The Power of Asking for Things

Asking for What You Want

There have been many times, particularly in my professional life, when I have had to work up the courage to ask for something that I wanted. If you’re new to things like job interviews, salary negotiations, or asking for promotions, these can be daunting tasks. Even after you’re established in your career, asking for things like these can feel uncomfortable. 

But here’s something to consider.  There are a lot of people in this world who are content to stay where they are; they enjoy the comfort of the status quo. I don’t mean to say anything negative about this orientation on life; it takes all kinds of folks to make it all work, right? But if you’re reading this, chances are that you care about learning, growing, challenging yourself, and advancing your life and/or career. Because some people don’t have these values, your employer won’t know what you’re thinking unless you speak up. And you certainly won’t get what you want if you don’t tell people what you want!

But beyond the point that no one knows what you want if you don’t put words to it, also consider this: if so many people are content with the status quo, then you are offering unique value by being the type of person who wants to bring change. You’d be short-changing your own skill set by not bringing it up.

This is also true in other facets of life. I have read and can validate through personal experience that communication (or a lack thereof) is a major problem area in marriages or long-term relationships. It can feel like there is so much communication that needs to happen, but neither party says anything. Why not? Perhaps we are afraid of rejection, especially when we’re at our most vulnerable, but it doesn’t really make any sense to assume that the person who has given so much of their life already to be with us would reject us for communicating more clearly, directly, and honestly. We need to be able to work up the courage and talk about it.

Asking for Help

We’ve all been there. We’re stuck in one way or another and we don’t really know what to do. We’re afraid that if we ask for help we’ll look stupid and be judged. In the professional context, we’re afraid that being perceived this way might hurt our chances of getting promoted or included in upcoming projects. Let’s think this through, though.

Everyone experiences feelings like these. I mean EVERYONE. Your manager and your manager’s boss knows what this feels like, and chances are, if you simply say “Hey, I’m struggling with this particular thing and I’d like some help” your manager is going to applaud your honesty and your devotion to the performance of the organization for you to bring up this tricky area before it becomes a real problem.

Even among non-supervisory colleagues, asking for help can have a surprisingly positive effect, especially if you frame it in a friendly way.  For example, if you approach a coworker and say “Oh hey, I saw the report you did on ‘XYZ’ and it was really great! I’d love to learn about your process. Do you have time to teach me some things?” This approach will make your coworker feel like a star; they’d be ridiculous to not help you out at this point!

Second-Order Effects

As I mentioned before, to communicate our truth can be a very scary thing. To ask for something can be terrifying because the answer could be “no”. While we really should practice separating answers to these types of questions from the way we feel about ourselves (maybe this should be a future blog post!), I know this is easier said than done.  To lesson the fear and stress in moments when you are asking for something, keep in mind that everyone has fears and anxieties and we all want real, human connection. The person you need to interact with that is causing you some much internal trouble has undoubtedly experienced something similar and they, too, want to connect and don’t want to be judged.

By taking a chance and being vulnerable, you give someone else the opportunity to be their true self, too, and this will maximize your chances of making friends with people who actually care about you and your success.  Remember that. Real people want you to be real. Good people won’t judge you for saying what you want or asking for help.

And finally, consider that you deserve to be seen, to be heard, and to have your dreams come true. If you want something, tell people what it is. If you need help, reach out for help. As much as anyone else in this world, you deserve to be successful and to have your needs met.

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