9 Tips On How To Ask For What You Want

by phil on Thursday Mar 20, 2008 5:44 PM

Someone asked on MetaFilter "How do I know when I'm being self-assertive vs. being a jerk?"

A: This answer came from grumblebee who's developed a reputation on AskMeFi for wisdom and insight:

Where I've worked, the assertive people have:

  • Made their needs known once, see if they're met and then only speak again if their needs aren't weren't met the first time (or if they have new needs).

  • They confine their comments to their needs. They don't add all sorts of gratuitous stuff long stories, etc.

  • They explain simply and clearly why they have their needs. There are only one meaningful reasons for needs in a workplace: (1) I need X because it will help me do my job. Personal needs are fair game, but express them in terms of work: "I need a day off so that I can help my sick mother. That will allow me to focus more on my work when I get back."

  • They keep calm. Assertive is not the same as aggressive. If they express a need and it's ignored, they don't say, "HEY! I'm talking here!" They calmly re-assert their need.

  • If it's clear that no one can focus on the need right now, they drop it TEMPORARILY and bring it up later. (Unless it's an emergency).

  • They only talk to the specific person or people who can meet the need. If explaining the need will take a long time, they don't do it during a big meeting with lots of people who can't help. Instead, they pull the potentially-helpful people aside, after the meeting, and have a private discussion with them.

  • They do homework. Try to figure out ahead-of-time what will meet the need. Figure out minimum requirements and best-case-scenarios. But be open to discussion.

  • They don't put people between a rock and a hard place: "I must have my need met in this particular way, or I'm quitting!" Even if things are that dire, try, "I'm having trouble getting my work done while X is going on."

  • They listen to other people. No matter how important your needs are, other people have their needs, too. State your needs and then give others a chance to respond. Take their responses seriously, even if they don't meet your needs.

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