“How You Ask” Is Even More Important than “What You Ask!”

Have you ever extended an invitation/request of any kind via a letter?

  • An invitation to attend a special event?
  • An invitation to help with a special project?
  • An invitation to join a team or group or committee?
  • An invitation to invest financially?

When you did not receive any response what did you assume?

Might you have assumed that they opened your letter, read your invitation/request and after careful consideration decided that they needed to decline?


Let me ask you a couple more questions:

  1. Do you open and read every letter you receive?  If “No” what % of letters that you receive do you actually open and read?  (You don’t need to tell me – I just want you to know your answer)
  2. Do you ever open a letter – glance it for a couple of seconds – say to yourself “I need to look at this later” and then lay it aside with good intentions – only to promptly forget it? (Again, you don’t need to tell me – I just want you to know your answer)
  3. Would it be far from the truth if I guessed that you (like me) don’t have time to open up every letter you receive and that you (like me) frequently don’t get back to the letters you do open and lay aside with good intentions of reading later?


So if someone sends you an invitation (request) via a letter that you either didn’t open or that you laid aside with great intention to read later, only to promptly forget, and in truth you therefore never made a decision about their invitation/request – why would you conclude, when you don’t receive a response, that those you extended an invitation/request via letter actually decided to decline your invite/request?


Most likely you have already come to the same conclusion – Yes you sent the letter – but they either did not open it or they laid it aside with good intentions but then promptly forgot and therefore they did not make any decision!

So what did you do then?   Might you have done what I did?  Might you have picked up the phone to give them a call – so that you could move your request to their frontal lobe where they could actually make a decision – “Yes” or “No”?

So when you got them on the phone (and that is no easy task) what did you say?   Might you have said “I am following up on the letter I sent you”?

So what happened when you said, “I am following up on the letter I sent you” how did they respond:

  • Silence?
  • “Don’t think I saw that?”
  • Or if you sent it to their home might you have heard them covering the mouth piece and calling out to their spouse “Hey did we get a letter from (your name)?”

Reality is, even when you made the follow-up phone call, you “shot yourself in the foot” by sending the letter first!


How do I know?

Wish this weren’t true but for years (I am a very slow learner) I kept doing this – i.e. Sent letters – and even added a handwritten note on the bottom of the letter stating “I will give you a call in the next few days to find out your decision” – only to discover that almost everyone was unaware of receiving any letter!


Yes – I kept “Shooting Myself in the Foot” by sending a letter and then following up via phone only to hear that they never seen the letter!

I no longer extend important invitations or requests via letter.  Instead I get them on the phone and extend my invitation ear-to-ear!

Might you be thinking:  “Sounds nice – but today people just don’t answer their phone like their grandparents once did”?

Might you also be thinking:  Leaving “Voice Mail Messages” are also a BIG MISTAKE – because so many people no longer listen to their “Voice Mail Messages.”  Do You?

So how do I get people on the phone?   Glad you asked!  Please keep reading!

The Magic Text

Would you like to know how you can get the people you want to talk with to actually call you?

Today when I have an important invitation to extend to anyone I begin by sending them “The Magic Text!”

Here is my Magic Text:

Hi (their name).  (My name) here. I have a quick question for you.  Can you please give me a call at your earliest convenience?  It is not an emergency – but as soon as you have a couple free minutes, please give me a call.  My M is XXX-XXX-XXXX. Looking forward to hearing your voice!

Warning:  Your phone will start ringing almost immediately – so you would be wise to space out the sending of your “Magic Texts.”

Why does this work?  Although many people are no longer listening to their voice mail messages or reading all of their emails almost everyone still reads their texts!

Extending your invitation

They are now on the phone with you!   What do you say?

Here are a couple of things I have discovered:  People are busy so they appreciate you getting right to the point.  Here is what I say:

  • Thanks for calling me back!
  • I have an invitation/request I want to extend to you.
  • But before I do there are two things I want to say:
    • Our friendship is not on the line!
    • I do not want to put you on the spot for a decision – I want to extend an invitation (share a request) with you – but you then can have the time you will need to give this your thoughtful consideration.
  • Share the request!
  • Offer to follow up your phone call with an email that shares all of the specifics.
  • Wait for their response:
    • 10% usually immediately say “YES!”
    • 10% usually immediately decline.
    • 80% say “Yes – please send me that email.”
  • Ask “Can you help me by letting me know your decision by (specific day)?”  They almost always say “Sure.”

And the surprising thing is that when people request for you to send them a follow-up email – almost all of them actually read your email and respond as promised!

None of this is “High Pressure!”  

But the high # of  “Yes” responses will amaze you!  

By simply making sure that everyone you are wanting to extend an invitation has actually heard your invite and then come to a decision: “Yes” or “No,” the # of “Yes” responses will often be 10 times higher than if you had relied on your letter invite alone!

You may be wondering:  How about using email to extend an invitation or make a request?

Great Question – In a recent “Guest Post” on my blog by Vanessa K. Bohns, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at Cornell University, shared that research has shown that A Face-to-Face Request is 34 times more successful than an email.”

So how are you going to extend your next important invitation or request?

Bob Tiede


Bob has been on the staff of Cru for 49 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Bob and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, TX and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 7 remarkable grandchildren.


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3 thoughts on ““How You Ask” Is Even More Important than “What You Ask!”

  1. Pamela Smith says:

    Bob, this is a terrific post. I am working with an organization in an “email-rich environment” and your process caused me to consider a new question or two that I could use to help them get better responses. Thanks for writing this!

    1. Bob Tiede says:

      Thanks Pam for your encouragement! Please let me know what you/they discover?

  2. Loc Tran says:

    Hi Bob, thanks for sharing this.
    It’s absolutely true that “How You Ask” Is Even More Important than “What You Ask!”.

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