Two Reasons You Aren’t Getting What You Want

Young female entrepreneur with pen in hand, deep in thought & looking into the distance

I bet you don’t always get what you want. Me neither. Whether it’s professionally or personally, big things or small, there are things we want that we don’t get. And I know why.

There are two reasons we aren’t getting what we want. It’s one of two things. Either we don’t ask for what we want, or we don’t ask well.

When I don’t get what I want, one of these two things is to blame. I’m not asking or I’m not asking well. And when I recognized that these two things were standing in my way, I got to work getting them out of my way. That’s when my life changed. Now I ask for what I want, and I get it most of the time. And the people I coach are asking for what they want and getting it more often than they ever thought possible. I want to share how these two things may be standing in your way, and how you can overcome them.


One of my clients came to me because she needed to advocate for herself at work. She was a consultant at a big firm, and from the outside she was strong, powerful and successful. But she struggled with asking for the raises and bonuses she deserved. For years prior to our work together she’d accepted what the managing partners had offered her at her reviews, and never asked for more. That had to end. We worked together for just three months, building her belief in herself and her ability to have her own back. She already had the skills to ask well, but she had to start asking. After three months she went to her partners and made the case that she should be getting a raise and a bonus that fairly compensated her for the value she’d brought to the practice.

She asked and she received–a bonus that was twelve times the investment she’d made in working with me. She got a huge bonus. It was as if her partners were just waiting for her to ask, and they gave more than she thought possible–until she worked with me and built her belief.

You’ve got to ask in order to get. There are a number of reasons we don’t ask. First, we might not know what we want. If you don’t know what you want, then figure it out. You figure it out by choosing something, asking for it, getting it and seeing if you like it. If you like it, great. You got what you want. If not, choose something else. Ask for it. Repeat.

Way too often we think that we have one shot to pick the one thing to want. That’s wrong. The secret to getting what you want is often getting something close to what you want, and then continuing to move closer. Knowing what you want is like playing darts. You get closer to the bullseye with a little bit of practice.

The other reason we don’t ask is that we think people should just know what we want. I see this one a lot. Many people think they’re asking for what they want because they’re giving it. They’re using the Golden rule against themselves. They want their partner to offer to help when things are busy so they offer to help their partner when things are busy. They want their colleague to give them a hand with a pitch or a deck, so they offer to help their colleague with a pitch or a deck. This is nice. But it’s not asking. When we ask by implication, we’re not really asking for what we want. Instead, we’re asking the other person to be a mind reader. And then we get extra resentful because we’re giving so much without getting what we want in return. This isn’t fair to anyone. You have to ask out loud, using words like “I want”. You have to ask the person who can give it to you.

Finally, we don’t ask for what we want because we think it’s too much. Maybe you think what you want is impossible, or that you already have it pretty good so asking for more is greedy. My consultant client had both of these thoughts. She thought a big bonus was impossible, and she already made a great living. Maybe she should just be satisfied. She was wrong, and if you think you want too much then so are you. You came here to soak up every bit of joy, fun, and love available to you. When you ask for more it doesn’t take anything away from anyone else. It just makes you more joyful, fun and loving. And then the whole world benefits.

If you’re not asking for what you want, start. Today. Choose something you want without any pressure or drama. No decision is ever final, especially this one. You can always choose again so be light about it. Once you’ve chosen what you want, ask the person who can give it to you to give it to you. Ask out loud and ask well.


I’ve had some people say “If people aren’t asking for what they want, they’re too timid. I always ask for what I want. I’m very confident.”

But when we dig a little deeper, these people aren’t getting what they want either. In fact, they often struggle even more than the first group. This group is often asking for what they want, but asking poorly.

They’re demanding. They’re whining. When they ask for what they want they’re turning people off rather than turning them on.

There are a number of mistakes that people make when they ask for what they want. First, they’re too focused on their want. They know what they want, and they want it bad. In fact they’re so focused that they can’t see what the other person wants. They don’t realize that the best way to get what you want is to see it from the other person’s perspective. You have to see how you getting what you want helps the other person get what they want. That’s when they want to give it to you.

Take my consultant client. When she made it clear that she wanted fair compensation for the years she’d been overlooked for raises and bonuses, she saw the ask from her partners’ perspective. So she told them that when she felt recognized, valued and respected she’d be even more motivated to bring in new clients. She’d want to give even more to her mentees. And if she didn’t feel respected she’d have to weigh her options and consider whether this firm would be the right fit for her future. Her partners wanted her there, motivated and excited to work. They wanted what she wanted. So they gave it to her (and to themselves).

This is why it’s so important to know your jury. You have to see the world, and your ask, through the other person’s perspective. You have to see why it benefits them and get them excited to give it to you. This takes self awareness, deliberation and patience. But it works.

The other mistake people make is that they don’t ask clearly. I always say that confusion is the enemy. When you’re asking for what you want you need to be even more clear than you think is necessary. In the courtroom at the end of my case I’d stand in front of my jury with their verdict sheet in my hand. I’d show them exactly what I wanted them to mark on the sheet. I’d tell them exactly what I wanted them to do. If I was going to lose it wasn’t going to be because my jury was confused. And most of the time–I didn’t lose.

My consultant client was very clear on what she wanted. She’d done the math on what she thought was fair, and had evidence to back it up. That was a big part of our work together, and a big part of the reason she felt so comfortable asking for that raise. The evidence we’d compiled helped build her belief in her ask. When it came time to do the asking, she couldn’t have been more clear. And she told me it couldn’t have been easier.

If you’re not getting what you want, get to work. Start choosing something and asking for it, out loud and to the person who can give it to you. See the ask from their perspective, and speak to that perspective.

I do need to add one final thing. You aren’t going to get everything you want all at once. That wouldn’t be any fun, even if it sounds like it would. Would you want to eat all the cake, have all the sex, make all the money and buy all the cars today? I doubt it. You wouldn’t grow, and learn, and you wouldn’t have as much to celebrate if you just asked for it all today and got it all today. So I’m not promising that. What I am promising is that every time you ask well, you’ll get a little closer to everything you want. You’ll start to realize there are more things you want, or different things. And you’ll start to enjoy the wanting, the choosing and the asking.

You’ll start to believe, as I do, that maybe what you really want most is the fun of wanting, choosing and asking. The getting is just gravy.

Heather Hansen

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How to Build Belief In Yourself – You’ve Got to Be an Advocate

Empty Courtroom

Imagine this. A woman is about to stand trial for murder. The jury is sitting in the jury box, waiting to hear the case and choose. Guilty or not guilty? The prosecutor is seated at counsel table with binders and exhibits all around her. She’s prepared to make the case that this woman is guilty. She’s ready to help the jury believe in her case. But at the other table, where the other attorney would normally sit, the woman sits alone. No one is coming to make the case for her. No one will counter the stories, evidence and energy of belief that the prosecutor is going to present to the jury. The jury will really have no choice but to believe the prosecutor because no one is giving them another choice.

The woman is innocent.

She doesn’t have a chance to win though. No one is going to believe that she’s innocent if no one is making the case for her. Without an advocate, she is lost.

Sounds terrible, right? The scariest thing is that this very scenario goes on in your brain all the time. Every day you choose to believe a story that isn’t true, and it’s a story that hurts you. Every day you lose, simply because you refuse to advocate for another story. You’re not standing up to that negative voice. No one is making this case for you, your ideas and your potential. Enough is enough. It’s time for you to make the case for yourself, to yourself.

Ethan Kross is a Professor of Psychology and a researcher at the University of Michigan. He’s the author of the book Chatter, which shares the research around the voices in our head and how they lean towards the negative. He was kind enough to come on my podcast, The Elegant Warrior, and he shared the impact of negative self talk and the power of countering it with a positive voice.

Someone needs to make a case for that positive voice. That someone is you. You’ve got to be the advocate for your dreams, your ideas and your potential. With the right tools, you can help people believe in your ideas, your dreams and your potential. The people you will persuade and influence are your jury. They give you your wins. But you always have to start with yourself. Your Inner Jury is your first jury.

Your Inner Jury is the part of you that chooses what to believe. But for way too long, you’ve been letting the negative advocate in your head win because you haven’t even made a case for the positive advocate. That negative voice presents stories and evidence to support all of the terrible things that could happen. It shouts all of the reasons you can’t take that risk, make that leap or try that thing. That voice is usually wrong, but it doesn’t matter because you’re not giving yourself another choice.

I work with Fortune 500 companies, teaching teams how to build belief in their ideas, their products and their services. There are specific tools we lawyers use when we advocate and build belief in the courtroom. These proven tools can work for anyone, and they can be learned. The more you use them the better you get. They work on my clients’ Outer Jury – their clients, customers, investors and team members. And they work on your Inner Jury as well.

There are many tools I sharein my work, but one of the foundational methods is the SEE Technique™. When you change what a jury sees, you change what you get. Change their perspective, get more wins. Change your perspective, get more wins. The SEE Technique™ is how you change what people see.

The SEE Technique™ is simple. When you’re advocating for yourself, your ideas and your potential, you use:


Collect and create stories that support what you want your jury to believe. Know your jury well enough to share stories that will resonate with them. That may mean you choose different stories for different juries. And make sure you’re considering the stories the other side is using and countering them as often as possible.


Collect and create evidence that supports your case. Evidence is data. Every jury wants to hear evidence different ways, so know your jury and how they like to hear and see the evidence. Present it in different ways that speak to different people. Don’t be afraid to play with the evidence.


Focus your energy on what you want to believe. Every advocate has doubts. When you work to disprove the other side, you have to be willing to see where they’re right. That can lead to doubt. But remind yourself regularly what you want to believe and why, and that energy of belief will be contagious. You can’t sell it if you dont’ buy it. Your energy has to make it clear that you buy it.

This SEE Technique™ works on all juries. It works best on your Inner Jury because you should know yourself better than anyone. One of the keys to being a strong advocate is knowing your jury. When you’re advocating to your Inner Jury, you know which stories are going to hit home. You know which evidence matters most to you, and how you’ll remember that evidence. And you’ll feel that energy of your own belief so thoroughly that the negative voice won’t stand a chance.

You’ve got to give yourself the opportunity to believe in yourself. When you’re presented with that negative voice in your head, your Inner Jury has to have a choice. The SEE Technique™ will allow you to start making the case for a different voice, a voice that will allow you to achieve your highest potential. If you don’t believe it, it’s hard to see it. But when you do, others follow.

Let’s go back to that woman on trial for murder. She’s about to lose her freedom, her life and her future. Everything she has and everything she’s dreamed of having is about to be on the other side of a prison door, all because there was no one to advocate for her. All she needed was an advocate.

You need an advocate, and it has to be you. No one can do it better because no one knows you better. No one knows your hopes, your dreams, your fears and your potential. You know what you’re capable of and what you can achieve. When you make the case for your potential, you’re far more likely to reach it. It’s time to take on that negative advocate. It’s time to advocate for what you want – and win.

Heather Hansen

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You Can’t Sell It If You Don’t Buy It

Illustration of the Belief Triangle

It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. In the courtroom, I had to sell my case to a jury. It was impossible to help my jury believe in my case if my client and I didn’t believe. We couldn’t prove it until we believed it. My work was always to get my client and I in full belief first. Then we’d move on to the jury’s beliefs. That method–we believe, they believe–led to many wins in the courtroom.

Then I started my business and at the beginning I had many unsuccessful sales calls. I’d talk to someone about my keynote, my training or my coaching and never hear from them again. I struggled to understand what I was doing wrong. Others who didn’t have as much experience, education, training or passion were winning clients I knew I could serve more effectively. The problem wasn’t in my offering. It was in my belief. I was new to this world, and I wasn’t sure I was offering enough. I had doubts, so they had doubts. I had to get to work believing so that my potential clients could follow my lead. It was only after I focused on the work of building credibility with myself that I was able to build it with my clients. Then my business took off.

Your lack of belief is keeping you from your full potential too. You can’t prove yourself to others until you’ve proven yourself to you. When it comes to believing, you go first. I know it because I see it every day, especially with the women I coach. They don’t believe they’re enough, so they keep looking for more.

There was the woman who thought she needed another certification before she could ask for the raise. Or the woman who wanted to start a business but thought she needed to have a perfect website before she’d ask anyone to work with her. And perhaps saddest of all, the woman who thought she’d never find true love until she lost ten more pounds. These women didn’t ask for what they wanted because they thought they needed more first. How frustrating is that? They collected things they didn’t want because they were afraid to ask for what they did want.

These women didn’t need certifications, websites or diets. They needed to believe. We got to work helping them prove themselves to themselves. If they could build credibility with themselves and believe that they were enough and they had enough, the rest would follow. We used my Belief Triangle.™ You can use it too.


You have to believe that your passion, your training, your experience and your talent has value. This doesn’t mean you’re perfect or that you can stop learning and improving. But time and time again I’ve found that my clients already have all the evidence they need to believe in themselves. They’re just too busy looking at what they could be missing that they don’t see what they have.


You want to know that when you make yourself a promise, you keep it and when you set yourself an expectation, you meet it. So set that alarm, and don’t hit snooze. Write those 500 words you said you would. Get dressed in a way that makes you feel elegant and comfortable, even if you don’t have plans. Promises kept, expectations met. But the most important piece of believing yourself is owning it when you break a promise or don’t meet an expectation. We all miss the mark at times. Own it, learn from it, and plan for it so you can avoid repeating yourself. This is a credibility multiplier.


Finally, and most powerfully, you have to believe that you can and will take care of yourself. You have to know you have your own back. No one else knows your wants, your needs, your passions and your dreams better than you do. No one else has your heart. So you have to be the one to help you. When you know that you can help yourself, your credibility with yourself skyrockets.

Once you’ve worked on the Belief Triangle™ with yourself, you can work on it with others. My clients have done this work and suddenly they were getting those promotions, those sales and those relationships that they wanted. These women were enough. They just needed to believe it.

In my book The Elegant Warrior there’s a chapter called “Don’t Fake It Until You Make It. Show It Until You Grow It.” When you prove yourself to yourself, you believe. When you show that belief, others believe. As a result, your belief grows. That’s what I want for you.

You can’t sell it if you don’t buy it, and you can’t prove it if you don’t believe it. Believe in yourself. Buy what you’re selling. Others will follow your lead.

Heather Hansen

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This Is Better Than Confidence – Why We Need to Stop Looking for Confidence and Start Believing

Hands holding stars. The cover image for To believe is better than confidence Advocate to Win blog.

When I was in grammar school, we had to diagram sentences in English class. We were asked to identify the noun, the verb, and the various modifiers (adverbs, adjectives, etc) in each sentence. At the very least, each sentence had a noun and a verb, an action and a “doer” of the action.

She worked.

He ran.

They moved.

As someone who loved words, I liked this exercise. I loved looking for verbs. I liked action words, and wanted to read, write and hear about characters who took action. The action was where the power was. I wanted to be active, moving, making things happen. I’ve always wanted to be the doer.

Then I hit high school, and started to doubt my actions. What if people didn’t like what I did? What if they objected? How would my action be received? When I expressed these doubts, people told me I needed more confidence. But confidence was a noun. I didn’t know where or how to get it. . No one could point me to a place to buy it or a person who would give it to me. I looked in books, courses, and majored in psychology to find this thing that was so important, especially for women. It was nowhere to be found.

Then I decided to take back my power. Rather than searching for a thing, I’d take action and do a thing. Confidence was a noun I may never find, but believing was a verb I could practice. I decided to believe.

‘Believe’ is a verb, and verbs are skills you can learn, practice and improve. I could learn, practice, and improve my ability to believe. I had some control. So I went to work. When I was in college I started getting better at believing. I’d decide what I wanted to believe and I’d practice. But I didn’t have a system for getting better at believing until I became a lawyer. In the courtroom it was my job to help juries believe what I needed them to believe. After a few years of honing that skill, I had an epiphany. If I could help a jury believe, I could use the same tools to help myself.

I came up with a simple five part system to get better at believing.
1-Ask myself what I wanted to believe.
2-Ask myself what stories I had that would help me believe that thing.
3-Ask myself what evidence (data) I had that would help me believe that thing.
4-Collect and create more stories and evidence if I need them.
5-Make the case for the thing I wanted to believe.

It worked. This process has helped me believe my way into becoming a partner at my law firm and one of the Top 50 female attorneys in Pennsylvania. It’s helped me believe my way into appearing on TV shows like The Today Show, The Dr Oz Show, The Dr Phil Show, and networks like CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. I believed my way into writing two books, one of which was an Amazon bestseller, and starting a popular podcast, The Elegant Warrior. I believed I could start a business where I help teams and individuals use the tools of a trial attorney to help their clients, customers, teams and stakeholders believe, and I did. As I got better at believing, I collected more wins.

Learning to believe was fun. Believing was a skill I could practice and ultimately master. And it wasn’t as dangerous as confidence can be.

We’re discovering that confidence is a loaded concept, especially for women. In a recent study, researchers found that 33 out of 36 senior female leaders raised confidence, or lack thereof, as something that got in the way of their success at work. The same study found that for women the focus on confidence was linked to self-criticism, self doubt, and overall poorer mental health. Researchers further concluded that the focus on confidence doesn’t always allow for humility and vulnerability, which are equally as important in some work settings.

Confidence is a thing, and not necessarily a good thing. Some may have it, some may not. But believing is something we can do to get all of the things we want and need. Believing is an action like working, running, and moving. It’s an action anyone can learn, practice and master.

‘I believe.’ That’s a sentence that gets things done.

Heather Hansen

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Leaders Need More Doubt – Integrity Isn’t Enough Without Discernment

Leaders Need More Doubt - Advocate to Win

George Santos won a seat in Congress

Elizabeth Holmes raised $945 million, including money from famous and powerful leaders

Charlie Javis “conned” JPMorgan into buying her company for $175 million

Anna Sorokin “scammed” New York city banks and hotels out of over $200,000

How do so many smart and savvy leaders become the victims of deception, and why does it matter? It matters because a leader’s job is to protect their stakeholders, their board, their employees and their money. In order to do their jobs, leaders need to learn to embrace and use their doubt.

Bill George recently wrote a wonderful piece for the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge publication asking “Have We Lost Sight of Integrity?” He argues that “leaders need to have integrity so that we can all agree on the truth”. He’s right that leaders must have integrity. But integrity must be balanced with doubt about others and their integrity. It’s not enough to tell the truth. Leaders must also be able to discern who’s lying. They need to know who to doubt, and what to do with that doubt.

Michael Smets, Professor or Management at Said Business School at the University of Oxford, has been an advocate for the power of self doubt. In his 2015 CEO Report: Embracing the Paradoxes of Leadership and the Power of Doubt, he argues that leaders should embrace doubt as a positive state. More recently, he’s said that “the better they doubt themselves in the decision making process, the more confidence they have in the outcome.” Smets’ work is focused on leaders admitting that they don’t know the answers, and this type of doubt is vital to build credibility. But leaders also have to admit that they have doubts about others in order to discern whether they’re being deceived.

For twenty years it was my job to capitalize on doubt. As a trial attorney, I made the jury doubt my opponent’s case and believe mine. I used doubt to win. I tapped into my psychology degree, my training and my experience to do so. Now I work with leaders and corporate partners, teaching them how to use the tools I used in the courtroom to make the case for their business, their teams, their ideas and themselves. One of those tools is doubt.

Here are three tools from the courtroom that leaders can learn to use their doubt and avoid being the victims of deception.


Ask questions. One of the most successful leaders I’ve ever coached learned to master questions in response to his doubts. When we first started working together, I was struck by his intuitive discernment. He’d hear something from a colleague or potential partner and he’d say “That doesn’t sound right to me.” His intuition was strong, and he knew what doubt was. He felt it in his gut.

But this leader didn’t always know what to do with his doubt. Just saying that something “doesn’t sound right to me” wasn’t enough to influence his board or his team. He had to go further, slow down and use curiosity to ask questions exploring the bases of his doubt. He had to get curious about it.

You’ll become a better leader if you get curious about your doubts. First, anytime you hear a pitch, a story or an explanation for a problem ask yourself “Does this sound right to me?” If not, ask yourself why. Why doesn’t this sound right to me? What about this sounds off, impossible or unlikely? Get curious about where things might be off, and ask questions. With each answer, check in again. Does that sound right to me?

Another great question for leaders to ask is “what am I missing?” Look for where the pieces don’t fit, or where a piece is completely missing. Explore the idea from all perspectives, and be willing to include stories or explanations that don’t make sense to you at first. Curiosity often leads to confusion before it leads to clarity.

Finally, get curious about anyone who’s critical of the choice you’re considering. Don’t shut them out or ignore their “negativity”. Ask yourself “were the naysayers right?” That one question could help you see the situation from a different and much more thorough perspective.


One of the best ways to discern whether someone is telling the truth is to look for inconsistencies. But in order to find inconsistencies, you need evidence to weigh a story or a claim against. If you’re accepting one story at face value, you don’t have enough to see inconsistencies may exist. You need evidence. Part of using your doubt is collecting and creating evidence to test it. Leaders must learn to use evidence to cross examine the things they doubt.

George Santos made hosts of claims that could have been easily disproved with a dive into the evidence, or lack thereof. He claimed to have worked with Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. A Google search or a telephone call could have discovered whether there was any evidence to support that claim. He claimed he graduated from Barch College, owned thirteen properties and ran an animal rescue group as a 501(c)(3). If any of these claims were true there’d be easily discoverable evidence to support them. It seems no one looked. Not one fellow politician or constituent seems to have cross examined him and asked him to explain inconsistencies. It may have been because they didn’t have time. But look at all of the time they’re spending on Santos now.

One of the reasons leaders often fail to use evidence to support their doubt is their impatience. CEOs move fast, and they make decisions quickly. In fact, in a ten year study of CEOs researchers found one of the things that high-performing CEOs make decisions earlier, faster and with greater conviction. That may not seem to leave much room for doubt. But when the stakes are high and the decisions are almost impossible to reverse, what Jeff Bezos calls “one way doors”, it’s worth taking the time to collect and weigh the evidence. It’s worth using your doubt to feed that process because it could save you time, money and reputation in the long run.

Collecting evidence is also something a leader can delegate. Have a team member engage in due diligence and collect evidence before those big decisions. Use the evidence to look for inconsistencies between the evidence and the story you’ve been asked to believe. Use your curiosity to ask more questions about those inconsistencies. A belief is a story you repeat and back up with evidence. If the evidence isn’t there, the story hasn’t earned your belief.


When I tried cases, I used my doubt to win. Sometimes it made my clients nervous. When I’d prepare them for cross examination, I’d do a mock cross exam myself. I’d challenge them with all of my doubts and dive into all of the evidence to find more doubts to explore. They didn’t always like it. I’ve been called “Chicken Little” before trial. But that same client tearfully thanked me after the trial, when we not only won the case but he handled his cross examination like a master advocate. I felt I’d done my job when my mock cross exam was tougher than my opposing counsel’s. You can’t win unless you know all of the ways that you can lose.

That’s why leaders need to use the Win/Lose/Weird process. My training and coaching clients have embraced this process and used it to win huge investments, important sales and important elections. It’s a simple way to strengthen your doubt and let it serve you.

Try the Win/Lose/Weird process the next time you’re weighing a decision. As you’re looking at a situation, consider all of the ways you could win. Collect the evidence that supports your win, and tell stories about that evidence. Build your own energy of belief. Then, look at all of the ways you could lose. Look for evidence that supports your competitor, or supports the antithesis of your argument. Consider where the evidence you thought supported your win could also support a loss. Be ruthless. Finally, look at the weird. Get creative about all of the weird things that could happen to change the variables in your equation. A hopeful congressman could make up his resume. That’s weird. When you’re prepared for the weird, nothing can shake your confidence.

Some say doubt kills dreams. They worry that if leaders allow themselves to doubt they’ll lose confidence in themselves and their decisions. I’ve found that the opposite happens. Mistakes kill dreams, and doubts kill mistakes. When I teach leaders how to cross examine a decision, and use their doubt to make better decisions they become more confident. They know they’re ready to handle anything that arises. They believe in themselves and their decisions.

We need to choose leaders for their integrity. But we also need to choose them for their willingness to feel and use their doubt. A leader who has both integrity and discernment is an asset to any organization.

Heather Hansen

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Don’t Be Afraid to Advocate for Exactly What You Want – Overcoming the Backlash Against Self Advocacy

Silouhette of a female archer - cover image for Advocate to Win blog post, "Don't be afraid to advocate"

Last week, I was scrolling through social media during a break in one of my training sessions. After 20 years as a trial attorney, I teach people to use the tools I used in the courtroom to advocate for what they want and get it. Teaching people to advocate is my passion and my expertise, so a post about advocating stopped me mid-scroll.

“63 studies: women who assert their ideas, make direct requests, and advocate for themselves are liked less. They’re also less likely to get hired-and it hasn’t improved over time. It’s 2021 (crossed off to read 2023). When will we stop punishing dominant women for violating outdated gender stereotypes?”

Adam Grant had posted this statement on LinkedIn and Instagram in 2021. Female Quotient had reposted it (changing the year to be clear), last week. . Combined, Adam Grant and Female Quotient have over 8 million followers. 8 million women had been told that advocating for themselves would make them less likely to be liked and get hired. I could feel myself getting angry, but years of advocating have made me adept at responding and not reacting. I decided to read the article Grant referenced in his original post later that night.

When I read the article, The Subtle Suspension of Backlash: A Meta-analysis of Penalties for Women’s Implicit and Explicit Dominance Behavior, I was even more frustrated. The study that Grant is referring to is a fifteen page meta-analysis of 63 studies. It’s an article about dominant behavior in women, not about advocating. Dominant behavior and advocating are not the same.

In the article, dominant behavior is broadly defined and includes demanding something, and arguing for a group to adopt a position as well as nonverbal behaviors like intrusive gestures, talk time, talk volume and interrupting others. One of the conclusions is that both men and women are found to be less likable when they are close-talking, pointing, interrupting, and raising their voices. This is great news for advocates, because this behavior isn’t advocating.

Advocating is persuading and influencing. It’s asking for what you want, in a way that makes you likely to get it. Advocating is changing minds, hearts and beliefs. And it’s a skill that can be learned, mastered and used to win.

The women I’ve coached have used advocating skills to double their income, get new jobs, obtain promotions and start their own successful businesses. They’ve also used these skills to strengthen their intimate partnerships and improve their likeability. When women learn to advocate effectively, they get better and their workplaces get better. They advocate for themselves and each other. They advocate for positive change in the workplace and for other marginalized communities. And their employers benefit because they also advocate for their ideas, which leads to more innovation. When women learn to advocate, everyone wins.

But women are afraid to advocate. Posts like Grant’s, while well intentioned, make them afraid. When he tells millions of women they will be less liked and less likely to be hired if they advocate, they’re right to be afraid. But advocating is very different from exhibiting dominant behavior, and both men and women can learn from the differences.

1. Dominant behavior is demanding something, advocating is asking for it.

In the article about dominant behavior, one of the examples of such behavior is demanding something. But an advocate doesn’t demand. She asks for what she wants in a way that helps her get it.

An advocate’s greatest tool is a question. When I tell people I’m a trial attorney, they often say “I should have been a trial attorney. I’m really good at arguing.” But trial attorneys do very little arguing when they advocate. An opening statement is meant to be an outline, and we can get in trouble if we argue. The closing is an argument, but it’s a small portion of the case. The rest of the trial all we do is ask questions. We ask questions to build our credibility and build connections with the jury. We ask questions to destroy the other side’s credibility and their connection to the jury. Questions are how we win.

And when the trial is over, we don’t demand that the jury find in our favor. We ask them. We use the credibility we’ve built, the evidence we’ve collected and the ability to see things from their perspective to craft our ask.

You have your jury. They’re the people you want to influence and persuade. You might want to change their minds, their hearts or their beliefs. And if you demand they change, you will lose. You’ll absolutely be less likable and less hireable. But if you use perspective, evidence and credibility, and you choose the right words, tone, facial expressions and body language to support your ask, you will win. Words, perspective, evidence, credibility, body language, tone of voice and questions are the tools you use to advocate. They’re not the tools you use to dominate.

2. Dominant behavior is arguing for a group to adopt a position, advocating is making the case for a group to adopt a position.

In my second book, Advocate to Win-10 Tools to Ask for What You Want and Get It – I share the tools of an advocate. Advocates use tools like words, perspective, evidence, credibility, questions, negotiation, presentation skills (body language, tone of voice, facial expressions) and reception skills (listening, reading tone/body language). Argument is also one of those tools. But it’s a last resort, and it’s used in a very specific way.

You argue when a third party is deciding the issue. In my cases, we sometimes have to argue. When a Judge has to decide a motion, or the jury has to decide a verdict, there is room for argument. An independent and objective body has to decide. That’s when arguments can work. When there’s no room for compromise and only one winner, the argument makes sense. But outside of the courtroom most of the time everyone can win. The definition of win that I use in my work is from the Cambridge dictionary–”to receive something positive because you’ve earned it ”. With this definition, everyone can win, and arguments are usually unnecessary and unproductive.

When you do have to argue, remember the enemy is confusion. It’s not whomever you’re arguing against. Seeing confusion as the enemy takes away some of the risk of being dominant, for both men and women. It’s hard to exhibit dominant behaviors against confusion. You can’t get in confusion’s face, point at it, raise your voice at it or interrupt it. You have to fight it with evidence, questions and perspective…..the tools of an advocate.

3. Dominant behavior is repellent, advocating is magnetic.

The piece Grant cites dives deeply into implicity and explicit dominant behavior. Implicit, or nonverbal dominant behavior includes interrupting, raising the volume of your speech, intrusive gestures and eye contact when speaking (but not when listening). And this meta-analysis showed that this type of behavior led to both men and women being less well liked. It’s repellent behavior. People back away from those who exhibit this type of behavior.

When you’re advocating, on the other hand, you draw people towards you. One of the most important tools of an advocate is the ability to listen. You listen to gain another’s perspective so that you know how to best speak to that perspective. After you’ve listened well, you know which evidence, stories, words and questions will be most persuasive and help change minds and beliefs. You listen for tone, and the emotion that tone of voice has been proven to convey.

When you listen, you’re magnetic. Advocate well and you draw people closer. In fact, you can advocate so well that you turn the people around you into your advocates. You draw people to you, and they want to go out and advocate for you. In my work I’ve seen many of my clients even turn people they considered their adversaries into their advocates. Become a strong advocate and you can create an army of advocates who are out in the world advocating for you when you aren’t even there.

It’s Time For You to Advocate for Yourself

I’ve asked Grant to fix the wording of his post, but so far I haven’t received a response. Words are important, and I hate to think that women will read and share a post that tells them advocating will hurt them. Too many women struggle to advocate as it is.

When I was trying cases in the courtroom, my clients would be anxious before they went to testify in front of the jury. When it was time for them to advocate for themselves, they all had the same response. “I wish you could do it for me.”

But the jury didn’t want to hear from me. The jury wanted to hear from them. Now, many of my coaching and training clients say the same thing. When they hire me, they say they wish I could do it for them. But their ‘jury’ of bosses, teams, clients, customers, families and friends don’t want to hear from me. They want to hear from them. And your jury wants to hear from you.

No one can advocate for you as well as you can. No one else has the experience, the passion, and the drive to get you want more than you. And no one knows exactly what you want and what you’re willing to accept better than you. You are your own best advocate. No one can do it better than you.

When you have the tools to advocate effectively you’re not dominant. You don’t yell, point or demand. Instead you persuade and influence. You change minds and beliefs. You’re able to ask for what you want and get it, and everyone can win.

Heather Hansen

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Am I Using My Voice If No One Listens?

“Everyone tells me to ‘use my voice’. But no one is listening…….”

My coaching client added this at the end of our first hour together. I had to extend the session. Because this is the truth of what many of my clients face, and we have to talk about it.

I teach women to advocate for themselves, their ideas, their business and their bank accounts. We work together so that they can ask for what they want-and get it. So they learn to build credibility, ask questions, change perspectives and use evidence to win. They also learn how to use their voices. But my client had a point. Sometimes it feels like no one is listening.

I have tools to get people to listen. For 20 years I was a medical malpractice defense attorney. During my trials I had to get bored, tired, and preoccupied juries to listen to complicated medical terms. And the clients I work with now also have their juries — the investors, clients, customers and teammates they want to persuade and influence. Many of the tools I used to get my jury to listen work with their juries as well. We create exhibits — like a graph that the CEO can review before the meeting to create context for the presentation, or a video of the product that keeps the investors interested and engaged. We also work on tone of voice, modulation, and pacing that will draw in their jury. They learn to ask the right questions and see things from their jury’s perspective in order to pique their interest and keep them listening. And these tools work.

But this client didn’t have all of these tools yet. She needed to understand that she wasn’t alone, and that this was a common problem. And we all need to understand that if we want women to use their voices, we have to start listening.

Recently I had Elizabeth Lesser as a guest on my podcast, The Elegant Warrior. Elizabeth is the author of the fabulous book Cassandra Speaks-When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes. I loved her book and I loved our conversation. But ever since I’ve wondered about how we can make people listen. Because if they’re not listening, all the speaking in the world won’t change a thing.

I think it starts, like everything does, with us. We need to become better listeners. In my experience there’s no place that karma is more evident than when it comes to listening. When you’re a good listener, people tend to listen to you. With listening, what goes around really does come around.

While one of my 10 tools of an advocate is presentation (tone of voice, body language and facial expression) another is reception (reading tone of voice, body language and facial expression). If we want to advocate to win, we need to become better listeners. My definition of win is “to receive something positive because you have earned it”. In this situation the something positive is better relationships, more psychological safety, more insight and better perspective. You earn it by listening.

The next step is making listening as sexy a skill as talking. There are tons of books on how to present, how to speak, and how to use your body language to influence others. There are few on how to listen. (You’re Not Listening, by Kate Murphy, is my favorite). Many people hire me to coach them on how to present at their next meeting, pitch or interview. No one has ever reached out to prepare for being on the receiving end of a presentation, pitch or interview. But maybe they should. Receiving is harder than presenting. It takes more presence, more thoughtfulness and more empathy. But it takes both presentation and reception to become a strong advocate. And when you make someone feel like you’re listening? You might find you’ve created an advocate for the next time YOU need one.

Yes, it’s time to use your voice. No one can say what you need to say better than you can. You are your own best advocate. There’s a way to use your voice that makes it more likely that people will listen. It’s the advocate’s way. And there’s a way to use your ears that helps even more. Use your voice AND your ears, and the wins will start pouring in.

Heather Hansen

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Learn to Say “No”

A big part of advocating in the courtroom is learning how to say “No”. In order to keep the focus on your case, you have to make choices. You have to say no to a weaker argument, a less credible piece of evidence, and to asking that additional question. The same is true when you’re advocating for your big ideas. Your jury of clients, customers and team members only have so much time and so much bandwidth. Every time you say “No” to the irrelevant you’re saying “Yes” for the argument, evidence or question you want them to embrace. So when you learn to say “No”, you’re better able to advocate to win.

Many of us have haven’t yet really learned to say “No”. We aren’t great at setting boundaries. It’s not easy. In Chapter 20 of my book, The Elegant Warrior, I talk about Learning to Object. Learning to object is really just learning to say “No”. In the courtroom, I had to be able to object. So I did it for my clients and for my case. But it took time before I could really learn to object without waiting for permission or looking for validation, both inside and outside the courtroom. It took time for me to build confidence in my objections, and in my “No”. But learning to object, and to say “No”, makes me a better advocate in the courtroom and in life.

It will make you a better advocate too. . In my podcast, The Elegant Warrior, I ask my guests what book helps them maintain their elegance. Indrani Goradia chose the wonderful book The Power of a Positive No. It has changed the way I look at saying “No”, and that has changed my ability to say it. (When you change your perspective, you change your life).

In The Power of a Positive No, William Ury helps the reader see the No as a Yes. Whenever you say “No” to someone or something, you are saying “Yes” to something else. And sometimes you have to say “No” to someone else to say “Yes” to yourself.

Ury explains it in a way that stuck with me. He says ‘you can stand on your feet without standing on their toes’. I always say there are two ways to have the biggest building in town–build your own or knock down everyone else’s. When we start seeing saying “No” as building our own building and not knocking down anyone else’s, we may be able to say “No” more often, with more confidence and clarity.

When I started advocating in the courtroom, I had to learn to object in order to keep the case focused and exclude the irrelevant evidence. The jury didn’t have time for every argument and every piece of evidence. If I wanted to include the information that best served my case, I had to say no to the rest. And so do you. Say “yes” to what serves you and then say “no” to the rest. Learning to say “No” is yet another way you can advocate to win.

Heather Hansen

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Change Minds in 2020

What you see is what you get

If you want to change minds in 2020, change what people see. And you do want to change minds. You might want to change your client’s mind so she hires you. It might be your customer’s mind so he buys more of your product. You want to change your kids’ minds, your friends’, your teammates’ minds. You might even want to change your own mind. And the key to changing minds is simple. Change what they see and you will change minds in 2020.

What you see is what you get. So if you can change what a person sees, you can change what you get. Many of us believe that it all starts with thinking. But seeing comes before thinking. Michaelangelo described the process of creating his most famous work of art, David, this way “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”He didn’t say he thought about the angel. He didn’t say he acted and the angel appeared. Michaelangelo saw–and what he saw, he got.

I see this all the time in the courtroom. When the jury walks into the courtroom, they often seen an injured patient. I have to help them see something else–the doctor’s compassion, humanity or attention to detail-in order to win. And I saw my way to a 100 pound weight loss when I was 18. Instead of seeing the process of losing weight as a struggle and a time of deprivation, I saw it as a way to feel proud every day. And suddenly, I was proud. What you see is what you get.

Decide what you want in 2020. What do you need to see in order to get it? You see, then you think, feel, act and then you get. Don’t forget about seeing. It’s the secret to getting everything you want. It doesn’t matter if it is your client’s mind, your customer’s or your own–if you want to change minds in 2020, change what you see.

Heather Hansen

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Choose the Roller Coaster

Are you the type of person who will choose the roller coaster, or do you go for the Tilt-a-Whirl? I always go for the roller coaster. The Tilt-a-Whirl makes me sick, and I love the ups and downs and the speed of the roller coaster. And just like I choose the roller coaster, I also choose a life that is full of ups and downs.

My family often teases me for choosing work, adventures and relationships that have very high highs, but also have very low lows. But I always say “No trials, no triumph.” Just like you can’t be triumphant in the courtroom if you don’t go through the trial, you can’t get that feeling of triumph in life without going through the trials of life.

But the triumphs aren’t the only reason to choose the trials. The trial itself makes you better. Every time you go through one, you get better. In fact, the trials that test you the most are the ones that make you the best. No trials, no triumph. And sometimes the triumph is simply getting through the trial, win or lose.

So remember that you always have a choice. Me, I choose the roller coaster. I love to see just how high I can go.

Heather Hansen

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