Man and woman drinking coffee in street cafe

When we require support from someone else, we can’t always guarantee that they will be in a position to help us. However, by approaching discussions like these using a structured framework, it’s much easier for us to get our points across to the other person. If you have a situation you’d like to resolve (at home or at work), you might want to review these points before you approach the person who may be in a position to help you.

Points to consider

Step 1

Ask the person to meet at a time that’s convenient for them. Catching someone ‘off the hoof’ makes it less likely that they’ll have the time to really listen to you and discuss your concerns.

When you’re asking them for a time to meet, let them know what you’d like to discuss so that they feel prepared to some extent.

Step 2

Before the meeting, think through the following (you might find it easier to write things down and bring your list with you):

  • What is your exact concern? Provide as much detail as possible. Bullet points may be helpful – avoid paragraphs where points might get lost.
  • How is it affecting you? Use specifics such as: I am unable to perform as I usually would; my stress levels are really high. If it’s a work issue, avoid using emotional language and keep it as practical as possible.
  • Don’t speak on behalf of others. You may be making assumptions about other people’s position on the matter. If you’re speaking with someone as a team ensure that everyone’s views are represented and they have the chance to speak directly.

After the meeting, send the person meeting minutes capturing what was discussed and highlighting any questions you need more detail on. This is a useful way to express how crucial your concerns are.

Step 3

Remember that the person you’re asking to help you may not be in a position to be able to do this. If this is the case, ask them to suggest someone else you can speak to.

If there seems to be no workable solution to the problem, make sure you have a back-up plan written down and agreed by all involved when you approach the person in a position to support your aims.

To keep up the momentum, ask for regular updates such as every Monday for example. This request will build the expectation that updates are needed, making it more likely that you’ll get what you need.