If I could encourage women to do one thing, it would be to ask for what you want. Stop overthinking every simple (and not so simple) request, and just ask! Ask without apology. Ask despite your inner critic. Ask when you fear you'll be seen as pushy. Ask when you fear you'll be laughed at. Ask despite fear of rejection. Ask when you fear you don't deserve it. Ask when you feel you do.
When that little voice tells you that you're not smart enough, you don't know enough, you don't have enough, you haven't done enough to ask -- ask anyway.
You don't need to check off every box on your list before you can ask for what you want.
If women hope to make the kind of meaningful impact we'd like to see in the world, we have to get very good at asking, articulating what we want and need.
I'm the #1 offender when it comes to not asking. I just assume if I try really, really hard and do excellent work, I'll get what I want. Which necessarily requires mindreading on the part of the person from whom I'm expecting whatever it is I am not asking for.
I'm asking of you the same thing I'm of asking myself. Value yourself. Ask for what you want.
I was talking to my friend and coach Iris Charabi-Berggren, who shared with me that she often works with clients who are considering quitting their job. Iris encourages her clients to ask for what they want before quitting. After all, they have nothing to lose. They're ready to walk out, anyway.
The most surprising thing? Iris has never had a client's employer not give her what she asked. For many, it was negotiating shorter work hours so she can balance family and work. For others, it was to negotiate a better title and salary.
What made me pay attention to Iris' story was that despite the fact that her clients were about to quit their job, they were still hesitant about asking.
I can relate to this story even though I'm self-employed. For the past four or five years, I've been on a somewhat unconventional journey to bring mindfulness and meditation to lawyers. It's easy for me to value my services as a lawyer based on my standard hourly rate, but offering classes on reducing stress/anxiety, building resilience or emotional intelligence to other lawyers? There's no standard fee for that.
I was happy to take any speaking and writing opportunity that came along. Then I was getting more and more inquiries. It got to a point where I was doing several talks per month and writing dozens of articles -= all for free.
Research shows that women aren't bad at negotiating. We're simply bad at negotiating for ourselves. When we're negotiating for others, we're just as effective as our male counterpart.
When I met a friend for tea the other day, she shared that she used to be on the speaker's circuit for Weight Watchers. She told me that women were generally paid much less than men for public speaking. Why? Because women didn't ask for more money. And here's the rub. No one will ever pay you more than what you are asking for.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine asked me to make an introduction on his behalf. I didn't feel comfortable doing it, so I ignored the request. A week or so later, he followed up with me again. Then another week went by. He asked again. On his fourth request, I made the introduction. He kept asking, and got what he wanted.
I shared this story with a friend of mine who is a COO at a successful start-up company. She said, "Oh, that's so common." She then proceeded to tell me a story about a guy who basically emailed everyone in the company multiple times and bugged the hell out of everyone until the CEO and she finally relented and agreed to a meeting. It turned out that this guy had the perfect solution the company had been seeking. His persistence paid off.
Speaking of being persistent, Iris shared the following story:
Just recently, I recommended a friend to apply to a very prestigious local venue because I thought that her work fits into it perfectly. She sent them an email. Nothing happened. I told her to go in person and bring them a sample of her work. She brought them printed materials. They liked it and said they'll follow up with an email. They never did. She was ready to drop the ball. I told her to go there again, and this time to take an original work with her and a gorgeous brochure. She reluctantly did. The deciding manager was there together with the owner and they've scheduled a studio visit with her two days later. The day they arrived, they took half of her works with them and they are all super large scale and heavy works! This is the art of persistence.
I'm starting to realize that where I believe the boundaries are for being "too assertive, too pushy or desperate" are far, far away from the actual boundaries for being seen in that light.
I've stopped offering my time, skills and knowledge for free. I saw that the more I asked, the more rejections I received, but this persistence also lead to more "yes's." I'm practicing being mindful, including when I'm met with rejections, and I am reframing rejections as simply a stepping stone to getting to what I want.
Let's start negotiating for ourselves the same way we would negotiate for others.