Are you afraid to ask for what you want? Are you afraid to put your true desires out there for others to see? Afraid what others might think or how they might respond?
Look no further! Today I’m sharing what you can do to make asking for what you want less scary and you don’t have to feel brave before you do it!
Before I get to the how, let’s dig a little deeper into what I mean by asking for what you want and why we might feel afraid to do it.
Asking for what you want is not just about asking for tangible items. Asking for what you want can mean anything from asking for an extra bag at the grocery store to asking a friend to reconsider seeing a scary movie when you would prefer a comedy or making it clear to someone you work with how a certain style of working would work better for you.
Asking for what you want is basically any situation where you have to clearly state what you would prefer or what you desire.
Asking for what you want can be scary. And you may find that certain scenarios are more or less scary than others. For example, asking for what you want from a store clerk feels like a breeze, but asking for what you want from your boss feels like you’re about to walk the plank (or vice versa).
Why is asking for what we want so scary? I’ve found six reasons and I’m sure that you could name a few more.
By asking for what you want:
- You open yourself up to rejection. The person might say no or be offended that you asked. It could cause a rift in the relationship or an argument.
- You feel like you don’t deserve to ask for what you want in this situation. You don’t feel worthy enough to have good things in life so why even ask.
- Your self-worth is tied up in what others think about you. This means that if they say no, you will view yourself as a bad person.
- You didn’t have any close models of this behavior growing up. One or both of your parents took the passive role and didn’t ask for what they wanted from others and you saw this and copied it.
- You overestimate what asking for what you want demands of you. In your imagination, asking for what you want means an argument or confrontation or it involves some other skill that you don’t think that you have.
- The feelings associated with fear (racing heart, flushed face, dry mouth, etc.) are so uncomfortable for you that you avoid any activity that brings them on, including asking for what you want.
Can you relate to any of those? Did you think of any more?
This is an area especially close to me. For most of my life I struggled with letting fear stop me from asking for what I wanted, even going as far as being too afraid to order food on the phone or accepting inappropriate behavior in romantic relationships because I was too afraid to stand up for what felt best.
While I’ve grown over the years and feel much less scared asking for what I want from restaurants and other stores, asking for what I want from personal and work relationships is still pretty scary.
While I may not be where I want to be, I’ve had some experiences in the past few weeks that made me realize how far I’ve come in being able to ask for what I want. I wanted to share a process that I use. My hope is that it helps you be heard and stand up for yourself and your needs in spite of feeling terrified.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
I’ve said this before in other posts and I will say it again, I would be lying if what I’m sharing with you will work just by you reading it. You have to put in the gradual work. The only way to get better at asking for what you want is to keep asking for what you want. And as much as that may suck to read if you are looking for a magic pill, just know that the rewards of learning how to ask for what you want will be so much sweeter after putting in the practice. The good news is that you can practice on easier things first. Try asking for what you want from people where the stakes aren’t as high.
Accept your fear
All throughout this process, you will likely feel fear. That doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong or that there is something wrong with you. Fear just is. Be kind to yourself. You are learning new ways of being. You have way more experience feeling afraid so just focus on getting the asking done and not on feeling less afraid. How afraid you feel has little to no correlation with how you will actually be during your conversation. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
The Ask for What You Want Process (Bravery Optional)
What Do You Want?
One of the issues that I’ve had (and still have sometimes) is knowing what I want. If you struggle with asking for what you want, there’s a good chance that knowing what you want is hard too. If this is true for you, again, practice. Ask yourself what you want and really listen for the answer. Let all possible answers come through, forget whether what you want is “right” or whether you deserve it. What do you want? If it’s not clear to you, it won’t be clear to anyone else.
Give it Legs
Now that you know what you want, consider your audience. Who are you asking? What’s your relationship with this person? What method of asking do you think would be best given who this person is and how they communicate? How far do you think you can go with this person? What tone do you think would work best? If it helps, write out what you would like to say and how.
Embody your ideal self
Who would you most like to be when you ask? How would she ask? What words would she use? What style? How would she react to the person if they said yes or no? How can you get yourself in that space where you embody your ideal self? Can you wear a certain outfit? A piece of jewelry? Stand a certain way? I know this might sound funny and if it doesn’t help, forget I said it, but there is something to be said about your body language and the messages that it sends to your brain. Check out this TED talk about confidence building “power poses” if you don’t believe me.
Fear tenses the body. Deep breathing relaxes the body. Take some deep breathes before you ask and do your best to be as relaxed as you can. You’ll likely still be afraid and feel afraid, but deep breathing might help you manage those fear responses so you can at least talk.
Ask and Let Go
Ask for what you want and then let go and allow the other person to say yes, no or maybe. Try to be in the moment when you ask by making your request and listening to the answer without judgement. You have no control over whether that person goes along with what you ask so don’t base your feeling of success or failure on their response. Also, do your best to not beat yourself up after you’ve asked if it doesn’t go as you planned. Whether you got tongue tied or didn’t feel like you were eloquent enough, remember to pat yourself on the back for asking. Yes, learn from your missteps and determine what you can do better next time, but definitely lean more on congratulating yourself for stepping outside your comfort zone and asking for what you want and surviving.
Celebrate and Repeat
You did it! You’ve asked and survived. Spend some time looking at what worked and what didn’t and what you can do differently next time or in a different situation. Remember, the only way to get better at asking for what you want is to keep asking for what you want.
For a bonus boost, you can spend some time in reflection about why you are actually afraid to ask for what you want. If you related to one of the six reasons I listed above, put on your investigative hat (or glasses or pants!) and see if you can identify what it is you’re actually afraid of happening and how you can address those fears outside of your imagination.
Did this resonate with you in some way? Have you used this method or another one to learn how to ask for what you want?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about asking for what you want so please share them in the comments below!