Here’s a hard truth that some of you will hate to hear: If you don’t stand up for yourself and specifically ASK for what you want, need and deserve in the workplace, you probably won’t get it.
Most people (your managers, coworkers, clients, etc.) aren’t looking out for anyone but themselves. This shouldn’t surprise or anger you. Yet every day, I meet professionals who are unwilling to take responsibility for their own needs and desires because they’re afraid or embarrassed. They think, “If I really deserve this thing, they’ll offer it to me.” These people find excuses for why things don’t work out; they drop hints and play games. But they never just bite the bullet and say, “Here’s what I want, here’s why I want it, and here’s why I think you should give it to me.” And then they wonder why they feel so powerless.
People can’t read your mind (and let’s face it, they wouldn’t want to if they could). So it’s up to you to explain what’s going on in there. When you want something, you have to ask for it, plain and simple. Here’s how:
Know Why It Matters
Whatever “it” is—a promotion, a raise, an extra day of vacation, a little help with a project—you have to be clear about what it’s worth to you, why you’re willing to stand up for it, and why it should be yours. Come up with the top three reasons your boss (client, coworker or whoever) simply can’t say no. And, most importantly, make sure you believe you deserve it with all your heart (even if it takes a little convincing).
The process of asking works best when you’re specific, concise and very, very direct. The more vague you are, the more likely your request will be misinterpreted or ignored. I recommend writing it out. One or two sentences is usually all it takes to clearly state your case. It also works best to start with the words, “I’m asking for…” so there’s no confusion.
Pick Your Time
Make sure the person to whom you’re making your request is really listening. Otherwise, your efforts will be wasted. If needed, ask for an appointment to ensure there are no interruptions. (Also, make sure you’re directing your ask to the right person.)
Prepare for Objections
If something matters, it probably won’t be handed over without a little hesitation. That’s perfectly fine. Prepare in advance for potential objections but don’t do the work for them. In this process, you are the sales person. Recognize that your “buyer” is just doing his due diligence but don’t let him persuade you. Stand firm and map out your rebuttals. Look at it as a challenge. This is the fun part!
Confidence makes all the difference. Put your thoughts on paper and then practice, practice, practice. Stand in front of the mirror and watch yourself. Don’t stop until you’re thoroughly comfortable and the words roll of your tongue. Yes, it might feel a little goofy at first, but you’ll get over it. The more you can demonstrate that you believe in yourself and that what you’re asking for is rightfully yours, the greater the chance that you’ll get a positive response.
If your request is declined, don’t put your tail between your legs and go home. Instead, use this as a conversation starter. Ask for more information. Fight for your point-of-view. Find out what needs to happen in order to get to “yes”. Press for specifics and get agreement. Then, follow up. Remember: When something is really worthwhile, it may take time to achieve.
This past weekend, I became very familiar with a little thing called “resistance”. It’s kind of like a temperamental toddler in your head, kicking and screaming and repeating, “I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna! I don’t wanna!” That’s what resistance feels like. It happens when you know you SHOULD do something, you know you WANT to do it, and you know you CAN do it, and yet…you just don’t wanna.
So that’s where I was all weekend long. It started on Friday, when I arrived at my fifth (and final) three-day life coaching class. I was excited. I was ready. I was in it to win it.
And then I wasn’t. Just like that. Something flipped in my brain and I was suddenly a cranky two-year-old. All this personal growth stuff just didn’t sound fun anymore. I didn’t feel like examining myself or pushing myself or improving. I didn’t want to help others. It just felt…wrong.
I ignored it at first. Friday came and went and I pushed through as best I could, but my heart wasn’t in it. Saturday progressed at a snail’s pace. And then finally, I snapped. I grabbed my favorite coach in class, yanked him outside during an exercise and unloaded a pile of verbal vomit on top of him. And, ya know what? It was cool. He handled it. He listened and didn’t judge and gave me permission to be whatever I needed to be in that moment— selfish, angry, confused. It was A-OK.
And then I went back to class.
The next day, Sunday, our last day of class, something shifted. The resistance was still there, but instead of beating myself up for it, I let myself sit with it. I didn’t fight it or ignore it. I just accepted the reality of what I was going through. And it dawned on me that resistance is a natural part of growth. It happens to everyone. I’m not special or weird for feeling this way. This understanding made me almost giddy.
It then occurred to me, during a conversation with a fellow classmate (who also happens to be a yogi) that I deal with resistance all the time in yoga class. Sure, it’s more physical than mental, but the same principles apply. I’ve found that, when you’re trying to stretch into a particularly difficult posture, and your body is tight and resistant, it doesn’t help to push your way through. In fact, that’s a sure-fire way to hurt yourself. The better approach is simply to relax into it. Let the resistance be there, keep your breath steady, and slowly, you’ll ease a little closer to your goal.
Ultimately, you have to give yourself space to feel the resistance, respect it, and work with it instead of against it. I think that goes for all kinds of resistance.
I share this story with you because resistance is normal. I want you to know that everyone goes through it. There are times to push and challenge, and there are also times to relax and let go. You get to make the choice. Give yourself permission to be a bratty toddler now and again. Sometimes, you’ll learn more from that experience than you would otherwise. When you relax into it, you may actually stretch more.
One of my favorite parts of coaching is watching the progress that takes place. Sometimes it’s so minute, an average observer might miss it. Other times, it’s so unbelievably big, both the client and I have to step back and simply bask in its glory.
Progress can sometimes be hard to define. It’s the step between here and there. It’s the motion of doing and achieving and yet, at the same time, still striving for more. Progress is what happens when you feel the pull of your dreams, and instead of just sitting there, wishing and waiting, you dive in. Progress is that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other rhythmic plodding of hard work.
And yet…many don’t appreciate the beauty of it. Making progress means you’re still not done. You have more work to do. That’s the mindset some people get stuck in.
I encourage you to see progress for what it is—dramatically different from completion—and love it for that same reason. Progress is the epic journey from where you are to where you want to be. It can be long and irritating and frightfully uncomfortable. But that’s the nature of transformation.
Here’s how to make progress happen:
Explore with a Curious Mind
There are different kinds of journeys in life. For some, you’ll have a clear destination in mind. For others, you’ll wander until the right road appears. In all cases, exploration is a critical part of making progress. Even if you know precisely where you want to end up, the process of veering off-track with intention and curiosity can actually help you chart your course more effectively. It can reassure you that your path is right or it may help you identify new trails to blaze.
Just be sure to drop breadcrumbs as you go so you can always find your way back when needed.
Take Slow, Deliberate Action
Action is indeed a critical part of progress on any journey, but not just any action. Progress is thoughtful and measured. It’s not some wild game of “Guess What’s Next?” Each step is taken with purpose and its impact carefully dissected before taking another.
This isn’t to suggest risk can’t be taken or your pace must be painfully sluggish. Make movement with intention and let speed not concern you.
Establish Your Rhythm
Progress is methodical. It’s a steady march forward. While speed should not concern you, cadence is another matter. Build momentum in the beat of your footsteps. Keep it constant and firm. Let the sound of progress resonate in your soul and in the world.
Bring a Companion
Any journey is more enjoyable with a partner—someone to celebrate the victories and share in the frustrations. But when it comes to making progress, a companion offers much more than company along the way.
This person is not a leader or a follower; he is an ally, a teammate, a support mechanism to help keep your stamina up when the road ahead is cold and unwelcoming. In your darkest hours, he will remind you of how far you’ve come and help maintain your rhythm when every bone in your body is begging to give up. Your companion will hold you true to your highest, most magnificent self and won’t let you be less.
Above all else, making progress is not like winning a race. Yes, it requires endurance and, at times, extreme exertion. But the journey is the reward, not the finish line. Progress happens in the day-to-day. Recognize your evolution. Give yourself the respect you deserve for making it happen. Don’t brush it aside like a pesky disturbance between you and your goal. Savor it. Remember that this progress was made by you. It’s the result of your sweat. And progress itself is the epic journey.
This past weekend, I attended a coaching course on the topic of Fulfillment. While I gained so much from the information presented, one of the most important things I learned was that fulfillment can’t wait. It’s the single most important thing we are all searching for. It’s the essence of LIFE.
And yet, so many of us put it off. Life, you might say, gets in the way of LIFE. We want to be “responsible” and “rational” and the end result is that we put our own fulfillment at the bottom of the priority list.
Now, let me clear: There’s nothing wrong with being responsible and rational. These are great qualities for any adult. But it’s easy to use them as excuses for not taking action.
And, when it comes to fulfillment, action can’t wait.
There’s another great excuse for not taking action that’s all around us this time of year. It’s called PLANNING. Yep. That responsible, rational side of your brain is convinced that making a New Year’s resolution is a real step towards achieving fulfillment.
Let’s be clear: TAKING action is not the same as PLANNING action.
Does this mean you shouldn’t plan? Absolutely not. Establish goals, create your to-do lists, dive into planning mode as much as your heart desires. But don’t get it confused with action. Realize that planning can, at times, be a hindrance to action.
Action is the key component to creating fulfillment. There’s nothing stopping any of us from taking action today. Really. I know it’s scary. I know it’s easier to just pull out the calendar and mark a day in the future as “The Day I Will Take Action.” But things come up. Life throws unexpected circumstances at us. That responsible, rational part of you will always find a way to jump in and say that today’s not the day, no matter how long you’ve been planning it.
I believe, with all of my heart, that you can take action today. It doesn’t have to be a giant leap of faith; just one tiny step is all it takes. LIFE is waiting for you to do this.
So today, instead of putting “run a marathon” on your New Year’s resolution list, go register for one. Instead of saying, “Next year I’ll start my own business,” go out and get a new client. Just go do it. There’s nothing stopping you.
What action will you take today to get closer to fulfillment?
Written by Chrissy Scivicque, December 10th, 2010 | 1 Comment »