Have you ever wanted something, whether in your personal or professional life, but never made it happen because you were too afraid to ask? Have you ever wanted to ask for that raise, advice from someone else who has been in your shoes, some extra amenity while staying at that hotel? Ever needed something desperately and been too afraid to ask for it?
I used to be guilty of this in my 20s, but with age and some life altering lessons, I’ve learned that by not making the ask, you’re shortchanging yourself. So why don’t we make the ask? My own informal research with women and men of all backgrounds provided a few common responses:
- Fear of rejection.
- Feeling as though we’re putting someone else out, or not wanting to “bother” or “bug” someone.
- Not feeling like we deserve whatever it is we’re asking for.
How many times have you not asked for something because of these things? What did it cost you? What I’ve learned through my breast cancer experience, my divorce, my legal career, my public affairs work, and negotiating with clients through my own businesses over the past two decades is that we can build confidence, overcome our fears, and learn to ask for what we need or want.
Let go of your fear of rejection.
In many conversations with women in particular, I’ve found that we don’t make the ask because we are afraid of getting a no instead of a yes — that fear of rejection overshadows the possibility that we might actually get what we want. My question to you: What’s the worst that can happen if you make the ask? Usually, it’s not what you think.
Realize that your ask is not putting someone else out.
Asking for help after my breast cancer diagnosis 16 years ago taught me the hardest lesson of all. I’m a giver. I hated asking for help. But I needed it. Asking for second opinions and about other treatment options allowed me to be my own advocate and receive the best care possible. I also had to ask for help when I was building my business: to a colleague, a mentor, a trusted advisor. The reality is that we are all going to have times in our life where we need help and need to be willing to ask for it, whether at home or at work. And most people genuinely want to help.
Believe that you deserve what you’re asking for.
Successful people believe that they deserve what they are asking for — and they follow through. They allow their belief in themselves to outweigh any fears that may enter their mind. They ignore their own inner bully and inner critic and make the ask anyway. Those who are unsuccessful in life are often so afraid of failure that they fail to act. We don’t ask for that raise or that promotion because somehow we feel that we aren’t worthy. Studies show that women are more apt to accept the compensation packages presented to them when they are offered a job. Men tend to negotiate for — and receive — more money. I was once negotiating with the managing partner of the law firm that wanted to hire me. I had my “figure” in mind. I didn’t think there was any way he would say yes, but I asked anyway. He didn’t blink and said, “Yes, sounds good.” I was blown away (not to mention excited), but I would have never received the yes if I hadn’t had the courage to ask.
Don’t wait for a seat at the table.
Never take yourself out of the game. Don’t wait for someone to ask. And don’t let your fears stop you from making the ask. Have a nonprofit board you want to serve on? Ask. Have an idea on how to make something at work better? Don’t wait to be asked; ask if you can share.
Because by not asking, you’re missing opportunities to make an even bigger impact. But once you’ve asked for a seat at the table, be totally there — at home, at work, and in our community. This is what will separate you from those who let fear stand in their way.
Here’s to your ultimate success gained by asking and getting not only what you need in life, but what you want! CBT