I fell into an emotionally muddled trap while lobbying for specific details I wanted included in a book about to be released. Deadlines were postponed. Questions lingered unanswered. Revisions to the contract were postponed. I played nice and repeated my requests, but my questions were answered with ambiguous statements or ignored. The most difficult part of the negotiation process was not the response of others – but my own inability to express my own needs.
Margie Warrell, author of Stop Playing Safe and contributing writer to Forbes magazine, explains, “When you get clear about what you want and need, and become brave enough to ask for it, you will spare yourself a lot of emotional churn and expand your capacity to accomplish more.”
In 7 Keys to Asking for What You Really Want, Margie describes essential keys to finding your own voice and courageously expressing your needs. She offers stellar tips that will help you say what you want and need with clarity and confidence:
1. Don’t assume others are mind readers.
“Complaining about problems doesn’t solve them,” insists Warrell. “Whining about unmet needs won’t fulfill them.” We feel hurt and upset when our needs are not met, but you can not expect others to read your mind. For any relationship to grow, both parties must take responsibility for clearly communicating their thoughts and feelings. That means you must take responsibility for expressing your own needs.
2. Be bold with your requests.
You have much more courage than you give yourself credit for. Don’t minimize your needs to reduce the risk of being turned down. Warrell adds, “Think about what your ideal outcome would be and then confidently, courageously, ask for it. Not in an entitled way. Not in an aggressive way. But in a way that conveys that you know your worth.” While you may not always get what you want in the ways that you want it, recognize that you have zero chance of getting your needs met if the request remains buried inside of you.
Nothing muddles communication like ambiguity. A vague request to do something “soon” can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. Your words must specify not just “what” you’d like, but also the time frame with which you want it. Be specific about “what” you want and “when” you need it. Warrell adds that it is difficult to get what you want if you aren’t clear about your expectations.
4. Be clear about what you won’t tolerate.
Warrell also explains, “You get what you tolerate.” You must be just as clear about what you don’t want as you are about expressing your needs. Every day, through what you say and do, you teach others how to treat you. If you allow others to take you for granted, overstep your personal boundaries, or behave in ways that reflect disrespect, you allow bad behavior to continue. What behaviors will you no longer tolerate? Margie adds, “Therein lies the boundary that you alone must set and the requests you alone must make.”
5. Forget hints – be direct.
Get to the point. For example, if someone is perpetually late, be clear: (1) point out the time you agreed to meet and the time they arrived, (2) explain how you feel when someone is repeatedly late, and (3) ask the individual if he or she can commit to punctuality in the future. Clear articulation of important issues uncovers matters that need to be addressed.
6. Ditch the martyr act.
A “martyr” is a term used to describe someone who lets others know by their behavior that they are suffering – and it’s your fault. Martyrdom is a form of manipulation. The more requests being made of you, the more you need to clearly articulate your boundaries. “Valuing your own needs and priorities is not selfish,” explains Warrell. “It’s smart.”
7. Accept you will not always get your way – and move on.
You won’t always get what you ask for. When people say no, do not treat it as a personal rejection – accept it graciously and move on. Margie explains, “At least now you know where things stand and you can plan accordingly.”
The biggest gift you give yourself is in the discovery of the strength within you to say what needs to be said. It’s scary to express difficult emotions in words. It gets easier with practice.
When you believe others understand your expectations without firm clarification, you set them and yourself up for failure. Be bold. Be direct. Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, adds, ““Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
You’ve got the courage within you to say what you want and need. Speak your truth. Own your voice.
What do you want and need to say? Who needs to hear it?
If negative self-talk is keeping you from speaking up, read Replace Old Tapes with New Messages.
Discover ways to define your comfort zone with tips from 8 Tips to Create Strong Personal Boundaries.
Still trying to discover who you are? Use these suggestions and Create an Awesome Vision Board.