Ask for the &$!@%! mug

Ask for the &$!@%! mug

I was in a local coffee shop last week, the shop that used to be my regular.

I was there so often, and it was such a part of my routine, that I assumed then that it would always be that way. Stopping in again made me realize how much things had changed.

A couple of years ago, three days a week, I dropped my youngest off at kindergarten and headed straight to the coffee shop. It wasn’t my favorite—that was sadly in the opposite direction—but a good one, and it was mine.

On every visit, my barista served up my decaf americano, extra room, in a paper cup. I would sit down and open my laptop, ready to write. (Back then, I was drafting Reading People.) But I couldn’t help but notice that other customers with similar routines had pretty ceramic mugs, not paper.

Everything tastes better in a pretty mug, so I wondered by what magic the other customers got theirs, and how could get one. I kept my thoughts to myself. (Introvert, obviously.)

After weeks (months?) of this, I was stirring cream into my coffee at the counter one day when a man came up next to me holding the biggest cup of coffee I’d ever seen. I told him as much, and asked how he’d managed to get a cup of coffee that big.

His answer: I asked for it. 

He explained: it was a gloomy day, the kind that encourages coffee drinkers to pour an extra cup or three. So he’d walked up to the counter and said, “I’d like the biggest cup of coffee you have, and I’d like it in a mug.”

The barista disappeared into the back of the store and returned a minute later bearing a ceramic vessel that put Starbucks’ venti to shame.

This was a revelation, albeit one that made me feel like an idiot. I’d been wanting to know how to get a mug, and here was the answer: ask for it.

It’s okay to want things! It’s okay to ask for them! Who knew?

That man and his giant mug made a big impression on me back then. A piece of pottery isn’t a life or death thing. But there are times when it’s crucial to ask for what you want, and if I hesitated to order my coffee the way I wanted, could I trust myself to speak up when it mattered? (I mean, coffee is important, but work with me.)

There have been very few paper cups in my life since then. (After asking for a mug three or four times, the baristas saw me coming and brewed up my new-and-improved regular order: decaf americano, extra room, biggish mug.) But my broader mindset also shifted that day.

It’s okay to want things. It’s okay to ask for them.

Of course there are exceptions: context is important; timing is everything. And sometimes I feel kind of demanding, asking for certain things, or for things to be a certain way. But in many, many situations, what I want isn’t fussy or hard or special. People are happy to accommodate, but they have to know how.

This coffee shop isn’t my regular anymore, but some of the baristas still recognize me, and last week they brewed up my old regular order, without me having to ask for it. Whenever I stop in, I always think of the guy with the giant mug, and the tangible reminder that it tastes so much better this way. And all I have to do is ask.

What do you want, and what do you ask for? Tell us all about it (and maybe how you take your coffee?) in comments. 

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87 comments

  1. This is such a good point! I feel like I’m telling my mom this all the time…just ask! And she’s always nervous about asking. I’m an introvert, but she’s an introvert plus shy plus not confident.
    I feel like this can also be applied to women in business…reluctant to negotiate for a higher salary (more likely to accept the first thing offered), reluctant to ask to be compensated for your work in creative businesses, etc.

  2. Ann-Marie says:

    We meet friends for dinner once a month at a burrito place. I always order the nachos. But their process is to put the cheese on last, hence, none of the toppings stick to the dry chips underneath. Finally, I asked them to put the cheese on first, and presto. Perfect nachos, happy customer, and more than willing server. Win, win, win. It’s amazing what happens when you will just ask.

    • Karenlynna says:

      Ann-Marie-what stood out to me in your comment is that you have a set time to meet friends at the same place every month. I do this for lunch with a friend, but I’d never thought to do the same with my husband and another couple for dinner. Since the people, place, and time are steady it sounds like a great addition to our life!

      • Ann-Marie says:

        It’s been kinda amazing. We’ve been doing it for almost fifteen years. We live all over the city, so we all have to drive to a central place. We started just after college – we were so young, not married, etc. Now most of us are married with children – we’ve really been there for each other – marriage, babies, losing babies, parents dying, etc. We were all friends at the same church in college and I LOVE that we’re still so close.

  3. Megan says:

    The majority off the time, all you have to do is ask. People are not mind readers. I feel as if so many people walk around angry and bitter because people and things disappoint them when in reality if we would just speak up and verbalized what we want/need we would all be enjoying our big mug of coffee.

  4. Mary says:

    Another introvert over here…I am SO bad at asking for things! I always end up overthinking the want or situation and talk myself out of moving forward, and am working hard on overcoming this aspect of my temperament. One example – I live 45 minutes away from two of my dearest friends and wondered one day if they would want to set up a standing monthly get-together for the three of us. I was worried they wouldn’t want to, or already had other friends that fulfilled their needs for socializing, but finally decided to suck it up and text them…and they were both super excited and all for it. We’re always a work in progress, aren’t we?

  5. Margaret says:

    I fight this everyday and seem to have passed this on to my kids! It is a bit easier now to force myself to ask when I remind myself that I am modeling healthy behavior for them.

  6. a a says:

    One of the best lessons my dad taught me was when he said “If you want something, I won’t know to give it to you unless you ask me for it. (But I might say no.)” I’m fairly introverted, too, and still don’t do this much with people outside my own family. But I think I do it way more than I would have if he hadn’t told me this as a child. The hard thing is, I’m very comfortable with asking my husband for things, but it’s very difficult culturally for him to say “no”. And his alternatives to “no” don’t always read as a no to me, so that sometimes puts him in a tough spot.

    I guess my point is, make it easy for the person you’re asking to say “no”. For example, I used to be a cashier in the kind of business where we would often ask our customers for charitable donations to causes. I learned to add “today” to the end of my question “Would you like to donate to x”, because it gave them an easy way to say No. They could say “Not today.”

  7. Susan says:

    The day I started ordering my bacon not too crispy was a great day. I love bacon but hate when it is so crispy it chips! So often I would order and hope for the best. No longer!

  8. Jennifer N. says:

    I try to remember the saying “If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘no’.” I have a really hard time asking for anything that might inconvenience someone else, especially babysitting, but I have learned to just ask and give whoever it is an out. Sometimes I’ll straight up say “It’s okay to say no.” I probably do this because I also have a hard time saying no, so everyone else must, too!

    • Tina B. says:

      This is one of my favorite quotes and I write it in several places so I’m reminded of it regularly, although I write is as, “Until you ask…”

  9. Ann M. says:

    I think that not only as introverts do we not ask for what we want but also as women. We are taught to put others needs before our own and we are very good at doing exactly that, often to our own detriment.

  10. Sarah Clark says:

    I am an introvert and a people pleaser, so it is really hard for me to ask for things. But, since becoming a mom (and now a mom of 3 under 5) I have learned for the sake of my sanity and my family’s, I NEED to ask for some time to myself. And my husband gladly takes the kids for an evening when I ask, or if the night I request doesn’t work we figure some other night out. But he doesn’t know I need it if I don’t ask!
    As far as coffee goes – black in a fun mug at home; with coconut milk in whatever cup they have when I am out.

  11. Sarah M says:

    hah! As someone who worked in a coffee shop for years, usually we put everyone’s coffee in a to-go cup unless they specifically ask. It cuts down on dishes, and the fact is, many more people ask for to-go cups (once you’d put it in a mug) so you’d have to do the dish anyway. I’m not sure about all of them, but the starbucks I worked at eventually got rid of all their ceramic mugs and went straight to paper cups.

  12. Cherylann says:

    Why is it that we have trouble asking for what we want? I just want sandwiches without tomatoes and salad dressing on the side. (Okay, really I want all the things, but I’ll be super happy with those two.) No coffee. Tea. With lemon. (And yes, I have to ask for that)

  13. Jennifer H. says:

    Great post! I am the same way. Good reminder that it is ok to ask for things. Not sure if there is anything particular that I want or that I ask for (or don’t ask for!) but I take my coffee with just milk. 😉

  14. Madelyn Ferris says:

    I’m so glad you pointed this out! As a “rule follower,” it took me forever to learn that sometimes you can just ask for something. All they can do is say no. I’m not sure what type that is (haven’t finalized my type yet!) but anyone who is that “type” should be given permission to just ask!

  15. Katelyn says:

    As an introvert, I rarely tell people exactly what I want. I am definitely the kind of person that will just accept a wrong order at a restaurant because I don’t want to be difficult; but in this season in my life, I’m having to learn this same lesson, to think of the things I want and ask for them. This is especially true in my relationships. Thanks for the great reminder today that my wants and needs are important as well!

    As for coffee: two sugars, splash of cream, and always out of my Wonder Woman mug!

    • Beth says:

      I’m an introvert and a rule follower, and this was a great post. I don’t often ask for what I want, because I don’t want to cause any trouble or inconvenience anyone. But I have no problems doing something for someone else if they ask. It’s interesting. Thanks for this post.

  16. Katie B says:

    This is so true! My family always teases me that I’m spoiled…by every single person I meet. And what I always tell them is that they could be “spoiled,” too, if they just asked for what they wanted. Like you said, most people are more than willing to do something/give you something/help you with something if they just know what you’re looking for. Great post!

  17. Tina B. says:

    I’ve learned that when I am interviewing for a job that I really want, I always end the interview by telling the manager/team that I want the job and I ask for it. Apparently few people do this. I don’t want them wondering later if I want it or if I’d take it. I’m convinced that it has worked for me.

  18. Sarah says:

    Anne, I find this post wonderful…and dear to my heart! You see, while I was a college student in Boston, going to my practicum in a child care center downtown near the Boston Common, my friend and I stopped at this adorable little coffee cart in the food court. Cafe Java. The guy there starts chatting with us and it turns out he’s from Seattle, where these carts are really popular (1992!). We love his stuff and after a couple visits, he asks us if we want a job! I WAS a barista. It was one of my favorite jobs, and I had regular customers who I truly aimed to please. Sometimes they were downright grumpy, but when I knew what they really wanted, I could help! This was a favorite job, and I know very well that I could still make a great cappuccino in my sleep!

  19. Sarah K says:

    Interesting that most people see not asking as an “introvert thing.” I am an extrovert but also an Enneagram 9 and it definitely sounded like a “9 thing” to me!

  20. Ellen says:

    Can I tell you the most meaningful nugget of your story for me? That you’ve been working on your book for at least three years! I’ve been working on a business idea for 2.5 and some days (not all) the perseverance needed is overwhelming. So, THANK YOU for including that little factoid in your story. It reminds me that persistence is more common, necessary, and worthwhile than I often think.

  21. Carrie says:

    I drink my coffee black and I pushed myself out of being an introvert and asked in April for a title change to reflect my expanded responsibilities at work. It’s August and I’m still waiting. My boss doesn’t do well with people asking him for things, I have found out. I even explained that a pay raise was NOT what I was asking for, simply a title change. Sad that I haven’t been rewarded for pushing myself out of my box…actually feel I have been punished for that action. Black coffee is a great distraction, and yes, I prefer a mug over paper cups…but will drink it either way! 🙂

  22. Brenda T. says:

    I’m laughing as I read this because it is truly a classic introvert move. When I was in college, I had a 15 hour train ride to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving. I was too afraid to ASK where the bathroom was on the train (or anything else for that matter) and literally spent the entire trip in my seat, eating my own snacks, and never using the bathroom. When I arrived at my sister’s house I received questions such as, “Did you enjoy the dining car?” Dining car? There’s food on the train??!! I am much better now that I am adult, but still find myself slipping into the *not asking* mode at times. But I have learned to ask for a ceramic mug at coffee shops. The trip is to say it right at the beginning; otherwise the barista has grabbed a plastic cup and starting writing your coffee order on it.

  23. Tea.n.toast says:

    The situation this brings to mind is when I wish for a closer friendship with someone I just know casually. I’m an extrovert but still have to push myself to ask for someone’s time. But, as so many have commented, if I just ask an acquaintance to lunch I am often rewarded with a new friend.
    Tea, never coffee. Always have to ask.

  24. Pamela says:

    This is SUCH great advice! I think the last “big” thing I asked for was for my job to be reclassified to a higher pay grade. I wasn’t asking for a raise, just for a possibility of a raise in the future. It worked 🙂
    I’m trying to teach my two-and-a-half year old daughter to ask for what she wants too. She was getting in the habit of whispering that she wanted a treat after dinner. Well, she now asks for treats while sitting up straight and speaking clearly. Baby steps, right?
    Oh and coffee – I drink it black at home, with French Vanilla creamer at work, and through a straw (which I have to ask for!) at Starbucks.

    • Mary Ann Garcia says:

      I had an interesting moment with my 19 year old daughter the other day. I like a paper cuff with my cold drinks (iced carmel macchiato anyone?) because I don’t like to feel of a slippery cup in my hands. A sweaty cup is more likely to slip out of my hands – not a happy making moment. She restrained herself from rolling her eyes but told me I was being “extra”. I explained to my usually respectful daughter to never be embarrassed to ask for what she needed. I told her the pressure to not be “extra” (translation – a pushy entitled American ) and asking for what you need is a matter of degree and good manners. I always say, “If it’s not too much trouble, may I…”.

  25. Mary Gavan says:

    This was eye opening. Like others who have commented here, I am a rule-following, people pleasing introvert who rarely asks for what I want. Reading your post has inspired me to give asking a try. Coffee: black with lots of cinnamon and a dash of sugar.

  26. Ashley says:

    Between this and “Sometimes it doesn’t get easier,” you’re hitting all of my soft spots this week. It’s been easy enough to apply the first post to my job search — now I need to get on with asking for the things I want.

    That sounds scary.

    Oh, and it’s black first thing in the morning, and by afternoon I switch to what I call recreational coffee — flavored creamers, here and there a mocha, sometimes a splash of bourbon in the evening. It’s possible I drink too much coffee.

    • Kristin says:

      That is what my first boss out of college said, too! “It never hurts to ask. The worst they can say is no, and if you don’t ask, you’re already at no.” It’s been a guiding principle for me.

    • Kathy says:

      My grandmother, who was from the north east of England always said ‘Shy Bairns get Nowt’ which roughly translates to if you don’t ask you won’t get anything. I always think of that phrase when I need a little burst of confidence!

  27. Mimi says:

    One of my Grandmother’s (she was born in the 19th century) favorite sayings from childhood was “Good little girls don’t ask for anything but good little girls don’t get anything.”

  28. Catherine says:

    A variation on the theme is speaking up about a complaint. “You can’t fix something you don’t know is broken” is a lesson I learned in a customer service seminar years ago. Tell the vendor, provider, service person when something is wrong and give them a chance to fix it. Chances are they will be gracious in knowing they can help you AND eliminate the problem from their system/product/procedure.

  29. I love this post. It’s true what you don’t ask for you don’t get. I’ve had problems with that too because I didn’t think I deserved to have what I really wanted. So for years I worked at jobs that were on the periphery of what I wanted, or that I thought I wanted. Finally one day I had this big aha moment and knew that everything in my life, all the decisions I had made had led me to my life’s purpose. And now I’m doing what I never thought I could do, I’m writing. Life is so much better when I just say what I want whether it’s big or small.

  30. Laurie says:

    You had me at coffee, Ann. I love my snowman mugs.(I L-O-V-E anything snowman-related), and my florals are a close second. Since we will be moving from FL to MI in the near future (crazy, I know)I’m wondering how much longer my snowman phase will continue. By mid-winter I think I’ll be ready to break out the florals. Maybe sooner.

  31. Lisa White says:

    For years I was occasionally resentful of my husband; I felt he didn’t love me truly because he wouldn’t pick up my subtle hints of things I would like for him to do. Then I realized he is not clairvoyant and began asking in a clear, concise manner for what I wanted. Eased a lot of tension in our marriage.

  32. What a great post. I need reminding of this sometimes. Back to Biblical principles: Knock and the door will be opened to you; ask and you shall receive. As you say though, context and timing considered.

    • Mary Kay Huck says:

      So I’m sitting in a Barnes & Noble reading this blog post drinking my coffee from a paper cup…ugh! Next time I’m asking!

  33. Chrissie says:

    At Sonic, when they my car turn into their parking lot, without me placing the order, my favorite “water” smeetsme at the curb a Route 44 unsweetened ice tea, w/ extra ice and 4 lemons, on the side. Everyday, sometimes twice in the summer. When my cost is less than 5.00 at a minimum wage establishment I tip 50% because I hate to imagine how hard they work for so little compensation.

  34. Melissa Gerber says:

    Years ago I read an article by a journalist who interviewed Zsa Zsa Gabor. When the journalist arrived for the interview Miss Gabor asked if she (the journalist) had brought her a present. The journalist was flustered and said “no” she hadn’t. Miss Gabor shrugged and said “You don’t ask, you don’t get.” That phrase has become something of a mantra in our house.

  35. Years ago my sister asked me how I got our mom to make chocolate bread pudding every year for my birthday. I told her, “I asked her to make it.” She was dumbfounded, then laughed. After that my sister asked, and our mom made her favorite dessert for her birthday. (This is when we were adults.)

    • Karen Allen says:

      My experience was just a bit different. When my younger siblings finally hit high school and I was home visiting (after I was married – I was 5 years older than the twins and 7 years older than my youngest sister; it was always “Karen and the Kids” in our family) they asked me, “How did you get to do everything you asked foto do when you were in high school?” My answer, “I didn’t ask to do things I knew they were going to say no to.” It was like a lightbulb went off for all three of them! They hadn’t thought about making their own decisions about what to ask permisssion to do, but had been asking for everything that occurred to them – even when they KNEW Mom & Dad were going to say “No!”

  36. Julie says:

    Yes! Lately I’ve been trying to push myself toward asking for what I need/want. And really, I think it all comes down to just telling the truth! Another commenter wrote about having good manners, which is key when telling the truth. 🙂 I’ve always fallen into that category of Good Southern Girl who’s always trying to please everyone around her. Lately I’ve just been trying to tell people the truth–still workin’ my Southern Charm, but telling the truth.

    COFFEE ALL DAY LONG. Cream and Sugar. Right now, the mug is a green one from the Dollar Tree!

  37. Trisha says:

    I very much relate to silently wondering how others got their coffee in a mug! And I’ve learned to practice asking for things even though it feels weird. I think it’s a good skill. I ask for things sometimes just to make myself practice. You definitely get more when you do 😉

  38. Bethany says:

    This is so great. I’m so very bad at asking for things. I feel like I’m putting everyone out and I try so hard to be low maintenance. You just make it sound so simple!! Thank you for this encouragement!!

  39. Chris says:

    I learned from my late mother-in-law that it is always appropriate to ask for a black dinner napkin when wearing black. She thought it to be a travesty of service if one was not automatically offered to a lady wearing black at a well-dressed table setting by the wait staff. I miss her but remember this interaction well.

  40. S says:

    Yes!! I always hesitate to ask because I don’t want to be seen as high maintenance or stupid (if it is something I think everyone else is knowledgeable about). But….I have recently been traveling for work and I took a chance and asked for a free upgrade for my car rental and most of the time they can accommodate my request and on the rare opportunities they can’t, I still have a car rental, even if it’s one of the smaller cars. It never hurts to ask as long as you don’t act like you are entitled…I am always grateful when my request can be granted!

  41. Nikki says:

    Wow, you have a lot of people pleasing introverted readers 😃. Following the Gretchen Rubin Four Tendancies model, I am a HUGE questioner, with upholder tendancies. In job interviews, I ask as many questions as I answer. It needs to be a good fit for ME, not just them. As a vegetarian, I have limited ordering options in many places, so again, questions. When buying a new car, I asked for a second key fob. I’m currently single, so if I want to share a meal with a friend, I ask. And believe me, I can go through as many as 5-6 people before someone is available. Can it get discouraging, yes. And many friends don’t reciprocate the ‘ask.’ So as a frequent ‘asker,’ we love it when you initiate!! I live in the south currently, but am from the Midwest. It floors me how rarely ladies speak up around here. I test introvert too (maybe more ambivset as I get older), but I think ask vs. not ask has MUCH more to do with upbringing/culture and confidence.

  42. Mary in Tennessee says:

    I’m always willing to ask. As you do it more and more the great results will stick with you and the “no’s” will be forgotten.

    One of my best ones was asking the clerk at the Statue of Liberty ticket window if she could ask the other clerks and double check after she told us they were sold out. They came up with the four tickets we needed!
    In an LA restaurant I asked to be seated at an outside table close to the sidewalk and we got to watch people arriving for the Grammy pre-show.
    My kids are grown now but they will occasionally ask me to make an important phone call for them!

    • Anne says:

      Oh my goodness, it NEVER would have occurred to me to ask to double check on the sold out Statue of Liberty seats! Also pre-Grammy restaurant seating sounds very cool.

  43. J. Hall says:

    My parents always told me, “If you don’t ask you’ll never know!” This was their advice pertaining to everything from school to child-rearing. I tried hard on many occasions to “just ask”, but I always felt uncomfortable doing so, maybe I thought I didn’t deserve what I was asking for. Interestingly, I told my children the same thing my parents told me when they were wondering or wanting. Even more interesting is the fact that BOTH of them DID ask on as many opportunities they encountered. Our daughter has her Ph.D. in Educational Philosophy and our son is a successful Mergers and Acquisitions attorney. They worked very hard for their accomplishments and always politely asked…. and received. Could their Mother take her own advice?? I’m still squeamish. BTW, I take my coffee with half and half and sugar.

  44. Debbie says:

    I’m 67 and a singer…gave up original dream to have children, husband and home, and don’t get me wrong… I love all of them, however, I need to …want to …be considered and included in all things musical at our new church. I’m not and as a newer “kid” on the block, do I have the right to ask? Fear clouds my opportunity…I love your blog and appreciate this message spurring me on to address this concern in my life.

  45. Pam says:

    Lovely post – and so very true…. Took me a long time to realize you have to ask for what you want and need in relationships too. How many times are we unhappy or resentful because we aren’t getting what we want or need? A good reminder on many levels! Thank you.

  46. Cheryl Weaver says:

    I drink decaf with Splenda and cream. Trying to learn to drink it without cream. I love to make cards and want to make them with people. ‘Everyone’ has tutorials and classes on line. I want face-to-face. Yes I am an extrovert so I spent an hour and a half leaving phone messages and writing emails to try to fulfill this desire of mine.

  47. Heather says:

    I learned this lesson from my husband. He always asks and usually gets what he asks for. For example, if we are in a establishment with a television and he doesn’t like the content, he asks for them to change it. (Usually in an effort to watch whatever baseball game he wanted to see that night). They always happily switch channels. I don’t know why it never occurred to me to ask!

  48. Mary says:

    I think this discussion is great. I have a difficult time asking for what I need or want. I have learned. I think it is learned behavior. Some people find it easier than others. I am surrounded by them. With my situation in mind, I believe there is a fine line between asking for what you want and feeling entitled to have your way. As I have explained to many people, there isn’t a right way to fold a towel, bout there may be your way.

  49. Anne I believed we have discussed this before: that people are either Askers or Guessers. http://99u.com/workbook/21895/are-you-an-asker-or-a-guesser

    I think I’ve also mentioned that my hubby is the same MBTI type as you – which might explain why I like you so much. 😉

    HOWEVER.. if there was ONE thing I could change about my sweet hubby, it would be this: I wish he was comfortable with asking me for things. I’ve tried to explain it this way: when he tiptoes around asking, it’s as if he doesn’t trust me or believe that I’m happy to serve him. So for example, I know he has a hard time dropping of his clothes at the dry cleaners during business hours, and I’m happy to do it… but he just can’t bring himself to ask me. Which makes me think, “Am I such an evil B that I would bite his head off or something?” – I’ve done many such errands for him in the past, why can’t he just trust that I am happy to do nice things for him?

  50. The mug makes a huge difference. Period.

    In fact, I was out of the country and asked to purchase a mug from the coffee shop…they don’t sell them like in America…but they gave me one ❤.

  51. Jane Kline says:

    As a young girl I was very shy, I remember my father always telling me if I went to the ice cream stand ( soft serve) on the corner and just stood there all day I would never get any ice cream….I just had to ask! I was going to get it it’s what keeps them in business:) for years grown up I had to remind my self they were going to say yes or go out of business…It helped bring me out of that scary spot inside.

  52. I love real mugs! In addition to being more environmentally friendly, they feel better in my hands, and when I’m trying to avoid a headache it helps to press the hot mug against my ears and temples. I’m not so good at asking for things in general, but asking for “a real cup” or “a mug” when ordering coffee is something I’ve been making myself do for many years.

    I recently researched <a href="https://www.kitchenstewardship.com/3-easy-ways-make-coffee/&quot;all the reasons not to use K-cups, and better ways to make coffee. I prefer percolators myself.

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