How To Ask For Exactly What You Want

*No elderly people were harmed in the writing of this post

**At least I sincerely hope so anyway

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

I’ve recently written a fair amount on ‘getting what you want.’

Initially, I was extremely resistant to writing these pieces. I was so afraid that it would be misinterpreted for ‘how to get your way.’

When I talk about getting what you want, I’m not talking about getting your own way. I’m not referring to manipulating people, pushing people around, or being — gasp — ‘bossy’ — whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing. #banbossy

I’m not bossy. I’m the boss

— Sinead O’Connor

When I’m talking about figuring out what you want, I’m not talking about at the expense of other people. It’s not a suggestion to march out and walk all over others in order to get what you think you deserve.

I’m quite simply talking about starting a conversation with yourself about what might be possible for you in your life — beyond the obvious, the conventional, the safe.

It’s about dreaming bigger than we as adults tend to, and indulging in a little imagination that gets trained out of us in school, or in our first jobs.

It’s about having agency over lives.

And yes. That might feel selfish.

selfish

/ˈsɛlfɪʃ/

adjective

  1. (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure. “I joined them for selfish reasons”

Hmm.

That’s not a definition I love.

So how about we take that ish suffix literally, and think of this way instead:

selfish

/ˈsɛlfɪʃ/

adjective

  1. Of the self.

Think of it this way — the bold and brazen act of asking for what you want doesn’t really involve anyone else — just you.

Because how the other person or entity interprets or responds — that’s on them.

You taking responsibility for and action towards what you want — that’s agency.

And that’s inspiring.

To me, that isn’t lacking consideration of others — you become a goddam role model. A hero.

But I digress.

I should probably get down from my soap box.

These are grandiose ideas. It’s fun to shoot the breeze about them.

It’s comforting to talk about them, dream about them, journal about them — and then it’s all too easy to not do anything about it.

We live in a time where we are expected and encouraged to put other people first.

Theoretically, we know we are meant to put on our own oxygen masks first, but on a day to day basis — how often do we practice it?

If you’re a serial people pleaser, you might just be squirming in your seat right now — a lot.

It’s a big ask to suggest you put your own needs or wants first.

But here goes.

Firstly, you have to know what you want. Ok, ok, yes, it’s a huge topic, one of my favourites. I discuss it at length here.

However, knowing what you want doesn’t have to just be faraway goals like, “Own a boat some day and sail the world.”

It could very easily be something simpler, or more immediate, like, “I need to sit in a quieter environment in order to enjoy this coffee. I’m going to move right now.”

This is about listening to your intuition, and then literally, the very next step is to act on what it’s telling you.

It can take some practice — especially if you’re not used to listening to your inner voice, or acting on it.

I remember a time when I was standing in a really noisy area, trying to talk to some colleagues. For the life of me, I could not focus on what they were saying and I was so horrendously distracted — but as a highly sensitive person, I often feel like that anyway.

So I did what I always do: try to ignore my discomfort, try not to disrupt the flow, and instead try and pay more attention to what everyone was saying. My inner voice was screaming at me to get the hell out of there before I had some kind of sensory meltdown.

So at some point I just blurted out something along the lines of, “I’m so sorry, but I just can’t hear you right now. I need to move somewhere else.”

To my surprise, every single person in the group agreed, and we all relocated.

So simple.

I learned a huge lesson that day about how we are are all just human beings, trying to not rock the boat, and trying to get along.

But sometimes rocking the boat is exactly the right thing to do.

It is a judgment call — and you might make mistakes, but it’s an empowering experience to declare something that you want, and occasionally that might be to the benefit of the whole — not just you.

Recently I had a not-so-shining experience of asking for something.

I had been walking a friend’s dog, and close to home, the dog ran right up to an elderly man who’d been digging his field of potatoes. He had quite the harvest. The dog — being a dog with zero boundaries — shoved his nose right into the potato sack.

As a socially awkward person, I did the first thing that jumped into my mind to initiate conversation.

I said, “Well, I’ll have some of those potatoes then.”

Without blinking, the man replied, “Okay,” and bent down, grabbed a handful and thrust them towards me.

How do you tell a complete stranger proferring potatoes that you were joking, and you were actually just imitating a dog?

In the moment, it was easier to own that bold demand and just graciously accept the potatoes rather than try to explain that humiliating attempt at small talk — but make no mistake, I walked home with my cheeks burning. I made the most delicious fresh gnocchi for lunch and vowed to never put on a dog’s voice to another stranger as long as I shall live.

But hold up on the serving of shame to yourself, Alex.

The guy could have laughed at me, right? He could have said that he worked hard for those potatoes and they were his winter store. He absolutely didn’t have to give them to me.

I genuinely didn’t mean to ask for those potatoes. That generosity, that was on him. And of course, I’m deeply grateful — and more than a little bit humbled.

The really funny thing is that when you do ask for (ostensibly) what you want — people are often so surprised that they just give it to you.

Have you read about Jia Jing’s Rejection Therapy? It was a 100 day project to get over his fear of rejection. On Day 3, he walked into a Krispy Kreme and asked them to make him a set of Olympic Doughnuts. Of course, this wasn’t even a product they made (yet) — but he boldly stated his request, and they actually. did. it. for. him.

Rolling out Rejection Therapy, or as I know it, the No Game, is a powerful exercise.

It pushes your boundaries, it challenges your expectations of others and your capabilities — and it can be a deeply transformative experience. Remember that other people are always entitled to say no — and that’s the point. You are supposed to get used to people telling you No.

You have to trust that they will act in their best interests too.

But so very often you’ll find that they do just give you what you’re asking for.

And that’s the secret magic trick — the wonderful lesson — about asking for what you want.

You’re so likely to get it.

You could start small — by asking vendors for free coffees, or free tickets or upgrades when you’re travelling. (Please don’t ask elderly people for their potatoes — I will never not feel bad about that.)

But try asking for some small things that really don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things — work that muscle.

Work it hard and work it often — and just see what you get out of it. You’ll also place yourself exceptionally well to then go after the bigger things that you want.

As a closing remark, I do want to say — be careful about what you ask for.

While I might joke about Potato Gate — I do believe there is a fine line between asking for what you truly want, and taking advantage of people. While I would love every single one of us to be able to stand in our own power and stand up for ourselves — not everyone can and not everyone will.

So check back in on your inner voice here — your intuition will guide you as to the best course of action you choose to take.

Founder, feminist, entrepreneur, coffee + self care

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