Ask for What You Want

Asking for a promotion, vacation days, or even an extension on a project can be daunting.

If you’ve found yourself stressing before asking for what you want, you are not alone. For women in particular, there is a real tendency to be indirect and talk around the issue you really want to address. It can seem easier in the moment to accept an initial offer or the status quo. If you walk away without asking for what you actually want, you end up with less than what you deserve, feeling dissatisfied and disappointed in yourself.

The good news is that being a good negotiator is a skill. Like any skill, it is something you can get better at over time. So don’t wait to practice negotiating until your salary is on the line.

I was reminded of this recently in an unexpected place: at a coffee shop in Croatia.


Instead of directly asking the barista for what I wanted (a big, strong cup of coffee, with just a little bit of steamed foam at the top), I felt limited by the unfamiliar surroundings and my nonexistent ability to speak Croatian and ended up ordering what I first saw on the menu: a European style espresso, in the world’s tiniest cup.

I left the coffee shop with a drink I didn’t actually want and a sense of disappointment that I hadn’t just asked for what I wanted (all of this exacerbated of course by feeling less caffeinated than I would have liked).

In fact, when trying to ask our taxi driver for the Croatian term for the kind of coffee I wanted, he looked at me in the rearview mirror and said, “You know, you could just ask for exactly what you want and they will give it to you.”

While getting the right coffee is different from asking your boss for a raise, the basic concept remains the same. Being straightforward about what you need to do your best work is paramount to success. Get clear on what your goals are and understand your own expectations and your boss’ expectations. You might not get exactly what you want every time, but you will come much closer to it.


You also don’t have to tackle the “big” ask right away. Practice asserting yourself with smaller requests: Ask your family to help you with chores around the house. Ask your co-worker to send you drafts in a particular format that helps you understand them. And of course, you can always ask the barista for coffee in exactly the way you want it.

Practicing these small asks makes the big ones just a little less intimidating. So the next time something important is on the line, you’ll feel comfortable and confident in asking for what you want.

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Lauren Laitin