This is #3 in the "Put Your Oxygen Mask on First" Series.
I am completely in awe of people who can confidently roll up in a situation, assess what they need to make it a win-win, and fearlessly communicate that in a clear, straightforward manner. It's not a skill that comes naturally to me, especially in work and business situations-I feel like there's so much to lose by expressing myself!
Here's the thing about being a difference-maker who wants to have an impact on the world: we are incredibly skilled at intuiting other people's needs and then meeting them. Doing this for ourselves? Not so much. My clients who struggle with this usually fall into one of three camps:
1. The Silent, Fuming Type: What, me? I don't have needs. I'm great. Everything's great. Grr.
They shut off what they need, try to do everything themselves, and get angry and resentful when their needs aren't met or other people don't meet them halfway or give at their level of giving. "I can't believe my boss hasn't hired an assistant! I took on all these extra responsibilities for the good of the company, but I can't do everything! She doesn't even see that I'm drowning over here! I can't ask for help, though, because she'll think I'm whiny or entitled or incompetent."
2. The Vocal, Pissed-Off Type: If you don't FINALLY meet my needs, I will MAKE you.
They get aggressive (as opposed to assertive) and go overboard in demanding that other people give them what they need. "Um, I need an assistant to balance all of these new responsibilities I've taken on, and you are a complete jackass for not getting that! Either you get on the phone right now to hire someone, or I'm quitting. Today."
3. A fun combo of the two. My MO is usually spending some time in #1 and then blowing up into #2. It's completely normal to be confused, resentful, and angry if you don't have what need at work/in business/in life and it feels like the people with the power to give it to you aren't cooperating.
THIS ISN'T NECESSARILY RIGHT OR WRONG, BUT IT ISN'T SUPER EFFECTIVE. HERE'S A METHOD THAT WORKS BETTER.
Step #1: Get your mind right.
Figure out what you need and own it. Step into your worth here. You deserve to ask for help, or a raise, or a day off, or understanding, or whatever. It's not unreasonable, unladylike, or selfish to ask for a relationship (at work or otherwise) to be two-sided.
Step #2: Get crystal clear on the benefits of having that need met, and frame it as a win-win.
Sometimes getting a need met involves other humans, which can get messy. Their reaction to your ask isn't about you; it's about them...so knowing that, how can you two get on the same page? There's a big difference between "I need to win and it would be great if you won, too" and "Seriously, what do we both need to work this out and move forward?" Approaching a coworker, partner, boss, or friend from a genuine place "What are the benefits to both of us?" instantly pokes a hole in the tension and zaps defensiveness on both sides. Before asking, ponder what the other party's perspective is and what they might need to feel good about meeting YOUR need. Frame the entire conversation in terms of how you will both benefit from getting a maid or taking a long weekend or whatever.
Step #3: Ask with clear intentions, confidence, AND a good attitude.
Is your boss, partner, client, etc. a jerk who should be able to figure this out and meet your legitimate needs without all this drama? Maybe. Do you think it's ridiculous that you have to ask carefully and cater to their bullshit? Probably. That's okay, and it's a perfectly valid outlook, but bringing that energy into your ask isn't going to get the same results as having a good attitude about it. And having a good attitude isn't weak or fake; it's strategic. You can take the high road here. Own your need and then ask with confidence and from a place of love. Acknowledge any fear or anger you have, but resolve to leave it at the door so you can move forward.
Step #4: Get your "no" plan ready.
Decide how you want to react if you don't get what you're looking for. Your boss, partner, colleague, etc. might say "yes." If so, great! Thank them for being open to collaborating with you and celebrate your bravery in being confident, vulnerable, and real. They might also say "no" to meeting your needs, but you will not freak out, get pissed, or despair, because you are empowered and have your "no" plan ready! Your "no" plan is how you will proceed if you ask and get a "no" response. Think carefully on this one so you can keep your cool and react in a way that aligns with your values, not your fears. For example, I recently asked a friend for more punctuality in our social outings so I could better manage my time (8PM means 8PM, not 8:30ish). She said no, that she couldn't commit to meeting me at specific times because of her crazy work schedule. I was a little hurt because it seemed like she didn't value our friendship enough to build it into her calendar and make it a priority, but I thought about how I wanted to proceed in the wake of this "no." I could cut her off as a friend. I could continue on as before and quietly resent her. I could choose to let it go. I resolved to continue to make plans with her, but only for things that weren't time-sensitive. Being late to movies and shows stresses me out, so I decided I'd only make easy plans with her, like random wine nights at my place that didn't put me out if the timing wasn't spot on. That choice took some working through, but it allowed me to continue the friendship in a way that was healthy for me. Understand that "no's" may happen, and they don't mean you are now powerless....they just mean that you may have to think carefully about how you want to show up in the situation and what your real priorities are.
Step #5: Celebrate your bravery.
Asking for what you need is not an easy thing, especially if you have energy or fear around it. But you did it! Maybe you didn't do it perfectly, but you did it. Own that as evidence of your badassery, bravery, and growth. Celebrate what went well and learn from what didn't.
This stuff isn't easy, but it does work. How can you make it work in your life?
NEXT WEEK IN THE "PUT YOUR OXYGEN MASK ON FIRST" SERIES, I'm going to give you a master resource list of self-care helpers, but first! Want to get your mind right AND get shit done? Sign up below to get the FREE Difference Planner.
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