Three Steps To Winning The Cooperation Of Others

“Ask and it shall be given to you.” J.C.

Ever since the beginning of time, everyone has asked the same question. Everyone has wondered how they get others to do what they want them to do. In fact every book on leadership, management, parenting, and marriage attempts to answer that question.

Well I’ve read hundreds of those books, and some are quite good. Others aren’t worth your time. The difference comes in what they try to achieve.

In my opinion, the good books, and the smart people, focus on how you can “win” the “willing” cooperation of others. And I’ve spent 30 years researching and speaking about how that can be done. I’ve discovered some very powerful tools that will get your team members, employees, customers, and family members to do what you want them to do — because they want to do it.

That’s what I talk about in my program on “Cooperation and Conflict: Working Together Instead of Coming Apart.”

In a nutshell, to “win” the “willing” cooperation of others, you must follow a three-step process.

> You must know what they need.

> You must give them what they need.

> And, you must ask for what you need.

When you follow the process, and when you use the appropriate skills for each step of the process, you will win the willing cooperation of others. Let me explain.


It’s the first step. Unfortunately, most people skip right over it. Most people focus on what “they themselves” want, and that’s it. They want their coworkers to be more positive. They want their employees to accept the changes more readily. Or they want their customers to be more loyal — and that’s all they think about.

They focus on what “they” want. They don’t even stop to consider what the “other person” needs. At best, they figure they already know what the other person needs — without checking it out. And at worst, they figure it doesn’t matter, what the other person needs.

That’s what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found out. They asked 5,000 managers to rank ten items in the order of their importance to their employees. Number one was assigned to the most important item while ten was given to the least important. The managers thought “full appreciation of work done,” “feeling in on things,” and “help with problems” were relatively unimportant, giving them the bottom three rankings of eight, nine, and ten.

Amazingly, when their 50,000 employees were asked to rank the same ten items, quite a different picture emerged. The employees said those same three items would be their top three choices. That’s what they wanted and needed. And indeed, if their bosses were to get their full cooperation, they’d better know that.

To win the cooperation of others, you’ve got to know what “they” need. As Lord Chesterfield said, “If you will please people, you must please them in their own way.”

Once you know what the other people need, you can proceed to the second part of the process.


Notice the emphasis on “give.” “Give” comes before “get.”

But most people have this backwards. The boss says, “I’ll believe in my employees WHEN they work harder.” The parent says, “I’ll praise my kids WHEN they get better grades in school.” Or the salesperson says, “I could get excited IF I got that new account.”

Unfortunately that’s not how cooperation works. The boss has to believe in her employees first — and then she finds them working even harder. The father has to encourage his kids first — and then they get better grades in school. And the salesperson has to be excited about his product first — and then he gets the sale.

After you’ve figured out what the other person needs, and once you’ve given him what he needs, you have the right to go to the third step in the process. And you’ve got a pretty good chance of it working out.


Of course, people dread all kinds of negative consequences if they ask for what they need. People are afraid if they ask, others will be indignant, angry, or hurt. The other people might even throw a temper tantrum or break off the relationship.

Any of those things could happen. However, they’re not likely to occur if you ask in the right way — or at least, don’t ask in the wrong way.

Let’s say you’ve grown weary of always having to wait for one of your associates. You decide to bring up the issue and ask for more punctual behavior. A wrong way to ask would be through the use of hinting. For example, “I’m glad you’re here. I was beginning to wonder whether I had written the wrong date on my calendar.” Demanding would also be wrong: “You’re going to have to show up on time from now on. I’m sick of waiting around for you.” The first approach would not be clear. The second approach would produce defensiveness.

What’s needed is a simple, effective, powerful way to ask. In our example, a more appropriate wording might be, “From now on, I’d like you to show up within five or ten minutes of the time we agree on. Will you please do that?” It’s clear; it’s respectful, and it doesn’t demean the other person.

There are five guidelines you should follow when you ask for what you need.

First, BE DIRECT. Don’t hint. When you announce a staff meeting for 8:00 a.m. and people show up late, don’t say, “It would sure be nice if we could start on time. Please try to be here on time.” That’s not asking. That’s begging. A direct request would be, “Will you please be here at 8:00 a.m. sharp for our meeting on Tuesday?”

Second, BE SPECIFIC. The more specific you are about the behavior you want, the more likely you are to get it. For example, if you ask your kid to “clean” his room up, you may not be too happy with the results. “Clean” to you and “clean” to him are different worlds. If, on the other hand, you specifically ask for what you want, you’ve got a better chance of getting it. Try, “I want you to put your toys in the toy box, make your bed, and hang up your clothes.”

Third, BE POSITIVE. In other words, expect the other person to say “yes.” As strange as it may sound, people sense your state of mind. If you think, “They’re going to say ‘no’ … This isn’t going to work,” they probably will say “no.” But if you approach someone with confidence and optimism, you’ll be delightfully surprised at the difference it makes.

Fourth, BE POLITE. In most cultures, people have been taught to respond more favorably when they hear the words “please” and “thank you.” So don’t forget to show the utmost respect — in your tone of voice and the words you choose.

Lastly, BE FIRM. Don’t apologize. If you preface your request with such comments as, “I know you’re really busy…I hate to bother you,” the other person may feel like, “That’s right. So leave me alone.” The more you apologize for asking, the more unreasonable your request may sound. Just ask, but ask firmly.

There’s no magic in this world, but there is a 3-step process for winning the willing cooperation of others. Now you know what it is.

Action:  Look at the 3 steps in the cooperation process. Pick the one you most need to improve. And pick a person from whom you’d like more cooperation. During the next two or three weeks, focus on that person and the step you need to improve. See what you can do to improve your use of that step with that person.