Are You Expressing Interest or Asking?

Blog Post created by susan.hodge Champion on Feb 24, 2017

I work frequently with women who want something more or different for their careers.  They may want to work in a different part of their company, to take on more responsibility, or get support for a promotion.  They always want to know the path to get what they want.  Yes, we need to have some of the skills and relevant experience.  But there’s more:

If we want something more from our careers we must ask for what we want. 

Too often when I explore what my client has communicated to her boss, sponsor or other advocate, I’m told something like this: “I’ve told them I’m interested in doing x.”


Expressing interest is not the same as asking for what you want.

Indirect communication is a linguistic style where we say what we mean, but we don’t spell it out in every detail.   Both men and women use indirectness, but we use it in different situations.  Per Deborah Tannen, the well-known expert in communications, women tend to be more indirect when making requests of others, while men tend to be indirect when acknowledging fault or blame.  For us, being indirect can be comfortable and avoids the feeling of harshness or risk of being turned down. 

Here’s the problem in a business context:  If you are speaking indirectly (e.g. hinting at what you want) to someone who expects more direct language, your message will be diluted.

Expressing interest does not require the listener to act.  If you leave the conversation having “expressed interest”, you may find yourself wondering what happens next.  When you ask directly (“Will you do x?”) the listener is in a position where they must choose an answer, thus providing clarity – positive, negative or action.  You have then received useful information.

Asking directly can feel uncomfortable at first.  It feels aggressive and risky.  But to get what we want from our careers we have no choice…we must ask and ask directly.  The good news is you can learn to ask directly and authentically.

If the thought of asking directly for what you want makes you cringe, all is not lost.  You can join other women who share this feeling in the Communicate to Advance workshop on March 31.  You’ll gain two skills to help you advocate for yourself and make your requests clearly, directly and confidently.  Join us on March 31 at the Pink Petro offices by registering here: