We’ve all been there.  It’s the fourth time you’ve contacted that manager about doing his training.  You’re beginning to feel like a nag.  But what can you?  The training has to be done, but he just keeps ignoring you.  It’s maddening.  You want to scream, “What’s the matter with you?!”  Instead of getting yourself drug into the human resources office with this shouted question, try one of the following questions instead.

When would be a good time to get started?

According to Phil M. Joes, author of Exactly What to Say, The Magic Words for Influence and Impact, using the words, “when would be a good time” is a highly effective way of getting past the “I don’t have time!” obstacle.  This is because, “you prompt the other person to subconsciously assume that there will be a good time and that no is not an option.”  When you ask the manager when it would be a good time to get started, you’re assuming that he’ll be starting the training at some point, and his response should commit him to a timeframe.

When shall I check back in with you?

When someone is putting you off, ask, “when shall I check back with you?”  Make a concrete appointment, whether in person, by phone or by email, to come back to the manager.  Send the appointment as a calendar invite.  Once the manager has committed to a deadline in the future, she is more likely to follow through, especially if you set the calendar to remind her of the appointment the day before, so she’s got time to do what you needed her to do before you call or visit the next day.

Shall we take a look at this together?

What do you do if you need someone to review a policy or communication and comment on it?  Author Joes advises against assuming anyone has read the material you sent.  Instead of asking what the person thought of the draft, offer to go through it together.  That way you’ll head off the, “I haven’t had time to look at it” objection, and you’ll be more likely to get through the review on your terms, highlighting the points you want to highlight. 

By asking the right questions in the right ways, you’ll be much more likely to get what you want.  And that’s a great outcome, isn’t it?

This piece originally appeared as a column in the October edition of Compliance and Ethics Professional Magazine, a copy of this can be accessed HERE.