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How Not to Ask

How Not to Ask


    (Editor’s Note: The following article is an excerpt from the book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth by Mika Brzezinski. Brzezinski is a co-host of Morning Joe, an MSNBC anchor and author of All Things at Once. She is also co-host of The Joe Scarborough Show on Citadel Media. She is the mother of two daughters, Emilie and Carlie, and has been married for fifteen years to an investigative journalist at ABC. For more information on the author, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.)

    Many of us need to rethink the way we ask for promotions and raises, because when we do ask, often it ain’t pretty. Just listen to the answers I hear when I ask, “Are there differences in the way men and women ask you for raises and promotions?”

    “‘I know you’re busy, I know you don’t have time . . . ‘” — Valerie Jarrett

    Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett has been the boss in a variety of workplaces. When I ask whether she sees a difference in approach between men and women when asking for raises and promotions, she says, “Amazingly, men are almost detached from it emotionally. They’re really comfortable . . . Women are much more timid and appreciative and polite. Men are very matter of fact, businesslike, unemotional. It isn’t really personal.”

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    “Women are emotional?” I ask.

    “Emotional in the sense of apologetic . . . I remember one woman in particular who started with, “I know you’re busy, I know you don’t have time . . . ”

    “Basically saying, ‘Don’t give me the raise’?”

    “She backed into it badly, is the way I would say it.” Valerie tells me.

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    “Apologetic” and “tentative” are two adjectives I heard over and over. The editor-in-chief of Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Tina Brown says women often start to apologize with their body language before they even open their mouth. Then they’ll begin by saying, “Well, you know, I’ve been here for a while and I’ve been thinking a lot about this . . . Men come in and they just say, ‘Hey, I’m not doing this anymore unless I get X.’ And you think, ‘Of course, of course, of course,’ you know, you must take care of Joe, Fred, whomever. But women don’t do that. They just come in and they look sad . . . And we can’t do that!”

    “‘I didn’t really want to come to you with this . . .'” — Carol Bartz

    I ask Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, “Have you ever had a woman ask for a raise and apologize for imposing?”

    “Oh, absolutely,” she says. Bartz trots out a few she’s heard: “‘I didn’t really want to come to you with this, but, gosh, do you think my bonus percentage could be higher?’ And, ‘Gee could you just think about it?’ When they say, ‘I don’t know if you’ll consider,’ right away they are giving you an out. Of course I wouldn’t consider, you just told me not to consider . . . when somebody gives you the reason you can say no, it just makes your job easier.”

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    And men?

    Men will say ‘”I believe I’m undervalued here,'” Bartz tells me. “And that’s always code for ‘I’m going someplace where they value me, and it’s for these reasons.'”

    “When men ask for raises there’s always some cost,” ad exec Donny Deutsch says. “It’s always ‘because I did this’ and ‘if I don’t get the raise . . . ‘ There’s always [an imaginary] gun to the head, some gamesmanship. First of all, women don’t ask as much. And when they do ask, it’s not ‘Give it to me or else.'”

    When you combine my experience with what I heard from the bosses above, I have to say we women stink at this. Just look at our best opening lines:

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    • “I’m sorry.”
    • “I know you’re busy.”
    • “I don’t know if you have the time.”
    • “I don’t know if you’ll consider . . . “
    • “I don’t know if this is possible . . . “
    • “I hate to do this.”
    • “I don’t know if there’s room for this in the budget.”
    • “I’m sorry if the timing is bad.”

    I think I’ve managed to use everyone of those phrases in my attempts to get a raise. Of course, I used an additional strategy, too — what More editor Lesley Jane Seymour calls “playing the victim card.” Seymour says women “present their personal challenges, saying things like, ‘Well, I have this situation’ or ‘I have that burden’ or ‘My mother is ill and I have to support her’ or whatever. Women present their cause, and you have to realize it’s not a manager’s job to support your causes, whatever they might be . . . The companies can’t say, ‘Oh, I feel sorry for you.”’

    (Photo credit: Question Mark Blackboard Sign via Shutterstock)

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    Last Updated on October 22, 2019

    How to Get “I Can’t Do It” Out of Your Vocabulary

    How to Get “I Can’t Do It” Out of Your Vocabulary

    When someone says, “I can’t do it” . . . I say to myself, “What do you mean you can’t do it?” Maybe you don’t want to do it, but saying you “can’t” do it is a completely different story.

    With the right mindset, positive attitude, and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish, the only thing that is holding you back is yourself.

    Can’t is a terrible word and it has to be taken out of your vocabulary.

    By saying you can’t do something, you’re already doubting yourself, submitting to defeat, and you’re making that barrier around your life tighter.

    So today, right now, we are going to remove this word for good.

    From now on there is nothing we can’t do.

    “Attitude is Tattoo”

    Your attitude is everything; it’s your reason, your why and how, your facial expression, emotions, body language, and potentially the end result. How you approach an opportunity, and the result of it, is solely based on you — not your boss or your co-worker or friend.

    If you enter a business meeting with a sour attitude, that negative energy can spread like wildfire. People can also feel it — maybe even taste it. This is not an impression you want to leave.

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    Now imagine you enter a business meeting with a positive attitude, that whatever happens in here is going to be your result, in your control, not someone else’s. Of course, we can’t always win, but even if the outcome is negative, your attitude and perception can turn it into a positive. The question is: can you do it?

    Of course you can, because there is nothing in this world you can’t do.

    It’s much better to be known for your positive attitude — your poise, your energy, the reason why things go so well because you are able to maintain such character. A negative attitude is easy. It’s easy to complain, it’s easy to be mad, and it’s even easier to do nothing to change it.

    When I say your “attitude is tattoo”, it sounds permanent. Tattoos can be removed, but that’s not the point. Your attitude is like a tattoo because you wear it. People can see it and sometimes, they will judge you on it. If you maintain a negative attitude, then it is permanent until you change it.

    Change your attitude and I guarantee the results change as well.

    Believe You Can Do It

    Do you know why most people say “can’t” and doubt themselves before trying anything?

    It’s our lack of self-confidence and fear on many different levels. The one thing we have to purge from ourselves is fear — fear of bad results, fear of change, fear of denial, fear of loss, the fear that makes us worry and lose sleep. Worrying is the same as going outside with an umbrella, waiting for rain to hit it. Stop worrying and move on.

    Confidence is fragile: It builds up slowly, but can shatter like glass. Project your confidence and energy into believing in yourself. This is a very important and groundbreaking step — one that is usually the hardest to take. Start telling yourself you can do something, anything, and you will do it the best to your ability. Remove doubt, remove fear, and stick with positive energy.

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    Embrace Failure

    Do not fear failure. Do not run away from it. Face it, learn from it, grow, and take action. Just remember: You will never know success if you have never failed.

    Your confidence will bolster after embracing these facts. You will be immune to demoralizing results, and instead you will find ways to fix it, improve upon it, and make it better than before. You will learn to never say “can’t,” and will realize how many more opportunities you can create by removing that one word.

    Don’t let one simple and ugly word plague your confidence. You’re better and stronger than that.

    Start Making the Change

    But to actually start the process of change is very challenging.

    Why is that?

    Fear? Time? Don’t know how — or where — to start?

    It’s hard because what we’re doing is unlearning what we know. We are used to doing things a certain way, and chances are we’ve been doing them for years.

    So here are some ways that I avoid using the word “can’t”, and actually take the steps to put forth the change that I wish to see. I hope you can incorporate these methods into your life.

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    Write down What You Want to Change

    Write it on post-its, notecards, whatever makes you comfortable — something you will always see. I usually write mine on post-its and put them all over the wall behind my monitor so I always see them.

    Tell a Friend and Talk About It

    Discussing your goals, what you want to change, is very effective when you say it out loud and tell another person other than yourself. It’s almost like saying, hey, I bet I can do it — watch me.

    When you fulfill that goal and tell your friend, it feels rewarding and will motivate you to do it again in a different aspect. Who knows? Maybe your friend adopts the same mindset as you.

    Stop Yourself from Saying the Forbidden Word

    Sometimes,I can’t control myself in public when I’m with friends, so I have to be careful with the words I use so I don’t embarrass or insult anyone.

    Treat the word “can’t” as the worst word you can possibly use. Stop yourself from saying it, mid-sentence if you must, and turn your whole perspective around — you can do it, you will do it, and nothing is impossible!

    Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

    You think this change will be overnight? No way. This is a practice. Something you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life from now until forever.

    As I said earlier, you are unlearning what you know. You know how easy it is to say you can’t do something, so by unlearning this easy practice, you’re self-disciplining yourself to live without boundaries.

    Practice this everyday, a little at a time, and before you know it, the word can’t will not be part of your language.

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    Do Anything That Can Relieve Your Uncertainty

    When I catch myself saying I can’t do something or I don’t know something, looking up information on that action or subject, doing research, educating yourself, relieves that uncertainty.

    Sometimes, we think we can’t do something because the whole idea of it seems too large. We skip the small steps in our head and only focus on the end.

    Before you say you can’t do something, rewind and slow down a little bit. Focus on what the first step is, then the next. Take it a step at a time, and before you know it you will have done something you previously thought you couldn’t do.

    Final Thoughts

    You know what you must do. The first step is right now. Once you begin this habit, and really start noticing some change, you’ll realize the door to opportunity is everywhere.

    The funny thing is: Those doors have always been there. The evil word that we no longer use put a veil over our eyes because that’s how powerful that word is.

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    Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

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