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.
1. YOU AREN’T ASKING
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.
2. YOU AREN’T ASKING 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.