Seven ways to advocate for yourself and find the courage to ask for what you really want

How often do you feel able to ask for what you really want? And not just “I’ll have the half-caff latte to go please”, but the big asks. Like “Can I have a promotion?” or “How about we holiday without your parents this year?”

You know, the big stuff, or at least that feels like the big stuff to you. How good are you at speaking up and asking for what you want?  

You’re not alone in the slightest if your answer is, “Not very”. Self-advocacy – the ability to speak up for yourself, to communicate your wants and needs – isn’t a skill that comes very naturally to a lot of us.

However, to help our sense of well-being and ultimately live a life we’re much happier leading, it’s a skill we should actively seek to develop. 

Here are some tips to help you find your voice, build your confidence and ask for what you really want.

1) Know what you want 

It’s incredibly difficult for others to give you what you want if you, yourself, don’t even know what that is. So, it’s time to get really clear on what you want to achieve.

Once you’ve decided on what you want, it’s important not to dilute your request in the hope that it will be more readily received and accepted.

As Margie Warrell, an Executive Coach points out, “You will rarely if ever, be given more than what you have the courage to ask for.” So make sure you use your opportunity to ask for you fully want. 

2) Believe you deserve it

Critically, you need to believe you deserve what you’re asking for. You have to back yourself 100%. If you don’t believe you deserve it, why should anyone else? 

This means tackling your mindset and building your level of self-worth. Lists are great self-esteem builders. So why not make a list of your previous successes or your strengths? Use affirmations such as, ‘I am enough’, ‘I am capable’, and ‘I am worthy’ to help your mindset. 

3) Prepare

Plan, do your research, gather facts. If you can, have solutions ready. For example, if you want your work to fund a new qualification, go in ready with the course details, dates, costs, ideas for how to cover your workload if you have to be away.

But also, be able to explain how this will benefit them, what the return on their investment will be. The key is to make it as easy as possible for the person you’re asking to be able to say yes.

When you’re prepared with as much knowledge as possible, it’s very empowering. The confidence this will give you will shine through. Additionally, practice asking. Say the words out loud to yourself until it feels natural to you.

4) Seek support

As mentioned above, practising is good preparation but why not role play with someone in your support network who has your best interests at heart.

They can give you feedback and reassurance. They can also give you a trusted opinion. Plus, after the event they’re someone you can speak to help you unwind and even (hopefully) celebrate in your success. 

5) Communicate your needs and listen to others

Be sure to express yourself clearly and calmly. Try – as much as possible – to take emotion out of the situation. Focus on your need and not on blaming or criticising the person you’re speaking to.

Yes, it can be frustrating if the other person is being negative or difficult to deal with, but try to stick to the facts. We can’t think clearly when we’re angry, so change approach if you need to or even request a short break.

Crucially, you need to truly listen. Ask for clarification if you’re not sure about what is being said. 

6) Keep a ‘no’ in perspective

It would be great if we could say for certain that every time we ask for something we’ll get it. I think you already know this isn’t the case. Quite often we won’t ask because we fear we’ll be rejected. But really, we tend to build rejection up in our minds to something worse than it actually is.

We’ve all heard ‘no’ at least once in our lifetime and we’ve all survived, if not thrived. Remember, a ‘no’ doesn’t make the situation worse, it just made it the same. And a ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the end unless you tell yourself it is.

Don’t let fear hold you back, keep in mind you’ve got just as much chance (if not more chance after following these tips) of hearing a ‘yes’ but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. 

7) Embrace feedback

If you have received a no, it’s absolutely OK to ask why. In fact, it’s a good idea to ask for feedback. You don’t have to take the feedback personally, it’s just simply information for you to understand what you might need to go away and work on.

Use feedback to your advantage – as success coach Jack Canfield says, “You can’t fix something if you weren’t aware it was broken”. Learn and grow from it, change your approach if needed. Remember this is all helping to bring you closer to what you really want. 

Alex Grace is a well-being advocate and freelance writer. She is also the blogger behind a well-being lifestyle site encouraging you to live life happier. 

Photo by Etty Fidele