Do you remember that thing you badly wanted but were too scared to ask for? Perhaps you wanted to ask for a raise, help, or even sex. Perhaps you knew there was nothing inherently wrong with the ask, and that a yes could be the best thing that would happen to you all day, week, or month, yet askophobia – the crippling fear of asking for what you want – froze you on your tracks.
Perhaps the other person even noticed and asked you if all was well and you tried to say it…you opened your mouth but the words failed to come out, so you swallowed it and simply replied, “It’s nothing”. But, you lied. It is not nothing. In fact, it is the most important thing. And, you will end up feeling stupid, ripped off, or sad all day, week, or month simply because you were afraid.
But, why are you so afraid?
Reasons For Askophobia: Why Am I Afraid To Ask For What I Want?
There are many reasons why you might be afraid to ask for what you want, and sometimes the reasons can overlap or amplify each other. I don’t know exactly why you might be feeling this way, but some of the most common reasons include:
Fear of rejection:
This is probably the most common reason why people are afraid to ask for what they want. The fear of rejection is deeply wired in everyone, almost like the fear of heights. The fear of rejection is so strong that many young men – some who are very muscular, tall, and even financially stable – these days just settle for pornography rather than risking getting a “No” from a girl they genuinely admire.
Low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
Following the fear of rejection is low self-esteem or lack of confidence. If we don’t feel good about ourselves or are not self-assured in a given situation, we might be afraid to ask for what we want because we don’t believe that we deserve it or can get it.
Fear of being seen as needy:
There are times when you genuinely can’t help yourself, and are in real need. In situations like this, asking is the best thing to do, and there is no shame in that.
Asking is a direct and polite request with no coercion, while begging is a desperate one often involving emotional appeals or pressure. Sadly, asking – wrongly interpreted as begging – is often frowned upon.
Just like with the first example, many people may think it too costly or beneath them to ask for help, especially because they fear they will be judged as needy/”beggy” by the person offering the help, and those who might learn about it.
Fear of being seen as demanding:
On the flip side, you may be afraid of being seen as demanding (or aggressive). For example, you may be afraid to ask for a higher cut in a business deal because you fear your (business) partner may think you are asking too much. You are afraid you might be compelling, hurting, or disrespecting them with your request.
Fear of being taken advantage of:
There is also the real danger of being taken advantage of. Most people seldom give without conditions or strings attached. And, even though this is a valid concern, it’s important to remember that most people are not out to take advantage of you. Yes, most people will not help you for free, but if you negotiate properly, it might be fair enough.
Acknowledging that you are afraid of asking for what you want, and taking the time to understand that fear is the foundation of overcoming askophobia.
“Fear is a natural reaction to the unknown. But fear is not a reason to stop.” – Jackie Joyner-Kersee– Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Why You Should Ask For What You Want
If you don’t ask, the answer by default is NO. Not asking has next to no benefits to it. Rather than obsessing about the negative outcome, force yourself to imagine how amazing the positive outcome will be. What if the other person is willing and even looking for someone to ask? Ever heard the phrase, “I thought you’d never ask”?
I remember an instance when I texted a friend about my fantasy to have sex with her and she indulged the idea. I’ve also seen this in my freelancing business when I create a profile on Upwork asking for a certain pay and getting clients accepted with no questions asked.
Yes, sometimes your request will be met with a no, or even disgust and anger, but think about it. If the answer was NO, or the person could get so pissed over an ask, do you really want them in your corner? Shouldn’t you be surrounded by people who understand and want what’s best for you? Shouldn’t you be real with them? If anything, rejection is a blessing. And, if you ask empathetically and respectfully enough (with the right tone), seldom will any reasonable or well-meaning person take offence to it. And, even if they do, a little apology and clarification should do.
The truth is that you can’t control how others react, or what they want in return, but you can control how you ask and what you are willing to give in exchange (if need be). If there is anything you should be worried about, it is how assertive you are (more on this later).
“The only thing worse than asking and being rejected is not asking and always wondering what could have been.”– Brian Tracy
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How To Overcome Your Fear of Asking For What You Want
Having acknowledged your fear, and understanding that you cannot control how people act, below are some tips for overcoming your fear of asking for what you want:
Be clear on your ask request:
For you to have a fear of asking, I am assuming you already know what you want. But, beyond knowing what you want, you also have to be able to articulate it in a clear and concise manner. If you want someone to be your girlfriend, there is no need to turn into Mr. Nice Guy trying to please her, or give off innuendos trying to get her to “get the hint”. Sure, there is room for seduction and getting to know them, but when it is time, you can literally say, “I want you to be my girlfriend”. Beating around the bush won’t turn a no into a yes.
If you’re afraid to ask for big things, start by asking for small things that you’re more likely to get. This will help you build up your confidence and make it easier to ask for bigger things in the future. Continuing with our earlier example, you can ask to be friends with them or ask them to come and hang out with you. If they agree, perhaps that will be sufficient to allay your fears and help you go for it.
The more you practise asking for what you want, the easier it will become. So start practising by asking for things in low-stakes situations, such as asking your friends and family for little favours. This could be asking them to visit, go out with you, or help you look after your property when you go do something else.
Reframe your thinking:
Instead of thinking of asking for what you want as a sign of weakness, try to think of it as a sign of strength. It takes courage to put yourself out there and ask for what you want, and it’s a sign that you believe in yourself and your worth. This might take some time, but if you stick to it, you will come to see that it is true. You really do deserve it. You may not always get what you ask for, but perhaps you just haven’t asked the right person (or in the right way).
Make peace with not getting what you want:
There are instances when you simply won’t get what you want. There are times when you will be judged, rejected, or even taken advantage of. And, it is important to remember that those things won’t, and can’t kill you. She might laugh at your request. So what? You asked for a raise and got a no. So what? You are not the first person in the world to experience those, and I assure you that if you get enough negative responses, you will come to peace with them.
Overcoming your fear of asking for what you want takes time and effort, but it’s definitely possible. It’s like the slight discomfort you feel when you wear a new shoe that vanishes after you take a few steps. Just remember to be patient with yourself, and don’t give up. With a little practice, you’ll be able to ask for what you want with confidence.
“The worst thing that can happen is they say no.”– Wayne Gretzky
How To Ask For What You Want (Without Being Toxic)
Asking for what you want is about being clear and direct about your needs and desires. It’s simply being assertive, while still considering the rights, boundaries, needs, and wants of others. Being toxic is about putting your own needs above the needs of others. It is about being selfish, controlling, and demanding. It often involves using mean, aggressive, manipulative, or threatening language to get what you want.
To ask for what you want without being toxic you must be clear and direct, respectful, assertive, yet willing to compromise. That last part is important. You must be open to the possibility that the other person may not be able to meet all of your needs. Sometimes, you have to be willing to compromise and find a solution that works for both of you.
Shouting, yelling, name-calling, insulting, and making threats or ultimatums are toxic. So also is using guilt or manipulation to get what you want. If you find yourself engaging in toxic behaviour, it is important to take a step back and re-evaluate your approach. Remember, you can still get what you want without being mean or disrespectful to others.
Here are some examples of how to ask for what you want without being toxic:
- “I’m struggling with [specific task]. Could you help me out?”
- “I’m feeling really overwhelmed right now. Can you please do [a specific thing] for me?”
- “I’m not sure if this is possible, but I would really like to get [a specific thing] from you”
When you ask for what you want in a clear, respectful, and assertive way, you are more likely to get a positive response. And even if the other person can’t meet all of your needs, they are more likely to be willing to work with you to find a solution that works for everyone.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”– American Proverb
Conclusion: Expect No, But Ask Anyway
Earlier this month I went for a physical assessment for a job. During the brief, we were told that we could ask if we needed anything. For example, you could ask for a pencil, or paper, or ask for the air conditioner to be turned up or down. I don’t know for sure, but I think they intentionally turned up the ACs. And, in an assessment that constituted three sessions, I asked them to turn it off twice. The first was in a group setting and in the second I was alone with the assessors. Now, I’m not saying my ability to ask for what I want during those settings – where everyone is walking on eggshells, trying not to offend or be too demanding – will get me the job, but I am certain not shivering under cold helped me perform better.
Now, think how much better your life would be if only you could overcome your fear of asking for what you want.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”– Matthew 7:7
I enjoy writing long-form SEO content for self-help and personal development blogs. I can also do simple graphics design and copywriting. I’m an author, coach, logician, introvert, and storyteller. I love simplicity.