Don’t Assume… Ask!

posted by Andrea | 04/20/2018

Today I’m sharing one of the most often overlooked “secrets” of a less-stressed, less-chaotic, happier life.

I know that’s a pretty bold statement… but it’s true in so many ways.

And it’s SO SIMPLE!

To start off, I’d like you to stop and consider the last time you were frustrated about something.

  • A spouse forgetting to do ________.
  • A child who continually grumbles about and neglects their chores.
  • A coworker playing music too loudly.
  • A grocery store that was out of the exact item you needed to buy.
  • An inconvenient seat at a restaurant.
  • An unexpected up-charge on a recent bill.

Now consider… when you were in that frustrating situation, would it have been possible to ASK for a change to take place? And if that change was granted, would it have alleviated at least some of your frustration?

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Let me give you a few real-life examples from my own life.

My Fruit Swap Deal:

I needed to buy strawberries for a fruit salad a few weeks ago, but (after trying 3 different grocery stores) I couldn’t find any. I realize this is a horrible time of year to be looking for “fresh” strawberries, but it was completely crazy that no stores had strawberries in stock.

I found out later there had been a major supply issue for our area and all the strawberries showed up moldy and gross.

Anyway, at the 3rd store, I saw a manager walking around and calmly voiced my frustration. Then I asked if he would be willing to give me a good deal on raspberries instead.

He immediately agreed and said I could have my requested BuyOneGetOne free price for the raspberries — yippee!

By simply ASKING, I got (almost) exactly what I wanted and completely alleviated my frustration.

Clearance Jeans: 

As many of you know, I almost never step foot into the mall and I almost never pay for any clothing brand new. However, I really like the super hi-waist jeans from American Eagle, and they had several pairs of jeans on clearance about a month ago. I found the exact size I needed for only $19 and they fit perfectly.

The only “problem” was that the jeans were much darker than I anticipated (almost black) when they arrived at my house. I wanted to keep my amazing deal, but there were no other clearance jeans online in my size. So I reluctantly went to the mall with the 3 younger kids and asked if they could do anything for me.

Without much hesitation at all, the employee pulled a similar pair of NON-CLEARANCE jeans off the rack and said she would do an even exchange! So, I got a $59 pair of lighter jeans that fit me perfectly for the amazing clearance price of $19!!!!

Hotel Without an Elevator: 

Over spring break, Dave and I took the kids to a local hotel for one night. When we got there, we were given a room on the 2nd floor… which we were fine with, until we realized they didn’t have an elevator.

As you know, even 1 night with 4 children requires a handful of bags — not to mention Clara was currently sleeping in her carseat, which was clipped into the stroller.

I was initially annoyed, thinking about how much of a hassle it would be to lug everything up the steps (and probably wake Clara up in the process). But then I realized, DUH… why don’t I at least ASK for a room on the first floor. 

Within 5 minutes, we had keys to a room on the first floor and we were good to go — frustration gone!

Kids Doing Chores: 

We don’t really have our kids do many “chores” besides picking up their things and put away their clothing… however, even that can be a struggle some days (can anyone relate!)

A while back, I got mad at Nora for leaving something out several times… to which she responded “you know mom, you could have just asked me to put it away.”

Sigh… all day, I had simply been assuming she knew that item was something she should put away — and maybe she DID know. However, I also realized if I had just asked her right away, I most likely wouldn’t have felt frustrated all afternoon, and I certainly wouldn’t have gotten mad at her later in the day.

My First Marriage Lesson with Dave:

When Dave and I were first married, I was in awe of how he could walk past an overflowing trash can all day long without ever realizing that he should probably take the trash out. Or the fact that he could continually set dirty dishes on the counter because the dishwasher was clean — duh, clean out the dishwasher dude!

There were SO many times when I felt frustrated with him, or grudgingly took the trash out and emptied the dishwasher because he “wouldn’t”. When I finally brought it up to him at one point, he calmly stated, “but you never asked.”

And he was right!

He figured that since I loved doing housework (I really did… and still do most of the time) that I would take care of those household responsibilities. And I assumed that since he had 2 working eyes and lived in our house, he would notice the overflowing trash and the ready-to-be-cleaned out dishwasher and just do it himself.

Now, almost 12 years later (wow, time flies!), I can confidently tell you that Dave is a HUGE help around the house, and does almost all of it without ever being asked.

However, for many years, he asked me to write a list for him or put a sticky note on the counter any time I wanted him to do something around the house. I felt like his mother, but he told me if I never asked, he wouldn’t notice, and I would continue to be frustrated.

Such a smart guy! 🙂

Family Gathering Date Change:

A while back, we had a family party schedule for a day that really didn’t work all that well for Dave and my schedules. I was trying to figure out how we’d get from one place to the next without being late and without an insane amount of needless stress.

Then I got smart and decided to simply ask if we could do that party the following day — and to my surprise, that date change actually worked better for a few other people as well but no one else wanted to ask.

Craigslist Deals Delivered: 

I know we live in a great area for Craigslist deals — however, I cannot even begin to list out the number of times I’ve gotten my items hand-delivered to my doorstep and/or a reduction in price, simply because I asked!

I always make it very clear that I’m 100% fine if the seller says “no” and I’m never pushy or rude (I hate pushy buyers!)

I often just state the fact that I have 4 children in carseats and often I drive over to give them the money first, then they deliver it later that day. It saves me SO much time and hassle, removing all the carseats — and all I had to do was ask.

True Story: we even got our huge swing set delivered for free several years ago!!! 

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There are SO many more examples I could give, but I think you get the idea.

I can’t tell you how many times someone will tell me, “you’re so lucky” or “you always find the best deals” or “things always seems to work out for you” — and while some of it might just be luck, I have a feeling a lot of it is because I simply ASK.

The next time YOU feel frustrated with a situation, stop and consider if there is any way you could potentially alleviate some of that frustration by simply asking a no-pressure question, favor, request, etc.

Yes, I know it won’t work all the time… but it works more often than you might think!

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20 comments

  1. Lea

    04/20/2018

    I have a question for you, Andrea: What changed the need for you to write your husband a list?

    My husband asks for a list all the time (honestly, I thought it was just him being lazy until I read this post!) but this has been going on for 20 years (yes, really) and it always has the same things on it. I am so tired of feeling like his mother and I hate writing the same list over and over. I’ve asked, begged, pleaded and everything else I can think of and if I don’t write the list, he won’t do it.

    We’ve tried a white board with a continual checklist but that doesn’t work.

    I’m so frustrated. Thanks for any suggestions!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Honestly, I’m not sure — at some point, he just stopped needed or wanting a list. I don’t really remember when… sorry!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi again… I’ve been thinking about your comment through the night and, while completely understand and validate your frustrations, I wonder if a simple switch of YOUR frame of mind might alleviate much of your frustration.
    For example, just consider his to-do list as one of those things you do every day — like brushing your teeth, making food, showering, getting dressed, etc. You don’t get frustrated because you have to do those things over and over every day — it’s just part of life.
    For some reason, your husband needs a list — if he’s willing to do everything on your list without a fight or a fuss, then I’d say making the list is probably in your best interest. Maybe you can even slip a few extras on his list every now and then! 🙂
    I’m guessing it only takes you a minute or 2 to make the list (and again, I understand why this is frustrating to do for a grown man, but just hear me out) so in the scheme of things, it’s saving you quite a bit of time over-all — your 1 minute of effort means he will complete everything on your list.
    Maybe you could even make a joke out of it by ordering pre-made notes with everything on his list (Shutterfly sells these, or you can make your own and print them at home). Then just rip off a note every morning 🙂
    I realize I don’t know the whole story, so this might not work at all; but I figure it’s worth mentioning as it’s a free and relatively simple solution that could ease your frustration and maybe even strengthen your relationship with your hubby!!

    [Reply]

  2. Jennifer

    04/20/2018

    No assumptions. I learned this dealing with my husband and tell it to my clients all the time. I read once that men (mostly) see the big picture. A woman walks into a room and sees all the little details that need to be taken care of: cups taken to the sink, pillows straightened, TRASH taken out….. whereas men walk in and see things mostly tidy and think all is good. I got so furious once when my husband was balancing one more thing in the trash can and I finally spoke my mind. Just like yours, all along he just thought I wanted to take care of those things and didn’t really think about it. All along I thought we were battling wits while he thought as long as one more thing can go in th trash, maybe even one more can! So funny now, but true experienice.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, you’re probably right about the big-picture thinking versus the more detail oriented thinking — it’s definitely true for Dave and for me!

    [Reply]

  3. Susie

    04/20/2018

    I had some coupons that I wanted to use at Walmart. The clerk scanned them once and they did not work, They were in date and I had the correct items. Showed this to the clerk, but she refused to try it again. I said I did not want the items then. As I was leaving, I happened to see the store manager. I stopped him and asked why coupons were not being accepted that were in date and for the correct items. I explained what the clerk had done. He went and got the items, scanned them into his phone and put them in my cart. I tried to pay him, but he refused and told me to use the coupons on my next trip, if I liked the items. The items would have cost about $15. I was very pleased with his helpfulness and let others know about my experience.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    That’s great!! Good for you!

    [Reply]

  4. Katherine

    04/20/2018

    Re: asking for Craigslist things to be delivered… I am all on board with that and I often ask people for things, saying clearly that the person can and should say “no” if it doesn’t suit. And I mean it! And I can (and do) say no to things that don’t work for me. However, I am surprised by how many friends and acquaintances feel unable to say no… So if I ask, they feel put on the spot to say yes. It bugs me, because I like to have the security of having an exchange with a friend where we are honest with each other if something just doesn’t work. But I have learned a few times that it doesn’t always work out that way.

    For example, a few years ago I asked a friend if she was up for hosting a meeting at her house. I told her I would do the prep and clean up afterward, AND please just say no if it doesn’t suit. She hedged a little, so I dropped it, then circled back around to say “hey- is that a no? Just confirming.” and she said it was okay. Later I found out she felt she had to host- she couldn’t say no! I was bummed by that. And I know it is not my fault if she cannot muster a “no”.

    I guess asking is tough for some people and saying no is tough for some people. My mom modeled both, and it really comes in handy:)

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes… I thought about this as I was typing — because I know LOTS of people who literally can’t say “no” even if I’m giving them an out “please say no if this doesn’t work for you. it’s really not a huge deal” but they still can’t say no.

    I have people who I never ask favors of anymore because I know they will say “yes” whether they can or can not do it — and that bugs me.
    I’ve written about this before, so I didn’t feel like opening that whole can of worms in this post again!

    Good reminders though — and thanks for the examples too!

    [Reply]

  5. Pascale

    04/20/2018

    So true. Thank you, Andrea. Love this blog post. I was brought up not to ask for things because I was a girl and it wasn’t appropriate to do so. Sadly this ruled my life for many years and I was miserable. I decided to change this because it wasn’t working in my life. I was afraid when I first started asking, but to my surprise, nothing bad happened and it actually yielded positive results. I’m now a firm believer in asking, but doing it politely and in a way that allows the other person to say “no” without feeling guilty.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    ah… I have a feeling you are not alone in how you were raised! Sad, but true!
    Thankfully, now women and girls can ask for almost anything in a respectful manor… and we’re pleasantly surprised how often we get what we were asking for!

    [Reply]

  6. Alison

    04/20/2018

    I helped my parents with a garage sale a few years ago and my father was so keen to get stuff out of the house that he made several free deliveries with his truck!

    Great post- asking often eliminates passive aggressive behavior, which I cannot stand!

    [Reply]

  7. Patty Ryan

    04/20/2018

    This is a great post! Thanks for some really good advice

    [Reply]

  8. Annette Silveira

    04/20/2018

    Yes! I know so many people who will stew and fuss instead of just asking if there is a way to fix their frustrating situation.

    [Reply]

  9. Jen

    04/20/2018

    Yay for the jeans deal! I LOVE American Eagle high waist jeans too, especially because they come in extra extra long, which I need. I’m 5.10 and I often have a hard time finding jeans that are long enough. My girls (25, 22) give me the eye roll for wearing AE jeans at the age of 50 but I figure, hey, I can pull it off and I like them so who cares???!!

    Have a great weekend!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    haha — and I need the “short” sizes for their jeans as I have such shrimpy legs!

    [Reply]

    Summer Reply:

    I am surprised by this comment! I always thought you were tall Andrea. How tall are you?! You must be long in the torso. You always carried your babies so well, which makes a lot of sense! You always look great too! Have a great weekend!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’m 5’7″ — so not short necessarily. Very average for where I live. However, I have a VEEEEERRRRYY LOOOONG torso, so my legs are super short 🙂

    [Reply]

    Kate Reply:

    I want to try these jeans! High rise is hard to find. Do you find AE runs true to size?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, they are true to size for me — just order a few sizes online and return what you don’t want (either via mail or via your local store)

    [Reply]