It can be a real pain trying to coordinate something with a group of people. Unfortunately, trying to get them all together to pick a time to meet or a method of doing things is tough.
It seems that in a group of more than 3 or 4, there is always someone who is busy at a time when you want to meet. What sometimes works best is to pick a time, and then ask whether everyone can make it.
Another dilemma you may encounter is trying to decide on a method of working. What should you do to solve the problem? If you are planning an event, who should you invite? How do you pick a venue and the food? These are all decisions that most people in the planning committee should agree on.
If you run into any of these or other similar problems, how do you solve them? The problems of coordinating time and methods is always a tricky one. You can make a decision and ask whether everyone can agree on it. Instead of asking “Does it work for you?” over and over, try some of these sentences.
Trying to Coordinate a Method
Part of making sure that things are alright is ensuring that the group knows what is going on. Everyone should be working on the same things (at least, part of the same thing) at the same time.
That way you avoid people who do the same thing and overlap each other. You can also avoid the opposite, which is when you see people leaving out a crucial step for your process, leaving you with a missing piece of your puzzle. If you want to agree on something, you can ask these questions. Make sure that everyone is on board with the plan so that there are no overlaps or cracks!
1. Is that alright with you?
This might be the most general and gentle method to ask for someone’s approval. By asking whether something is alright, you can make the other person feel that their opinion is valued and respected. This is a neutral tone question, which means that unless you have a specific emphasis in your voice, other people will assume that it is okay to tell you no if the situation really is not good for them. The thing you should also notice about Is that alright with you? Is that you are not asking whether this is a perfect solution. It likely is not, since you are working in a group and need to compromise, but it is enough to be acceptable.
I thought that we could have a group dinner on Friday night after work. Is that alright with you?/Kelly did not know that being in the dark was a nerve-wracking experience for Christine when she assigned all the roles for the parents at the campout. As Christine’s work partner, I want you to help her out. Is that alright with you?
2. Is that okay?
When you ask someone, “Is that okay?”, you are seeing whether or not something is acceptable. Just like the previous question, the solution you have does not need to be perfect. It only needs to be at a level where it is acceptable. As it is impossible to please everyone all the time, this is the most that you can hope for.
I know you love coffee ice cream, but I was only able to get mint chocolate chip flavor. Is that okay?/ Jackie was already having a bad day. When the bank teller told her that she would not be able to receive the bank transfer she was expecting today, asking her, “Is that okay?”, she started to yell and scream!
3. What do you think?
This line of questioning is even more neutral than the other ones. Asking “What do you think?” is the best choice when you want to know someone’s honest opinion. For the most part, you probably have not made a final decision. You might have heard a couple good options for something, but really are unsure which one to choose. You might be leaning in a certain direction, but it is hard to say for sure. A good argument either way would probably be enough to sway your opinion. In this situation, you can get good, unbiased thoughts by asking this question!
If your boss cares enough about your opinion to ask you, “What do you think?”, it means they value your thoughts enough to hear you tell the truth!/ I was thinking about throwing a surprise birthday party for Monica on Friday instead of Saturday; what do you think?
4. Can you work with this?
If you have a really tough situation, chances are that you are unable to come up with a good solution. Anything that you might consider has drawbacks, one way or another. Instead of being able to pick a clear winner, you have to make the best of what you have. Chances are, the best solution is the one that is the lesser of two evils. Whichever one is “less bad” than the other is your choice, even though almost no one is happy about it! When you ask, “Can you work with this?”, you acknowledge that the situation is less than ideal, but the option you choose is the best one possible.
I know about ¼ of you will not get the experience we promised, but can you all work with this in light of the situation? /Because of budget cuts, we will be unable to provide the extra funding we promised. Can you still work with this or do we need to cancel the conference?
5. Can you make this work?
Like the previous question, this one acknowledges that you are between a rock and a hard place. That means that it is a challenge for everyone involved. For one reason or another, you are unable to satisfy everyone, but are trying to do your best. When you come up with a solution, asking someone to make it work allows them to feel understood that they do not have ideal resources or ideal situations. Instead, they are being flexible and understanding, forgiving mistakes that have been made.
We would be able to increase the monthly budget by about 3%, but not your proposed 5%. Can you make this work? /The company was only able to recruit 5 volunteers for the event rather than the predicted 7. Can you still make this work?
6. Is this what you need?
If you are deciding on how to allocate resources, you need to make sure that the allocation is enough for each project or person. Asking, “Is this what you need?” makes sure that you do not prevent the other person from doing their job.
I think we can change the meetings from Tuesday to Thursday nights so you can have the meeting room on Tuesdays. Is this what you need?/I had to take the materials from the other center, but I doubt they will miss them much. Is this what you need?
7. Are you good with this?
Sometimes, you are unsure whether something is okay or not. If this is the case, ask the person what they think! Asking if “they are good” is a more casual and informal manner of speech. This is good if you are planning to meet with friends and deciding which restaurant to visit or which movie to watch. It can also be good for making sure that someone feels comfortable in the group. They do not want to cause trouble in a difficult environment, but they will also be willing to bring up an issue as soon as it arises. This will prevent a lot of potential trouble in the future.
If we want to open on Saturdays, we will probably need Nancy and James to come to work on those days. Are you two good with this? /I just wanted to tell you that we are planning to spend the extra money from the department on better chairs for everyone. Are you all good with this?
8. Is this acceptable to you?
If things are going as well as you have planned, you can ask this. Something that is acceptable is simply tolerated or allowed. It may not be the best choice in any sense of the word, but it will definitely reach the most basic requirements. That much is all that you can ask. If you are angry, you can also use this question sarcastically. Depending on your tone of voice and the context, you could be expressing genuine concern or rolling your eyes at the outrageous demands of your conversation partners.
I know our goal for revenue this month was over $100,000 but our final numbers are only about 80% of that. Is this acceptable to you? /Since we still have a lot of basic framework to set up for our startup, you would have to work more than 40 hours a week. Before we send you an offer for this job, we need to know – it this acceptable to you?
Trying to Coordinate a Time
Unless you do not have a job or any other responsibilities, it is tough to plan your schedule. You likely have things you have to do every day, so you need to make sure that you do not plan something when you are busy. Sometimes the best thing to do is pick a time, and then coordinate with everyone to make sure whether that will work for them! If you are picking a time to meet, have a conference, etc., try these questions:
9. Will you be able to make it?
You can use this question if you are unsure someone can fit something into their schedule. In addition, if they are not necessary to the event, you can ask this. If you ask them whether they can make it, it can imply that they do not need to be there, but it would be nice if they were.
The new meeting time has been changed to Friday at 3 pm instead of 2 pm. Will you be able to make it? /If we move the meeting from the college campus to our branch in the north part of town, will you be able to make it?
10. Can you make this time?
If you want to be more specific, you can ask about a specific time (the “this time” refers to a specific time that you have told them about already). Asking whether someone is free this way typically shows that you want them to be there.
They might be the keynote speaker at your conference or the boss for an office meeting. They are not the person planning the meeting, but they are important to have attending.
I checked with the staff, and we all agreed that Monday was the best day to have a staff bonding dinner. Can you make this time?/
The conference organizer is trying to pick between Tuesday or Thursday afternoon. Can you make these times? Or should I tell him to pick another?
11. Does this fit into your schedule?
If you want to be extra considerate to somebody, you can ask them whether something fits into their schedule. With this question, you acknowledge that they are busy and probably have a full schedule. However, they might be really interested in attending your event, have committed to going, or otherwise need to be there. You can let them know that you know they are making a sacrifice, but that hopefully it will be worth it by asking this question!
Boss, I just received an invitation for you to participate in a forum discussion for the UNICEF conference next week. Does this fit into your schedule, or should I tell them you will not able to attend?/We will probably give you an extra class to teach for this week. Does this fit into your schedule?
12. Are you available then?
If you ask whether someone is available at a certain time, you can use this question. You want to know whether they will be able to attend or go with you somewhere.
My doctor’s appointment is scheduled for Tuesday. Are you available then? /Steve Martin is going to be at the theater giving a mini class on acting on Sunday afternoon. Are you available then? I would really want to go with you!
13. Are you free at this time?
You can also ask whether someone is free if you want them to go somewhere or attend something with you.
My first performance will be on Wednesday. Are you free at this time? I have free tickets if you want to go! /When do you have class? I am off on Mondays and want to go to the gym with a buddy. Are you free at this time to go with me?