how to ask for someone’s time … in an interesting way

It takes courage to ask someone for their time.

Setting up that phone call, lunch or coffee date with someone that you may or may not know, to talk about something important to you in a productive and focused way, is no small thing.

(Especially when it comes to your dream job.)

And in case you were wondering why it’s no small thing, I’ll tell you why (here comes some Career Counselor wisdom): It’s because you’re moving out of what was familiar territory and making your inner world bigger in some way. Which is of course what leads to expansion in the outer world. Sooner or later.

Daring. Exploring. Imagining.

But you don’t have to be boring about it.

And you don’t have to make it sound like it’s just about you when you ask for someone’s time. If you facilitate making it an interesting experience for the other person, there’ll be no worry about “taking up someone’s time” and wondering “why anyone would want to help you.”

I know that when you ask for someone’s time the last thing you want to do is sound inauthentic, falsely modest or boring nor over-the-top, expectant or aggressive.

Aside: Human beings love helping one another. And not because they feel like they have to but because they want to.

So … this means that you (yes you indeed) have a role to play in how inspired people feel to help you. And it starts by taking care of yourself while you are simultaneously learning how to be vulnerable in a good way – a robust way (not in a way that leaves you injured or stepped on – that’s not the definition that is ever useful to practice).

With the above in mind – remember that it’s always a good thing to ask for what you want. And it’s perfectly okay for someone to decline your request.

It’s not personal.

And if you do make it personal it means you’re not taking very good care of yourself and that you’re practicing that not-so-good kind of vulnerability I mentioned.

In fact if you ask something of someone and they decline or don’t get back to you in a time frame or way that is to your liking – take note that your request wasn’t a request at all, but rather a thinly veiled demand (your inner toddler was up and about – and cranky too). And in all seriousness, the energy behind that contact is felt through time and space.

It’s not attractive.

(And you so know it.)

Nor does it lead to anything that you really truly want.

(And you know that too.)

Just think of how it feels to be on the receiving end of that energy.

(Yuck, right?)

The fact remains that you never, honestly have any idea what’s going on for anyone else but you. So always give the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be surprised if you hear from someone after you’ve given up hope. And follow the warmth and genuine connections that you do make as you make them – don’t take them for granted because what you think you want is a response from that one person who isn’t responsive that your mind thinks is the answer to all of your hopes and dreams.

(Oh yes, mind, we know how you can get. And by the way, the only person that can ever make your hopes and dreams a reality is you.)

Aside over.

I now gift you with some prose to inspire yourself and others on your journey. To spruce up how you communicate when asking someone for their time. To become “un-bored” listening to yourself. To see what doing something different than you usually do will getcha (because doing something different will always get you something different).

Try them out. See what happens. And then tell me.

These are especially good for networking and creating career connections with people that you do know and those that you don’t.


Rather than: “I have some questions I’d like to ask you.”

How about …. “I have some questions that you might enjoy entertaining.”


Rather than: “Is now a bad time? Or can you talk?”

How about … “Is now a good time to connect?”


Rather than: “I’m thinking about a new career and wanted to talk to you about what you do and how you like it.”

How about … “I know you’re really good at [coming up with ideas and creating connections between the past and the future]. So, naturally I thought of you since I’m in the middle of deciding what’s next for me. I would love to buy you [coffee/lunch] if you’re willing to lend me your gift for [30 minutes]. Sound [fun/interesting] to you?”


Rather than: “Can I give you a call to talk about [what you do for work/what I should do for work]?”

How about … “I’m playing with ideas at the moment about what the future holds and thought that you might have something really useful to contribute to the process [because you seem to be genuinely content with what you do for work and I’m wanting that for myself]. Are you interested in entertaining a few questions and playing with a few of my ideas over [the phone/coffee/lunch]?



The experience of engaging with someone and requesting their time needs to be mutually beneficial for it to possess the magical feeling of productivity, efficiency and synchronicity.

To get an experience that you want, you have to offer an experience that someone else finds interesting and wants too.

And you will when you feel at home being more you.

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4 responses to “how to ask for someone’s time … in an interesting way”

  1. I’m not sure. I can see the value of the advice here, but I believe we can do better with the given “how about” examples. They seem laborious, wordy and, dare I say it…inauthentic?

    Body language, facial expression, tone of voice–these matter too, and can subconsciously be picked up by anyone as hints to whether the person their talking to is glib or serious. So, when someone knocks on my door and says, “Is now a bad time? Or can you talk?”, I have the innate tools to see in a split second if it’s a casual call or an urgent matter.

    Of course, I do realize this article wasn’t meant to be a set-in-stone, word-for-word tutorial on how to be different when we approach people. We all appreciate creativity when we see or hear it, especially when it just clicks and comes across efficiently. However, we also appreciate brevity and directness.

  2. Hi John. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I guess I wish that this particular article wasn’t the most popular one on my site, but it is for SEO reasons.

    I agree, that it doesn’t sound the most authentic compared to some of my other writing, and part of the reason for that is because this online space is where I try out writing techniques that are new to me. And this article falls into that category. So does it have my most authentic voice? No. I am guilty of that.

    Does it have techniques that I have actually used and gotten feedback on from clients? Yes. I don’t put strategies in my articles that haven’t experienced success in real life. What might be problematic is that I’ve taken the context away from the strategies and I think that that can make them seem less realistic to put into practice. Real life conversations aren’t brief and concise all the time, so these are a bit more conversational. And when it really is best to ask someone “is now a good time?” and you have an existing connection and understanding of them, then go for it. But when you do not, and someone is a “cold call” or a networking connection, being a little wordy hasn’t killed anyone so far. Especially if it makes the asker more comfortable with their asking.

    From your comment, you’re looking at the request from the perspective of being asked, rather than being the asker. Those are two very different roles. So if you have insight on your role as an asker, please do share what has worked really well for you. It helps anyone that finds themselves here.

    Even though I didn’t write in the most authentic manner in this article, you state the very necessary element of an interaction like this, which is sincerity. And to that end, I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

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