Finding my authentic voice in life has been difficult. I know how I’m supposed to sound when I talk to my Grandma about not being married or owning a house, my boss when I am trying to plead for more PTO time and the cable company when I’m trying to sweet talk my way into a free month of HBO…this is not my authentic voice. My authentic voice can be heard in sharing secrets with my sisters, talking in the dark with my special guy right before we fall asleep, hilariously fast and furious text conversations with my bestie (she would rather shotgun a bottle of Sriracha sauce than talk on the phone), wading through hopes/dreams/fears/terrible fashion choices over wine with a confidant from my circle of friends and this blog.
This voice took me a while to cultivate because I am constantly being shaped through experiences like books, movies, art, music, relationships, setbacks, self-doubt and travel. At the very wise age of 31 (this is where a sarcasm font would be helpful) I am confident in who I am as a person and what my authentic voice sounds like. I am still terrified of asking for what I want.
Asking leaves me open for rejection. Asking means I might sound silly. Asking means I might hear an answer I don’t like. Asking means I’m challenging ideas. Asking makes me the center of attention. You know what? All that shit is awesome. By now you should know that one of my life mantras has become “if it scares you chase it” and so come nervous laugh or heart palpitations I will be asking more, and you should too (it also makes me feel better when I know we are in life things together). What kind of asking will I be doing? I am not really sure specifically, but I know all of it will be driven by a few guiding ideals.
I will ask for what I deserve. You guys, we have got to stop undervaluing ourselves and our voices. Ordered your hamburger cooked medium and it was served to you well done? Ask for what your deserve (and ordered!). Hotel room reek of smoke or located right next to the elevator? Ask for a different room. Salary negotiations for a new job? Do some online research and ask for what you are worth, if your potential employer can’t meet the salary requirements ask them to throw in a couple extra vacation days or option to work from home one day a week – you deserve it, you are a valuable commodity or they wouldn’t want to hire you! The point is that you don’t ever had to just accept what is given to you, if you know you deserve better or different let it be known to everyone else too.
I will ask for what I believe in. This guideline applies more to interpersonal relationships. Do you believe that monogamy and/or relationship status should be established 3 months into dating? Tell your partner it is important to you and ask for it (bonus points if you use your authentic voice!). Believe that friendship means showing up at midnight with a pint of ice cream and a bottle of tequila after someone broke you heart? Ask for it, and remember to return the favor. Believe that important conversations require picking up the phone or turning on the webcam? Ask for it. Believe that just because you are related to someone it doesn’t mean they get an free pass to say mean things to you? Ask them to respect your feelings, or at the very least apologize. Your partner, parents, siblings and friends are not mind readers so asking keeps the communication lines clear and open which is a win for everyone involved.
Even if the answer is No, it is still Yes. Not confusing at all, right? This scenario goes something like this: I am super into craft cocktails and I approach someone that is respected and well known in the libation industry to say “hey I am really interested in learning more do you think that I could come spend some time with you talking about cocktails?” The answer will either be “Yes, that would be so awesome (high five) when can you come down and meet with me?” or “You know I am really busy I don’t think I am going to have time to meet.” If I get shut down, it’s not being shut down at all. The fact that I asked shows I have an interest that person might not have known about previously. It plants the seed, sort of like the movie Inception, and then next time that person talks with their cocktail friends they might say “hey I met this girl recently who is really excited to learn more, can you give her a call?” and then suddenly the answer becomes a yes! This tactic works well for all kinds of situations from professional interactions (asking to serve on a board, committee, or advising panel), personal interests (craft cocktails, or in my case glitter and unicorns) and general professional networking (asking to be involved in industry events as a volunteer). Want to be connected? You know what you have to do.
The last rule you should follow is the golden rule, as in use your manners! The inclusion of the words “please, thank you and you’re welcome” when asking for things is the difference between confidence and entitlement. You are a giving and thoughtful human being, treat people the way you expect to be treated. Also never ever apologize for asking, I am offender #1 at this. If you feel like you need to say sorry replace it with excuse me (unless you were a jerk or totally wrong, then apologize) but don’t lead with an apology, why should you be feel bad for questioning?
Asking is empowering, takes courage and ultimately help make decisions faster. What you ask for might change as you get new information but applying the 3 principles above should help you stay true to what you need. What is the most difficult thing you have had to ask for in life? Did you ask for something and it turned out mind- blowingly awesome? Does the thought of asking for what you deserve totally freak you out? Let me know in the comments!