One of the most important skills we need to learn in order to have a great life and a thriving business is the ability to ask for what we want. It’s not easy, and it is complicated. You see, first we have to know what we want. Next, we have to believe we can have it. Then, we have to make the request in way that is likely to have a good outcome. That is where both people feel like they have struck a good deal.
This takes practice and I have done a lot of practicing in this area of study. I have pretty much eliminated one of my old styles of behavior which would often result in me getting a point of exasperation where I would think and worse, sometimes say, “F#%* you, I’ll do it myself”.
So how do you know what to practice? I have found some great resources.
In the area of love, Mama Gina has produced some of my favorite textbooks, School of Womanly Arts and Owners and Operators Guide to Men. Every woman should read these two little pink books and give them to every young woman she knows. They teach the importance of recognizing our desires, owning our power, and communicating what we what in ways that are irresistible.
In the area of work, I have found Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In a great book about gender differences in the workplace. Specifically how women are held back and how we hold ourselves back.
I know a young woman who landed her first big corporate job. The salary offered was 35K more than she was making, plus moving expenses. She was so thrilled that she accepted the offer as it was presented without negotiating for anything higher.
To make matters worse, when her moving expenses came in above the allocated amount, she didn’t want to rock the boat at her new job by asking HR to cover the additional costs.
She was presented with a very powerful lesson when, at her first-year evaluation, her boss told her that if only she has asked, her starting salary could have been 15K higher.
In her book, Sheryl makes the point that a women’s reluctance to negotiate a higher starting salary is one of the major reasons for the disparity in the earnings between men and women over their careers.
I wish this young woman had read Lean In before this new career opportunity arose. She won’t make that mistake again. Next time she will get input, support, and practice to handle these opportunities for important requests.
My friend, Annette Saldana, is a powerful speaker and who provides training and coaching on The Art and Science of Making Irresistible Requests. In the workshop, she had the whole room of women business owners opening up and admitting the various beliefs and fears holding them back from asking for what they wanted. And then she demonstrated making a request with the offer of having people sign up for her coaching program.
It was good for people to see this openness about the fear behind our reluctance to have these conversations. We can find ourselves believing that it is easy for other people since it can look that way from the outside. Often we compare our insides to other people’s outsides and stop there.
Seems to me that most of our problems in relationships, whether love or work, spring from people not being able to have decent conversations about their desires or make requests in a way that can produce a good outcome. And the good outcome does not always mean getting a yes.
Trust me. The ability to make powerful requests with grace takes study, coaching, and practice.
But it’s never too late to master this powerful skill. Here’s to stepping outside your comfort zone.