Project Practitioners > Ask, Or It is No

Ask, Or It is No

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


The answer is always no unless you ask. Typically, the worse way anyone can respond to a question is ‘no.’ Future tripping is obsessing and worrying about the future. You have a conversation in your head about an event in the future that has not happened yet.

Based on your previous experience, you will answer these hypothetical questions in a certain way that will convince the audience and sway them in your favor. Your history is attempting to predict future events so you are prepared. This future tripping leads to a wild array of scenarios that play out in your mind.

A great example of this is when you quit a job. You anticipate this back and forth between you and the boss or management. You are weighing how much more money would be enough to stick around or what offer they could convince you. You have a bevy of demands you cannot wait to ask for and hope they accept.

When the day comes, you walk into the office and tell whoever it is you put your two weeks in. He or she barely reacts, tells you to get HR to complete some paperwork, and you work the two weeks until you leave. All of this anticipation towards something that never occurred. You have spent unnecessary time and energy on a fake event.

The same can be said positively. You can convince yourself to not ask the question because of all of these issues that will pop up, and you will have to defend your actions. You have already answered your question with a ‘no.’

Here are a few ways to get beyond that future tripping and asking the question:



Know your purpose. Why is this question important? What does the answer mean to you?

A half-hearted question gets a half-hearted answer, usually a dismissal. People can tell whether you are passionate about your purpose. If you want remote work and think it will up your productivity and increase your mental health, you will mention it at every opportunity. You will present the facts. You will present subjective evidence making a case for you.

You will not stop at no. The obstacle becomes the way. Your purpose is greater than your boss’s ability to say no. At a certain point, there will be a test period at the very least. This is your chance to prove your skills and purpose worthy.

With a purpose, ‘no’ becomes a speed bump instead of a rock slide. Without a purpose or care, ‘no’ is easily accepted, and life moves on.


Neutral Language

In a college English class, a professor of mine would pound the idea of objectivity into our heads. No matter what you wrote about, keep it objective. Present both sides fairly. Keep your thoughts out of it. No one cares what you think. The reader wants the facts and the ability to decide for themselves.

Objectivity should remain in the question you ask. A great way to get a ‘no’ is to be accusatory. You claim your boss would be jealous of you if you received remote work. Therefore, you will never get it because of that agenda. In reality, you are not presenting the appropriate information.

Give facts. Show your schedule and plan for your thought process is. Lay out how you are going to go about this remote work. You will check in every couple of hours. You will remain available from the agreed upon scheduled times.

Pointing fingers at other’s lack of production while being on-site only makes you look bad. It does not strengthen your case. It makes you the enemy. Keep the language to your situation. The answers you seek should be personal.



The answer can lie in silence. Some people, if not most, think silence is awkward. They will do anything to not sit in a quiet room with other people. They start to divulge. It starts with professional life and bleeds into personal life. Anything to not sit in silence.

Those words can be revealing. Let others express themselves while you listen. If an answer brings about silence, that means thought is going into it. There is something sticky about the question you asked. The silence before the answer is revealing. Letting there be silence after the answer can reveal more.

Have you ever sat in a waiting room where it is quiet? Someone sits next to you and starts to talk. The silence brings about their life story. They would rather divulge personal information to a complete stranger than sit in a room by themselves and listen to their thoughts.

The same occurs when you have a sit down with a manager or team member. Bask in the silence. Let the other person speak first. Their agenda becomes clear, and you can gear your attack towards it. Silence can also slow the pace of a conversation. You can collect your thoughts in silence.



Ask, or you shall never receive. In most cases, the worst-case scenario plays out with a ‘no’ at the end. That ‘no’ happens to be the answer if you do not ask the question. So what is the harm in asking the question? You may get the same answer, but knowing is better than imagining.

Have a purpose when asking a question. Do not ask for the sake of asking, then think you are doing your job. Listen to the answer to follow up with better questions. A purpose drives you organically. There is no need to create motivation when your purpose is clear. Also, you do not stop at no with a purpose.

In your questions, remain objective. Leave comparisons to the side. This question and answer is about you, not the rest of the team or organization.

Silence is an answer. Do not fear the silence and follow up with a different question. Let the silence play out. You become a better listener in the silence and start to answer questions you have not yet asked. You see why they are saying no. Likely, it has nothing to do with you. If you can take care of the problem they are having, maybe that ‘no’ turns to ‘yes.’

Ask, and you shall receive.

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