A problem a lot of people have, particularly women, is not asking for what you want or deserve. It’s a tricky social situation to maneuver, we don’t want to feel as though we’re putting others out. The first thing you need to do is assure yourself that you deserve whatever it is that you need. Once you do that, you have to figure out how to get it.
Asking for things can be awkward because oftentimes you’re worried that you might offend someone, hurt their feelings, or seem presumptuous. If you got the wrong order in a restaurant, you can ask for what you originally ordered. If you feel your ideas are being coopted, you can pipe up and ensure that you get proper recognition.
With different people and in different situations, the best way to make these kinds of requests changes – asking your parent to give you more space and asking your work for time off for your mental health should probably be handled differently – but the basic idea behind it should remain the same. The key is to find a balance between being too forceful and being too subtle.
Though you may view what you’re asking for as something you deserve, you should still be respectful when asking for it. At your job, you may recognize that you are doing more than your allotted share of work, you’re doing it well and on time, and you’ve been doing it for a while. This might lead you to feel confident that you deserve a raise, but it is important when making this kind of request that your confidence doesn’t make you come off as self-righteous or a bully.
To you, it seems reasonable that you should be appropriately compensated for your work, but for whatever reason, your boss may not see it that way. If you’re aggressive, it can hurt your chances of attaining your goal. You should certainly feel self assured and be clear about what you’re asking for and why, but be cognizant of not seeming arrogant or pushy.
In a completely different scenario, you might employ a different tactic. If you’re asking your partner to be more attentive to you, don’t start (or end!) by accusing them of being inattentive. Rather, by calmly explaining how you feel and why, you’ll help them understand what you want and why the way they have been acting hasn’t fulfilled that need.
Expressing this through the framework of your feelings takes the pressure off your loved one so that they don’t feel attacked. Instead, hopefully the conversation allows them to better understand your perspective and adjust if they feel they can.
Often, when we’re trying to ask for something politely, we skirt around our actual question. We use phrases like “I was hoping you might”, “I was wondering if you could possibly”, “if it wouldn’t be too much trouble I’d appreciate it if”, and, of course, we all use “just” to minimize a myriad of ideas.
Phrasing requests in this way is less intimidating because it’s gentler, but this also makes it easier to refuse or ignore. While you don’t want to be domineering, you also don’t want to be a pushover. If this is something you want or need that you feel you deserve, be assertive but courteous. It’s all about balance.
It can be difficult to communicate your needs, but try to imagine yourself in the shoes of the person you’ll be making your request to. Wouldn’t you want to give your employee, friend, or loved one what they want? Wouldn’t you want to make them happy?
Knowing how to communicate in this way is fundamental to living harmoniously with other people because at some point everybody needs to ask for something from another. If we can do so respectfully but firmly, we’ll all have a better chance of getting what we need.