Seems like a silly title, doesn’t it? In actuality, many women still have trouble asking for what they want -at work, in relationships, with family and friends. For fear that they may look “demanding” or “bitchy,” women have a tendency to suffer in silence. Did you know that women get less raises than men simply because they don’t ask? Your voice is everything -and we mean that definitively.
The reality is, though we’ve had much progress in the past couple years, we’re still a ways off from gender equality. It’s hard to undo thousands, albeit millions, of years of social conditioning, but we are hopefully evolving to become a more fair society where women are encouraged to speak up and lead worldwide. Being able to communicate confidently and authentically is the first step to progress and empowerment. Here are a few pointers for approaching difficult conversations and asking for what you want with tact.
Pick Your Battles
First, you have to know what’s worth going to bat for. It takes a bit of emotional intelligence to figure out which situations are worth speaking up about. The idea here is that you need to be calm and coming from a position of confidence. Approaching any difficult conversation based on pure emotion with no logical evidence is not going to get you anywhere. It will only make people defensive and closed off to listening to you. If you approach a situation with no real grounds, it’s the same as going onto a battle field with no weapon -you’re setting yourself up for failure. So, really think things through before you approach a serious conversation. It is possible you are being overly-sensitive or are just in a bad mood. Sleep on it and see if you still feel the same in the morning. The key is being patient, having perspective, and taking the time to sort through your feelings before you approach. When it comes to touchy conversations, you need to pull out your most calm, rational self. In other words, the screaming drama queen is not a good look!
Prepare & Approach
Before you approach anyone about a difficult conversation, be prepared. For example, if you’re asking for a pay raise, know your numbers, have evidence of why you deserve a pay raise, and be willing to explain your position. Be realistic about if you do deserve that pay raise or not. A lot of employers give raises according to performance, not based on how long you’ve been working.
If necessary, write down your thoughts. I find writing really helps me sort through how I feel and it often helps me come to conclusions easier. For interpersonal relationships, it’s especially helpful. If you have to approach your significant other, a friend, or family member about something difficult, take time to write down everything you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. Once you have everything written down, digest those feelings, and do your best to form those raw thoughts into talking points that are tactful. The great thing about journaling is that you can get all those upset, abrasive feelings out before they turn into counter-productive verbal lash-outs. The mind is like unfiltered water -sometimes it takes some sifting and processing to make it digestible.
Once you’ve figured out your talking points, speak from authenticity with as much tact as possible. This is the most important part -being genuine. This is where you take your talking points and say how you really feel. Yes, you have to be vulnerable. That is very uncomfortable for a lot of people, but it’s absolutely necessary. Think of it this way, whether you make yourself vulnerable or not, you’re going to experience discomfort. Either from resentment of not getting what you want (which leaves you in the same place) or by letting yourself be vulnerable, getting things off your chest and actually starting the process of moving forward. The former makes you uncomfortable and you get nothing, the latter way makes you uncomfortable, but you actually make progress. Short term discomfort>long term discomfort.
Now that you’ve asked for that raise, expressed your true feelings in a relationship, or confronted that gossipy friend, a follow-up may be necessary. Obviously if you get a raise on the spot, you may not need to follow up. However, if there has been radio silence for 2 weeks from your boss, it’s time to check in and ask about the status of your pay increase. Don’t wither away if you don’t hear back. Hold your ground and show that you’re serious and approach again.
In interpersonal relationships, it may be necessary to check in, especially if you haven’t heard from the person. Attempt to get in to contact with them one time. If you don’t hear back, step away. If someone wants to be in your life, they will be. Sometimes they just need to digest the conversation; other times they may choose to drop out of your life all together. In that case, you have to let them go. Forgiveness and mending of relationships doesn’t happen over night and some times it doesn’t happen at all. In that case you have to let go peacefully. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever and those who are will come around eventually.