Women hear all the time that they have to ask for what they want. This is good advice. Too often women think that by keeping their heads down and working hard, their contributions will be recognized and rewarded all on their own. But, this just isn’t the case. If you want a promotion, you should say so. If your assignments aren’t challenging, you should ask for new ones. If your partner isn’t giving you the support you need at home, you should let him or her know. Speaking up can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary.
But, how you ask for what you want is just as important as the act of asking itself. Below are three things I’ve learned about how to make your ask as effective as possible.
- Timing is everything. I’m a pretty impatient person. When I want something, I want it NOW. But, when you’re making a big ask – at work or at home – it’s important to wait for the right time. If your boss is in the middle of a large, stressful project, it’s probably not the right time to ask for a raise. Likewise, if your partner has had a rough day at work or is in a foul mood, it’s best to wait to discuss a complaint. Waiting can be hard, but it’s worth it. Try scheduling time in advance when you know there will be limited distractions. This gives you time to prepare and signals to the other person that this is important and that you really want their undivided attention.
- Be specific. If you want a specific outcome, make a specific ask. It’s that simple. A vague request like, “I wish you would do more around the house” is not helpful. You should rephrase to specify exactly what you need. “It would be helpful to me if you would take on some of the household chores. If you could throw out the trash, unload the dishwasher, and bath the baby in the evenings, that would be great.” The same is true at work. For example, if you want more flexibility in your schedule, simply asking for “flexibility” alone won’t be useful. Instead, try something like, “I’d like to discuss adding some flexibility to my schedule. Specifically, I would like to work from home every Friday. I’ve put together a plan for how it would work.”
- One thing at a time. Sometimes, we want to make big changes. Lots of them. But, coming in with a laundry list of requests can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Try focusing on just one or two immediate needs. You’re more likely to get what you want if you keep the requests short and manageable.
These are just some of the tips I’ve gathered along the way. What are some ways that you’ve been able to effectively ask for what you want?