The email I had been waiting on landed in my inbox that afternoon, and read, “This is a first for us but we can go ahead and pay “THIS” for your assignment. Can we finalize the contract on this figure?”
I read the email more than once because I couldn't believe I actually got what I asked for and needed, but I did. I got exactly what I needed and asked for.
The question that kept ringing in my ears after I got the email was, “What if I gave in to the uncomfortable feeling I always have in the pit of my guts whenever I want to ask for what I need or want?” It is a predictable feeling, and it shows up when I want to negotiate my salary with an employer or my rates with a client. It shows up when I want to ask for what I need in a relationship or friendship, and it shows up when I need to say no or set boundaries. It is a familiar feeling, and it rose up when this incredible opportunity, one I did not go looking for — The publication reached out to me — landed in my inbox. It rose up and spoke lies like "if you push back and ask for more, you will lose this amazing opportunity," but then I did what I almost always do, I pushed pass the feeling and asked for what I needed and wanted.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always ask for what I need, but more often than not, I ask and I ask afraid. I don’t always get what I ask for, and many times I have had to walk away. However, I can’t recall ever looking back and regretting it. Almost everytime I walk away, I take with me peace instead of the tumoil of accepting and putting on my plate something I'd do well, but resent.
Over the years, I have mastered a few things, and they have strengthened both my asking muscle and my resolve to ask.
Know your position.
Know your what and your why. It is impossible to ask for what you need and want if you don’t know what it is and why you want it. For the most part, you may not need to share your why, but knowing it positions you to stand for your what. Figuring out my "writing" why made it easier for me to walk away from copywriting and to choose a creative storytelling path instead.
Some times it is easier to identify your what versus identifying your why, but over the years I developed a few strategies that has helped me in narrowing down my what and pinpointing why I want it. Some of my strategies include
- Making a list of what I want out of a situation and attaching a "why this is important to me statement" to each item on the list. This helps me see the situation objectively
- Making a list of the pros and cons of the situation. Pros highlight what is important to me and cons identifies what scares me about the situation. If I'm leaning towards a choice even if the cons outweight the pros, I, then, write down why I want to choose it despite the cons.
- Finally and most importantly, I do my research. Many times, you will have to back up your ask with statistics, facts and anecdotes. Making a list of what I want or a pro and con list is important for establishing your why sometimes, but data especially when it comes to salary negotiation can help determine and elevate your what.
Communicate your Position
Communicate your what, and in some cases, your why, directly and clearly. Clarity of vision and direction lets the other person decide how they want to proceed and if they want to proceed. You don’t have to pre-empt or close out your ask with unnecessary points – BE CLEAR AND DIRECT! Lately, I rarely ever positIon my ask as a ask or plea, I pretty much tell the person what I need and want for the job, assignment, relationship or friendship to work, and I let them decide if they can meet me where I am or if they have a mutually beneficial counter offer.
Have a counter-offer
This may be specific to salary or rate negotiation, but it can also apply to relationships, friendships or when setting boundaries. In a salary negotiation session and in the rare occasion when I negotiate my rate with a client, I usually have a range, because I understand that my highest range may be beyond their reach. I can also be flexible if I want to work with a company or write for a publication especially if I perceive other perks beyond money. I almost always have a personal lowest range, and it is the amount I’m willing to land on to not feel resentful of the client or angry at myself. Make sure it is a number or counter-offer you are willing to work with, before putting it on the table.
Be prepared to walk away
We can’t always get what we need or want, and some people are unable to give us what we need. Be prepared to walk away. I recently walked away from a project I wanted, because the company was unable to meet my lowest rate range. I did it without burning a bridge, and kept the door open to work together in the future.