roles do other people play in this plan? Do you simply need support and encouragement, or are there specific action items you will need to assign someone?

This is where a lot of the conversation will take place because it’s not just about what getting what you want. There could be circumstances you haven’t considered or valid questions or concerns raised by your counterpart. Be open to adjusting the plan in favor of creating a mutually beneficial situation.

Once you feel like you’re on the same page, the fourth and most important step is asking what I call a “question of support”. It’s essentially the handshake of the conversation and can be something as simple as, “Can I get your support in this project?” One of my favorite questions is, “Under what circumstances could I get your support on this?” (Sometimes that question slips into part three.)

Here’s an example of how I should have approached my husband for help during event week.

Step 1: “Hi Honey. You’ve probably seen on the calendar that our big event is coming up next week. I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all. This event is important to our business. We have more than 150 women coming from all across the country, and I really want everything to run smoothly so we can make a good impression.”

Step 2: “I know in the past I’ve left a lot of things to the last minute, and I’m committed to working over the next couple of days so I’m not crazy two days before the event.

Step 3: “There are a lot of ways I could use your help accomplishing this. I’m going to need some extra help with the baby this week and I’d also really appreciate it if you could take care of dinner. If you have some extra time at night, I could use your help putting together packets and typing name tags.”

Step 4: “What things would you be willing to help me do?”

See how much better that came out of my mouth? Being clear and specific is much more effective at persuading people to enlist in your cause. This is especially true if your previous tactic has been snapping at people when they don’t read your mind.

Consider how this could work if you’re asking a friend or loved one to help you accomplish a goal. I’m going to show you one more (hypothetical) example.

Step 1: “Hi Friend. This year, my goal is to lose 40 pounds. I really want to be healthier, and I feel like losing the weight will help me feel better about myself and allow me to keep up with my family.”

(She, of course, congratulates me and says some encouraging words.)

Step 2: “The holidays were a bust to my routine and I got out of the habit of exercise. Starting now I’m going to give up soda and go to the gym five times a week. I also talked to my doctor and she recommended the right calorie intake for my body and goals, so I’m going to track my food every day.”

(She says additional encouraging things like, “Awesome! You’ve got this!”

Step 3: “I know I’ve trained you and all of my other friends to bring me a treat every time you bake, so I’m going to need to respectfully decline them so I’m not tempted. I’d also love to check in with you once a week for a little accountability.”

(She’s nodding at this point, and patting me on the back. Hypothetically, of course.)

Step 4: “Could you help me with those two things?”

Works like a charm.

This process is especially powerful when you delegate a task to an employee or anyone who may be helping you with something. Here’s an outline of an enrolling conversation in a work environment.

Step 1: “Hi Sandy, we’re getting ready for a big product launch and we’re super excited. The initial buzz has been awesome and I can’t wait to see the response. This product is really going to help.”

Step 2: “Our goal is to have a huge opening week by taking preorders three weeks in advance. Our print and television advertising campaign is in full swing, and our social media campaign starts heavily next week.”

Step 3: “We’re asking the marketing department to implement a specific marketing strategy. As the social media intern, I’d like you to work closely with Adam to make sure we keep up with our posting and engagement schedule as outlined in the strategy. The timing is critical for maximum viewership, likes, and sharing.”

Step 4: “Are you on board with us to complete this social media strategy? Do you have any other priorities on your plate we might need to reassign in order for this to come to the front burner?”

The whole conversation took sixty seconds, but the vision was presented, the tasks explained, and a commitment question was put in place to make sure it was all understood.

Enrollment works for every relationship. I can even use it to persuade my small children to get on board with my unpredictable speaking schedule. Some might say they’re too small to understand, but even when they were toddlers who spoke in three word sentences, I took time to have a conversation and talk them through each step. The pattern of good communication can be learned early, and I want them to learn it from me. I also want them to know I’m involving them instead of working around them.

Simple kid conversations can sound like this. “Hi doll baby. I’m going on a plane this week to help a group of women. I’m going to be gone for a few days, but when I get back I’m taking a couple of days off and we’re going to the park and making cookies. Can you hug me before I go?”

Sometimes, these conversations happen as a result of a frustration expressed by your counterpart. It’s a sign that enrollment is happening a little late, but better late than never.

Enrollment isn’t about manipulation.  It’s about coming up with win-win solutions to goals and major products – personally and professionally.


This system isn’t foolproof and you shouldn’t discount the exasperated outbursts from people close to you. It’s easy for me to jump into an enrolling conversation, but I also need to hear the feedback. In the previous example I stepped up the presence with my son so he could reconnect with me. The explanation is good, the enrollment is good, but the best persuasion in getting the people you care about on board with your dreams is making sure you aren’t persuading them at the expense of the relationship. They want to make sure they are still important, even if your clients/goals/projects are important, too.

If you like this, you’ll love the Make It Happen Toolkit.  Three of my favorite success tools available to you for FREE.  Get it here.

Are you on Facebook? I would love to connect.

– Michelle


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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