Ask for what you want

01.12.09 | Posted in Women & Business Women In Business

Milla (my daughter) has a new skill this week. It’s blowing raspberries. Mine is learning to ask for what I want.

I think it’s fair to say that this is one area that can be more difficult for women. I’ve seen it over and over again throughout my career. A guy will have no problem in saying ‘Can you grab me a coffee please?’ whereas I might put it like this: ‘Um, excuse me, if you’re going downstairs to grab a coffee would you mind picking one up for me too? Oh good, you don’t mind? You sure? Oh, thanks so much, that’d be great’. I try and be mindful of complicating the request, but in the effort to ‘get liked’ and not put anyone out, it often comes across that way.

Why can’t we just ask for what we want?

Well in my case it’s because I fear not being liked and I fear that people will see me in some other way than ‘nice’. Dr Lois Frankel puts it perfectly in her book (one of my all time faves) by the same name -Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office. Not that I’m shooting for the corner office, but you know what I mean.

There’s so much to be learnt from Frankel’s work. It impacted me in the same way Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth did when I was preparing to give birth and in the same way Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth jolted me into reality when I started my first company. If you’re either thinking of giving birth or going into business, run out and get both. Now.

I can’t say the journey from being nice to directly asking for what I want is going swimmingly so far. I tried it out with someone today and she pretty much said no to my request (not in so many words, but that was the message back). So, I thought ‘don’t back down’ and stated that I meant what I’d requested and to please go ahead. She did, and all worked out well in the end. Truth is, old Em would’ve said “oh, ok, no problem” but the new one, equipped with the knowledge that it’s ok to ask for what you want stormed ahead and got the outcome.

Can’t say it felt good first time around

I had a bit of guilt going on and the little voice inside my head said “she’s not going to like you any more and your relationship will never be the same again”. I’m hoping that over time, that voice will subside and I’ll find a stronger more direct one to replace it. I’ll keep you posted.

There’s no doubt that blowing raspberries would be easier than this journey, but I’m going to keep working on it.

What do you think?

See any of yourself in here? What lessons or experiences do you have to share with us?

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1 Comment

  1. Soma

    I totally agree with you Emma, in that this is a skill that many women are nervous about embracing, but it can give far better results than ever expected.

    Great advice I received from my step-mum was “if you don’t ask you don’t get” – too many women think that if they ask and the answer is “no” then this will have a negative knock-on effect, but so long as you aren’t aggressive, it shouldn’t.

    During my psychology degree, I learnt about The Power of Because – a theory where so long as you give a reason as to WHY you are asking for something, the recipient is likely to do as you ask (I hear this is a similar method used when bringing up children).

    My advice is keep trying to perfect this skill. I certainly will!