You can ask for what you want and get it, over and over again. But first, you need to recognize that you aren’t born with this magical skill. You have to learn it, hone it, and master it. There are tools you need to acquire and practice. But once you do, you can apply this skill in the boardroom, the operating room, the classroom, the pitch room, and even the bedroom. The skill is advocating, It’s the ability to overcome doubts and build beliefs. You use this ability to build belief in yourself and what you want. Then you use it to help others believe that what you want will also be valuable to them.
When you are a leader who knows how to advocate, you build your team’s belief in the change you want to implement. They believe, and then they advocate for you to other team members.
When you’re a salesperson who knows how to advocate, you build your prospect’s belief in your product or service. They believe, they buy and then they become your advocates.
When you’re a woman who knows how to advocate, you build your own belief in yourself so that you ask for those opportunities or that raise. Then you build your boss’s belief, she gives you that opportunity and becomes your greatest advocate.
None of this is a fairy tale. It’s completely within your reach when you know how to advocate. 3 simple steps apply in all of these situations, and in every situation where you are asking for what you want. When you own the power of these three steps, you ask for what you want and you get it. It feels like magic.
It’s not magic. It’s advocating. I learned how to advocate in the courtroom. For 20 years, I asked diverse and often uninterested juries for what I wanted–a win for my clients. And I got it, time and time again. I build the jury’s belief in my client, my case, and in me. I turned jury members into our advocates. Then I realized that the tools I used to do that in the courtroom could be used almost anywhere, and to build belief in almost anything. So I started applying them in my life and I realized dream after dream. I wanted an apartment in NYC and I got it. I wanted to be a TV anchor and I got it. I wanted to write a best seller and start my own successful business. I asked and I got Then I started teaching these tools to others. I taught leaders how to ask for change, buy-in, or support. They got it. I taught salespeople how to ask for sales. They got them. I taught individuals how to ask for support, resources, and money and they got everything they asked for and more. These tools work.
In this piece, I’ll share an overview of the three steps. Each step has nuances and approaches that need to be honed, but you can start advocating today with these three basic steps.
The three steps are 1-Know what you want, 2-Ask for it, out loud and with delight, and 3-Master the art of the ask.
1. Know what you want
The first step, knowing what you want, seems simple. In business, it often is very simple. In the courtroom it certainly was. I knew exactly what I wanted from the jury. I wanted them to mark the verdict sheet in a very specific way. I was clear on what I wanted, and therefore I could be very clear with them.
At work, you may be very clear on what you want. You’re a leader and you want your team to embrace returning to the office. You’re in sales and you want your prospect to buy. You’re going to talk to your boss, and you want a raise. At work, this step can be simple.
But sometimes it’s not as simple. Many of the individuals I coach 1:1 don’t know what they want. I’ve coached many women who want something to change, but aren’t sure whether that’s a new job, a promotion or to start their own business. And they can’t start getting what they want until they know what it is.
One of the reasons we don’t know what we want is because we don’t have practice. If we want to get good at knowing what we want, we have to practice. And we have to be willing to get it wrong before we get it right.
I know I’ve had a lot of practice knowing what I want, and it started with knowing what I didn’t want. I’d been a trial attorney for about fifteen years when I started to go from loving it, to liking it, to not liking it, to hating it. And I became very clear that I didn’t want to be a defense attorney forever. But you can’t advocate for what you don’t want, so I had to find something I did want.
First, I thought I wanted to be a mediator. It seemed less stressful and more flexible. I trained as a mediator at the Strauss Institute, one of the nation’s best programs for dispute resolution. I got certified and I mediated a few cases. And it wasn’t what I wanted. Then I had the opportunity to do legal analysis for TV stations like CNN, Fox News Channel, NBC, and CBS. I thought this was definitely what I wanted to do, so I advocated my way into an anchor job for the Law and Crime Network. And then I found that I didn’t like talking about rapes and murders all day. It wasn’t what I wanted.
I did want to write a book, so I started writing. I loved writing my book The Elegant Warrior, and I love the book but I knew I didn’t want to be a full-time author. I wanted to take the ideas from my undergrad psychology degree, my experience as a trial attorney, my training as a mediator, and my time as a TV anchor and use them to create a curriculum on how to become an exceptional advocate. And that’s when I started doing the work I do today. I give keynotes on these topics. I serve some clients as a coach. And I have a membership where people like you can learn to build belief, ask for what you want, and get it.
Knowing what I wanted took practice. It wasn’t a one-shot deal, and it wasn’t meant to be. Each time I was wrong about what I wanted got me closer to what I want today. And I’m aware that may change in time.
One of the keys to practicing knowing what you want is taking little steps. I didn’t do the whole “leap and the net will appear” thing. Instead, I was creeping from one thing to another. I continued to practice law while I experimented with what I wanted. I made sacrifices and bad choices. But every step took me closer to what I do want.
You might be very clear what on you want. Great–you can move on to the next step. But if you are less clear, remember that knowing what you want is a skill you can only get good at with practice. Give yourself the space to start practicing.
2. Ask for it, out loud and with delight
You have to ask for what you want, and you have to do it with the right energy. Three of the important tools of an advocate are Energy, Evidence, and Empathy, and you can’t win without all three. But energy is the foundation.
As a leader who wants the team to return to the office, you have to ask them to do so. And you will be far more likely to get them on board if you believe that it’s a good move for them and the business. When you’re in full belief, you’ll be much more delighted to make the ask.
As a salesperson who wants a prospect to buy, you have to ask them to do so. If you fully believe it’s the right product or service for the prospect, you’ll be in full belief and ask with delight.
And as an individual who wants support for your innovation or idea, you have to ask for support. When you fully believe in your idea you can step into full belief and ask with delight.
But many times, we don’t ask for what we want out loud, especially as individuals. One of my clients wanted to be on a project at work. She knew she had ideas that would serve the client and her boss. But she didn’t ask for the opportunity. Instead, she did extra work for the person leading the project. She adjusted her schedule so she’d be in the area when the client came in to meet. She put it on her vision board and wrote about it in her journal. As time went on and she didn’t get the opportunity, she became disappointed and then resentful. If she’d asked at that point she would have been asking with bitterness, confusion, and resentment. These are not magnetic energies….
It’s not enough to give what you want to receive. It’s not enough to be available. And it’s not enough to put what you want on your vision board or in your journal. You have to ask for it-out loud from the person who can give it to you. The alternative is just too risky because not only do you not get what you want, but you do get resentful and disappointed. And then when you finally do ask for what you want, your energy is repulsive.
I struggled with this personally with someone I dated. At the beginning of our relationship, I gave him everything I wanted from him. I gave him freedom, support, advice, and ideas. I thought he’d figure out that I wanted the same from him. Isn’t that the idea behind the Golden Rule? Give what you wish to receive. But I wasn’t receiving.
Instead, he just kept asking for more. I’d give more, hoping it would signal that I wanted him to follow my lead. He didn’t. And over time I became angry, bitter, and resentful. It got so bad that I didn’t want to give him anything. I’d given so much that I felt empty and I had nothing more to give. When I finally exploded and expressed all of the things I wanted from the relationship I was demanding, resentful, angry, and judgmental. This is not the energy that gets what it wants.
Now I approach relationships very differently. I ask for what I want, early and often. And I get it–early and often.
When I was advocating to juries, it wasn’t enough to know that I wanted the jury to mark the verdict sheet in a certain spot. I had to ask them, out loud and with full belief that it was the right thing to do. When you’re advocating, it’s not enough to know what you want. You have to ask for it, out loud and with full belief that it serves your “jury”, your business, and you. When you are in full belief you have the energy of delight, confidence, conviction, and credibility. That energy is magnetic, and it wins.
3. Master the art of the ask
This is often the part where most people need help. You can know what you want and ask for it with delight, but you won’t get it if you haven’t mastered the ask. You have to know your jury–the people you’re asking. You have to know what they believe, and what their doubts are. You have to know their pain and their fears.
When you communicate, you share perspectives. When you advocate, you change them. You can’t change someone’s perspective until you understand it. Then you can master the art of the ask.
Many of my 1:1 clients come to me because they want to learn to master the art of the ask. They think they need to learn presentation skills like body language, voice work, and facial expressions. But mastering the ask isn’t about presenting. It’s about receiving.
Mastering the ask means listening to your “jury” of team members, clients, customers, or prospects. It means making them feel seen/heard, safe, and special. It means knowing what energy they need from you and working to provide that energy. If you don’t know how to listen, you’ll never be an extraordinary advocate. Listening allows you to glean what energy and evidence will work best for your situation. Mastering the ask takes empathy.
There are two types of empathy-cognitive and affective. Cognitive empathy is the ability to see what the other person sees. Affective empathy is the ability to feel what they feel. In my TEDx talk, I make the case that cognitive empathy is more important in general. It’s more important when you’re advocating.
When you can see what your jury sees, you can determine what energy is best for them, and what evidence will resonate. You can even see what they might be feeling, without actually feeling it. Feeling what they feel might impact your energy and make you anxious, scared, or angry. Those energies aren’t very compelling and don’t often get you what you want. But when you see what they see you can gauge whether a higher energy of joy, enthusiasm, or fun is going to resonate, or whether you’re better off with strength, confidence, or conviction. You also get a sense of what evidence will most resonate with your jury.
When you’ve mastered the art of the ask, you’re on your way to magic.
Know what you want. Ask for it, out loud and with delight. Master the art of the ask. When you’ve done the work to become an expert in these three steps, you know how to win. And you can collect your wins, over and over again.