#221: Request Someone’s Time in English [How to Ask for Meetings & Help]

Oct 20, 2021 | Business Professional English

Whether it’s to request a meeting with your boss or a potential new client or to ask a coworker to take time to help you, how can you ask someone else for her time in a polite way that leads to ‘yes’ without overwhelm?

Everyone’s busy, right?

Knowing that can make asking for someone else’s time can be awkward and uncomfortable.

In this Confident English, you’ll get 4 simple steps to help you navigate when and how to request someone’s time in English.

Along the way, you’ll get clear examples you can follow with 4 common scenarios and key English phrases to use when:
– asking for a meeting with your boss
– requesting a coworker’s time
– making a cold request for a meeting or input

How to Request Someone’s Time in English

4 Quick Tips to Plan Your Request

Step #1: Prioritize

Before you approach the other person, determine whether the reason for your meeting is a priority. 

In other words, is it urgent? Or can it wait?

Just as you might be trying to beat the clock, your coworker or boss may also be trying to do the same for a number of other tasks. 


Step #2: Find Their Communication Style

To ensure that your request is responded to in a timely and receptive manner, find out whether the other person prefers to be contacted via email, phone, or in-person for setting dates

You may have heard the expression, “time is money.” 

In a professional environment, this is especially true and it translates into each person’s preferred style of communication.

Not only will this save you a significant amount of time, but you will have an opportunity to prepare your response according to the style of communication. 


Step #3: Follow the 3 Golden Rules

Now that you’ve determined the priority of your request and identified the right communication style, it’s time to make your request. 

In doing so, you may feel unsure about the best way to word your question. 

When you don’t know how to word your request, follow the 3 Golden Rules.

  • 1) Be Polite
  • 2 Preface with a Reason
  • 3) Request a Specific Action 

You’ll see specific examples of these 3 Golden Rules in action in just a moment but first, let’s finish with the 4th step in helping you choose the right words.


Step #4: Be Open to Alternatives

You might feel anxious by the thought of the other person refusing your request. 

Be open to the possibility that your request may be denied for a number of reasons, unrelated to you. 

To avoid awkwardness, you can keep your request open for alternatives by ending your request with one of the following common phrases:

  • If the proposed time doesn’t work, please let me know and we will find a more convenient time. 
  • If noon isn’t a good time, let me know a timeframe that works for you. 
  • If this week is busy, I’m open to scheduling the meeting for next week. Please let me know a day and time that is convenient for you. 
  • If Friday’s not convenient, let’s find an alternative that works for both of us. 


4 Common Scenarios to Request Someone’s Time

Scenario #1: When you need to request a meeting with your boss

There may be times at work, where you need to have a more in-depth discussion with your boss. 

However, before you ask, consider whether you must communicate in a formal or informal manner. 

  • Ex. I’ve been working towards meeting my deadlines, but I need more clarity on which tasks to prioritize. Are you available for a 20-minute meeting on Monday at 1:30 PM? 

In the example, not only have I followed the golden rules (be polite, start with a reason, request a specific action), but I’ve also prioritized specificity. My request tells my boss the reason for my request, that I would like a meeting for Monday, and the length of time that I require. 

Since your boss is busy, they will likely appreciate a concise and specific request.

Scenario #2: When you need to request a meeting with your client

With any client, communicating with professionalism and brevity will ensure you avoid miscommunication. 

In this scenario, we can follow the rules we’ve discussed and provide more detail in our reason. 

  • Ex. Formal: We’re making good progress on the project and I’d like to discuss some options before we proceed further. When would be the most convenient day and time to schedule a 30-minute meeting for this?
  • Ex. Semi-formal: The project is coming together well and there are quite a few options to explore. Would you be free to discuss the options over lunch on Friday?  

In both requests, I give a brief update and reason prior to requesting a meeting. You may also notice that I use the modal “would” to make a polite request.

Scenario #3: When you need to request a meeting with your coworker

With coworkers, the style of communication depends on your workplace culture. If you communicate formally with one another or don’t know the person well, it’s best to maintain a formal tone. 

  • Ex. Formal: I’ve been working my way through the training material, but I’d appreciate your guidance on a few things. Would it be possible to discuss this at a time that’s convenient for you this week?
  • Ex. Semi-formal: I’ve been working my way through the training material, but I’d love to get some pointers from you. Would you be free to discuss the training over a cup of coffee this week?

Scenario #4: When you want to make a cold request to someone you’ve never met

It may feel nerve-wracking to request a meeting with someone you’ve never met before. The hardest part is trying to muster up the courage, despite the possibility that they refuse. 

To understand the person’s communication style, do some research on the way they write emails, post on blogs, speak to an audience, present, etc. 

This will tell you if the person would appreciate a more casual tone. 

  • Ex. Formal: I really enjoyed your presentation on designing eco-friendly landscapes in urban areas. I’m working on a new design with the same goal and I’d appreciate your insight. Would it be possible to schedule a brief meeting to discuss this at a time that’s most convenient for you? 
  • Ex. Semi-formal: I loved reading your post on different ways to communicate at work. I’d be grateful to hear your advice on communicating with difficult bosses because it’s something that I’m currently struggling to do. Would you be available to give me some pointers over a cup of coffee this week? 

As you may have noticed, we started both requests by creating a connection to their work and establishing a sense of familiarity. Instead of requesting a time to “pick their brain”, we asked for their guidance and expertise on a specific topic. 

My goal in the request is to establish a connection and make the other person more receptive to meeting me.

Related Lessons

If you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, learn how to say no politely in English.

Feeling overwhelmed? Learn how to simplify your life or create better work-from-home strategies.

Learn how to talk about Feeling Busy.

Consider how to establish Well-Being at Work or try one of these strategies for Time Management.

Time to practice.

After you’ve reviewed the lesson, think about your upcoming week.

Do you need to request someone’s time?

If so, how could you do so? What phrases might you use from this lesson?

I’d love to hear your request.

The best place to practice and share is in the comment section below.

Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!

~ Annemarie


P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.

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