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"How Am I Doing?" The One Question That Can Change All Of Your Relationships

Posted: 10/05/09 08:46 AM ET

One of life's fundamental truths states, "Ask and you shall receive." As kids we get used to asking for things, but somehow we lose this ability in adulthood. We come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons to avoid any possibility of criticism or rejection. This is especially true when it comes to asking for opinions on our appearance, behavior, or performance. When is the last time you asked for a status report from a beloved or co-worker on your attitude, for example? How about a report card from a best friend? A grade on your parenting from your spouse or kids?

If you are not moving closer to what you want, you probably aren't doing enough asking. And you're probably not asking the single most important question that can help you achieve a higher level of success and personal fulfillment: How am I doing? This question can be asked in a variety of settings--at work, at home, with friends and colleagues, and even within yourself. The information you gather can be used to set new goals, refine your habits, and generally help you to make the improvements you know you need to make. Have faith that the person you ask will enjoy offering you truthful answers. After all, it's an opportunity to enrich that relationship and exchange very personal insights. You may even find yourself answering the same question back at the other person.

How to Ask

Some people don't enjoy the fruits of asking because they don't ask effectively. If you use vague language you will not be clearly understood. Here are five ways to ensure that your asking gets results.

1) Ask Clearly
Be precise. Think clearly about your request. Take time to prepare. Use a note pad to pick words that have the greatest impact. Words are powerful, so choose them carefully. If you throw the "How am I doing?" question out without specifics, it may take time for the other person to understand what you're getting at. Instead of being vague at the start, it may help to begin with a direct reference to exactly what topic you're referring to. For example, if it's your fitness habits, try "I really appreciate your thoughts on how I'm doing in my attempts to shape up physically. I'm hoping to drop a few pounds and eat better, but I'm wondering (since you're my husband and you see me more than anybody else) how you think I'm doing?" Later on, you can add something like, "Where do you think I could be going wrong, or could be doing better?"

2) Ask with Confidence
People who ask confidently get more than those who are hesitant and uncertain. When you've figured out what you want to ask for, do it with certainty, boldness and confidence. Don't be shy or feel intimidated by the experience. You may face some unexpected criticism, but be prepared for it with confidence. Try to have an open mind and heart. Don't get defensive if you hear something you don't like or that makes you uncomfortable. It's good to get a little squirmy once in a while upon the observations of others. They will inspire you to stop, reflect, and take steps to make a lifestyle shift for the better.

3) Ask Consistently
Some people fold after making one timid request. They quit too soon. Keep asking until you find the answers. In prospecting there are usually four or five "no's" before you get a "yes." Top producers understand this. When you find a way to ask that works, keep on asking it. You may, for example, want to ask a co-worker about your performance on an important team project, but you sense a reluctance from that person to offer an opinion. You can always ask another person who is more receptive to the question, or consider how you are asking it and try again. Because people don't normally go around asking others for opinions on how well they are doing, it's not a question typically heard. So be prepared to ask over and over again before you hear a clear--useful--answer.

4) Ask Creatively
Everyone is busy these days keeping up with life and To Dos. Asking someone to stop and evaluate you can seem awkward or time-consuming. Your asking may get lost in the crowd, unheard by the people you hope to reach. There is a way around this. If you want someone's attention, don't ask the ordinary way. Use your creativity to dream up a high-impact presentation. Example: "If you wanted me to do one thing differently in our relationship, what would that be?" Find right time to ask the question.

5) Ask Sincerely
When you really need help, people will respond. Sincerity means dropping the image facade and showing a willingness to be vulnerable. Tell it the way it is, lumps and all. Don't worry if your presentation isn't perfect; ask from your heart. Keep it simple and people will open up to you.

If you own your own business or have a lead role at work in dealing with customers, the how-am-I-doing question can go a long way in bringing you priceless information. And don't for a minute think that this is only a question for Customer Service. Asking for feedback is critical regardless of one's position. How do you really know if your product or service, for instance, is meeting your customers' needs? Ask them, "How are we doing? What can we do to improve our service to you? Please share what you like or don't like about our products." Set up regular customer surveys that ask good questions and tough questions. It's a powerful way to fine-tune your business--and all the relationship you forge in that business.

Think about taking an inventory of "how-am-I-doing" from various people in your life at least once a year. Make it an annual habit. I trust you'll be surprised and delighted at what you discover about yourself in this process. And it will surely lead the way to higher, more satisfying levels of yourself.

(c) 2009 Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield is America's #1 Success Coach, co-founder of the billion-dollar Chicken Soup for the Soul brand, and a leading authority on Peak Performance. If you're ready to be more accomplished and have more fun in all that you do, get your FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at: www.FreeSuccessPrinciples.com.