Asking for What You Want

DesignSponge
Grace asked me to write this article last week after I “returned” a salad to a local sandwich shop because it was not worth the $10 that I had paid for it. Becoming a person who asks for what she wants has not come naturally. Like many people (dare I say particularly women), I always feel like when I ask for things, I’m fighting against that part of me that wants to be rewarded for not asking. I feel like someone will notice my supreme sacrifice and quiet patience – above all, what a good person I am for not being demanding – and all my wishes will come true because I didn’t ask and was good and quiet.

But the more experience I have in the real world (not the fantasy world in my mind), the more I realize this is not the case. People are simply too busy trying to get through their own days and their own lives to figure out the secret wishes floating around in my head. So about this time last year, I started an experiment. It came out of a phone conversation with my dad, who was doing research for his book. He told me about a concept called Rejection Therapy. I’ve spoken about it on After the Jump, but the basic concept is that most of us are so afraid of hearing the word “no,” that we neglect to ask for things.

When I heard about the concept, I was immediately transported back to my first job in New York. I was working for a company that sold book binding supplies and was hired on the same day for the same job as another girl. She and I, both new to the city, became good friends and one day she let her salary amount slip. She was making about $100 more per week than I was. At the time, this was a huge difference. I was just barely scraping by on the amount I was making. I was so shocked that I asked how she got more money. She told me that when she was offered the job, she just told them that she needed more. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me. I couldn’t believe it was so simple. She just asked. –Amy

Read more about asking for what you want after the jump!

And you would have thought I learned my lesson, but asking is hard, particularly when you hate hearing the word “no.” One of the reasons that I hate hearing it, is that I hate the feeling that I’m inconveniencing others. But that experience (and others – because I can promise you, the lesson didn’t stick that first time around) has taught me the importance of being honest about what you need and what you want. While I knew this on an intellectual level, I still wasn’t very practiced at hearing “no.” It’s amazing how you can insulate yourself so that you never have to hear “no.”

So I decided to challenge myself by playing the Rejection Therapy game (there’s actually an app). The way the game works is that you have only completed a successful challenge when you have heard the word “no.” I only played for a week, but for that entire week, I asked for things that I knew I wouldn’t get. I asked for a discount at my regular nail salon and was so nervous that I was afraid the nail technician would notice my hands shaking. I asked a woman for change for five dollars on the subway, I asked someone on the street to give me twenty dollars. Each time, I was so nervous. I was asking these things in order to hear the word “no.”

Even though I only played for a short time, the challenge made me aware of how often I skirt around asking. In my real life, I would ask for things and pad the question so as to give the other person an easy out. It made me aware of how important it is to know what you want and to come right out and ask for it.

I haven’t completely conquered my fears, but I am a little less afraid of asking for what I want. So when I looked down at my $10 salad last week and saw a tiny sprinkling of cheese, a cup of lettuce and a handful of radishes, I marched right back to the shop. I started by telling them that I was a huge fan of the shop, but that I was disappointed by the salad and asked if it was possible to get something else. I was as nice as I could be while still asking for what I wanted. And what happened? I got a new salad and a free cookie for my trouble – not too bad!

  1. pamela says:

    As an artisan I will sometimes give a little more if people ask for it, BUT I get angry when people want one-of-a-kind HAND MADE item discounted. It’s just insulting to me, so that is when my items are not available to them at any price. So folks, keep that in mind when you start bargaining with artists.

  2. Keri Muller says:

    ‘If you don’t ask the answer is always NO’

    Good for you on being brave and writing this article as it sounds like it was desperately needed !

  3. lilly says:

    @Nina – “What are they going to do? Spank you?” is brilliant, new mantra there. Thanks!!

  4. eileen says:

    I love this post, too. You guys knocked it out of the ball park this week! I go one step further and then cop a resentment when I don’t get what I want just because I was afraid to ask. I felt anxious just thinking about you asking for a discount at the nail salon. I can’t imagine doing it myself.

  5. I started to ask for what I want and stand up for myself only after I gave birth to my two beautiful children. Somehow knowing that I had this huge responsibility of growing these kids into compassionate, intelligent and inquisitive adults gave me the inner strength I needed to stand firm.

  6. sarah says:

    Thank you for this awesome essay! I just took the D*S survey and didn’t rate essays as too high up in what I like about the site. Changed my mind!

  7. Zapprix says:

    Thank you for the Nice essay! Changed my mind!

  8. Madison says:

    This is wonderful. You’ve basically summed up my thoughts up until now, the revelation I had trying to schedule 2-3 part time jobs the past month for enough hours to make what I need, and then some.
    I generally don’t like asking for help. I hate asking for favors because I feel like I’m imposing on others and would become a burden if I did ask for something. But I’d happily take on pretty much anything anyone asked me to do (which isn’t a bad thing – I just didn’t know how to say ‘no’ properly).
    This essay really clicked with me, and inspired me to be a little more confident in how I see myself and others, and especially what I should get for what I offer. Thank you so much!

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