Random header image... Refresh for more!

Just Ask (Adult Edition!)

One thing I didn’t say in that last post on asking is that I am excellent at teaching but not so good at doing myself.  I excel at putting down a note for myself on a to-do list, but then will choke up when I get to actually doing the asking.  I find it much easier if I’m asking for someone else (such as the twins wanting the White House visit) or doing it via email.  But face-to-face or over the phone for things that are for myself?  I am terrible at making a request.  I am so bad that I ask Josh to order our carryout, especially if we are straying at all from the menu norms such as asking them to leave the mushrooms off the pasta dish.

Why are some adults so terrible at asking for things, and why do I assume that those adults are mostly women?  Someone brought up the salary discrepancy between men and women in regards to asking, and thinking back to how I didn’t speak up at interviews or jobs (even when asked what I thought a fair salary would be), I can see how this fits neatly into the concept of asking and just how far-reaching the effects are of not being able to do it.

Is it the Nice Girl Syndrome, where we want so badly to fulfill that idea of the “nice girl” we were presented with as a child (think back to sentences that began, “A nice girl…” to explain to you what the adult wanted you to do)?  Am I better off working hard to raise a bitch?  Because isn’t that the word we use to describe the non-nice girl?  The one who goes after what she wants and sticks up for herself and asks.  Even when she knows her asking may be putting someone else out.

I came up with this brilliant plan that would enable me to keep taking my morning yoga classes through the summer while the twins are out of school.  We don’t use babysitters therefore, if they’re home, I’m not going.  Except that I concocted this fantastic way that I could go, the twins would have a crash course in the work world and budgeting, and the yoga studio would still have my membership dollars.  It is a major three-way win that could possibly make everyone very very happy.  I asked the twins if they were on-board and they were excited.  Now I just need to ask the yoga studio owner.  And everything has screeched to a halt.

The worst is that the twins are asking daily if I have an answer yet.  I’ve made up all sorts of excuses about trying to catch her at a good time, etc.  Maybe I should ask via email so she can save face if she needs to reject the idea.  We still have many weeks until summer; I don’t want to bring this up too early.  But the reality is that I’m finding it very difficult to simply ask.  To be frank: “I won’t be able to take yoga this summer if I don’t have a plan that works with our limitations, and this one could benefit all three parties.”

Why?  Because I don’t want to be judged (“why don’t you use babysitters?”), because I don’t want to hear something that makes me believe that she doesn’t give a crap about my presence (“that sucks that we’ll miss you this summer, but we’ll see you next fall.”), because I don’t want to ruin my cultivated image of Melissa the Nice Girl?  I don’t know why I’m dragging out the asking, I just know that I am.  And I know it’s something I do often.

Do you find it difficult to ask for things?  Harder to ask strangers vs. family members or the other way around?


1 loribeth { 04.26.12 at 8:30 am }

Incredibly difficult. :p Immediate family is probably easier to ask than others, because they know me best and know WHY I might be asking whatever I’m asking.

For whatever reasons, I have really internalized the old female dilemma of not wanting to make a fuss or draw too much attention to myself, and I really struggle with it. I find it hard to make decisions, to give a straight answer, to say yes or no. I can always see the other side, the shades of grey in a situation. I know it drives dh nuts sometimes.

2 gwinne { 04.26.12 at 8:48 am }

Oh, yes, I’m terrible about this. More so with strangers than family.

3 marwil { 04.26.12 at 8:54 am }

What a great story that you could go to the White House with the twins.

I’m terrible at asking for help, even when I’m struggling and my best friend calls I have a hard time letting my guard down and admit I’m not doing so good. So sometimes it’s easier to ask something from a stranger than my closest family and friends, sometimes the other way around, depending on the situation. Often I deal with things on my own just to get around not needing to ask. Yeah, it’s tricky.

4 Gail { 04.26.12 at 9:25 am }

It depends on the situation. I don’t have any trouble asking for work-related things and making sure that I have what I need to do my job. I have more trouble asking for personal things.

On a related note, I got an email yesterday from a woman at my church who asked for details on why I requested prayers a few weeks back. My church has small attendance cards that everyone fills out and puts in the offering basket and I had checked the box to request prayers. Anyway, she followed up to ask if there was a specific thing that I wanted to be prayed for and, since she asked, I went ahead and told her all about my IF struggles and lack of success and how we stopped all treatments 6 months ago and I just needed help to let go and move on. While we are thinking about adoption, we haven’t made any decisions at this point, but I asked if she knew of anyone else at church that might be supportive in going through the same thing. She emailed me back this morning with a woman’s name and information that she’d struggled with IF for 5 years and then they decided to adopt.

I don’t know if I would have been so forthright and just asked for help if I hadn’t read your post yesterday and if the church person hadn’t first prompted me by asking what I needed.

5 a { 04.26.12 at 10:10 am }

I think some of it is that you feel like you have to justify your request. I mean, how hard is it to say “Could my kids do this for you? It would enable me to continue yoga during the summer while they’re off.” When you start to add in the “I don’t leave my kids with babysitters” and other justifications for why you’re asking, it becomes a monumental task. The other side of the coin is people who agree to stuff they don’t want to do because they can’t say no or don’t want to disappoint or whatever.

I’m not afraid of asking…I just would rather not. I don’t want to be obligated to someone because I asked them for a favor. It’s another cost/benefit analysis thing for me.

Also, regarding the salary thing…when I started my current job, I had already been working professionally for several years in a different field. So, I had a salary history…but they were only hiring entry level. I wanted the job, so I accepted it. In the interim between my acceptance and the start date, I was speaking with someone about the details, and asked if the starting salary was firm or if they’d be willing to match my salary. I was told it was firm. But when I got all my paperwork, they had matched my salary. I don’t know if it was because I asked or not, but it’s better to plant that seed…

6 Mina { 04.26.12 at 10:31 am }

This is where being alone in the big, grown up world, helped me. I left home and went to uni and finally got a job when I was quite an adult, and although my family helped and supported me, I had to deal with life on my own. Fom daily stuff, to big, important things. I never counted on anyone, until I met my husband. And considering he hates talking on the phone or dealing with authorities, I am in charge with everything. I have to call, to ask questions, to make demands or ask for favours. I have had to for 16 years and counting. I do not like being obligated to someone I don’t like, but I trade favours and try to make “deals” with anyone if it benefits my family (if it’s for me, it must be something big, and right now I can’t think of the last time I wanted such a thing…).
So I understand you for not having the drive to ask. It’s a favour for you, and somehow you are always last on the priority list. I hope you just ask and get it over with. The worse that can happen is have the owner say no. Nevertheless, I hope for an yes. Think of it as a major favour for the children, maybe this way you get the motivation to ask sooner. 🙂

7 Chickenpig { 04.26.12 at 10:47 am }

We don’t use babysitters either, so my husband and I never go anywhere. It is hard for me to ask. It is even hard for me to ask my husband to take time out from his schedule to watch the kids or take them to appointments because he is earning all the money and I know the conflict with work puts him under stress.

8 Becky { 04.26.12 at 11:03 am }

I think as women we’re also “trained”/raised not to make others uncomfortable. So it makes perfect sense to me that you don’t want to ask the studio owner face-to-face for fear, as you said, of making her uncomfortable if she needs/wants to say no. But I think that needs to come back to us all owning our own emotions, if that makes sense?

I don’t any of our goals should be to raise “bitches”. However, it is important to teach our girls – and our boys – that they have a right to ask for what they need. I love, as I said yesterday, that you’re doing this with your kiddos already. However, it does seem that sooner or later it will come down to a whole “do what I say not what I do” issue. At least, that is what I’m afraid will happen at my house 😉

9 Kate { 04.26.12 at 11:18 am }

I’ve never been a big fan of asking strangers for things, especially favors. Family is a different story. I think my fear of hearing No has grown over the years… And this damn infertility nightmare seems to have made it even worse. It’s like I’m made of glass these days and any additional disappointment is like another layer of icing on the cake. And that kind of icing usually makes me cry, so I tend to avoid it. As much as I hate this weaker part of me that seems to be budding as quickly as my ovaries are drying up, I will continue to blame IF. As soon as I have conquered it, I plan to reclaim my assertiveness with a vengeance! I hope you are rewarded for your effort with the yoga studio!

10 HereWeGoAJen { 04.26.12 at 1:32 pm }

I not only have a hard time asking, I even have a hard time accepting even when it is offered.

11 It Is What It Is { 04.26.12 at 2:01 pm }

I wonder if the ability to put oneself out there by asking for things is a nurtured behavior. I learned, by default, early on in my life that I could not rely on the adults in my life and that I had to be self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-protective. My career in sales only reinforced the adage ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get” and seeing the benefit of asking play out again and again and again further reinforced it.

By the way, I disagree that being ‘nice’ is at odds with asking for things. While I can be a bitch if crossed in a disrespectful manner, I mostly consider myself assertive. I am nice and don’t have an entitlement mentality or fear of rejection (which is what I believe is at the root of not wanting to ask). I have learned, over the years, that how I ask makes a huge difference toward getting the desired outcome, so it very much feels like a well-honed skill.

As for whatever plan you’ve developed, try not to think of it as personal (although it may be, meaning someone might do something for you that they might not do for someone else) and the answer, whatever it is, will release you from the bondage of not knowing. Practice what you preach, mama. It is a benign enough request that I think you could email the owner of the yoga studio and lay it out there. Don’t hem and haw, don’t belittle the request, just put it forward. And, I would absolutely include that you’re being able to attend yoga at all while the kids are on summer break hinges upon a successful outcome (which puts the ball in the owners court and she may have an alternative that might work, too). Good luck!

12 Pale { 04.26.12 at 4:55 pm }

I do find it difficult to ask for things in certain circumstances … and I find that both (dysfunctional) family and strangers can be equally challenging. Sometimes you really have to just get your head into a place where you don’t care what others’ think … and some of us are better at that than others. Like you, sometimes I just don’t have the energy — because I am an introvert and even simple phone calls can feel like a big drain on certain days — ntm I don’t have the self-esteem armor … and I find it easier to let Mike take the lead. He is the designated negotiator, for example, because he can get himself into a head space where that kind of interaction is “fun”.

My most recent example is … there is another mom (the second person to touch this sore spot for me) who constantly interrupts my dd’s piano lesson (only a 30 minute lesson to begin with) by showing up early with her son and barging in. There is a little more to why I am annoyed, but that’s the nutshell …

I have a couple of options here … all of them are better than hurling flaming, hairy eyeballs and silent fuming. All involve pulling my big girl pants up, putting my articulate extrovert hat on and asking for what I want. But. I haven’t so far. Partly because I am afraid that I am making mountains out of a mole hill. Partly because I don’t want the teacher to think I am a tool with nothing better to do than to fuss over stupid things and make him miserable. He has complained about other students and their parents to my dd before … even though I think he should have a policy to avoid this issue … I hesitate to bring it up … even though I shouldn’t assume he’d take it badly … and/or … if I think I have a good point and I make it respectfully… I shouldn’t care HOW he takes it. And part of me is reluctant to call this woman rude … which is, I suppose why I have a problem with the behavior. I think she’s being inconsiderate. And even thought there is probably a way to ask for what I want respectfully, I hesitate to accuse someone of rudeness. Even though she is clearly not as concerned about us as I am about her. The last mom who pulled this used to actually CHAT the teacher UP and distract him after she barged in. At least this one just sits down quietly.

It’s silliness, really. I know it has to do with being grounded in myself. But sometimes it seems there is a fine line between teaching kids to ask/speak up appropriately and … teaching not to take yourself too seriously, to consider others’ POV (and not assume the worst motivations of others until you talk to them), to not be an entitled PIA and to pick your battles. Sometimes those values are hard to sort. I definitely err on the side of not speaking up when I am unsure of how effectively I can communicate. Because if it goes badly … I don’t want to have to blame myself.

Bottom line, if I am frustrated but haven’t tried to communicate about it … how ever messy it might get … I can’t entirely blame others for that state of affairs. But that doesn’t make it easier to ask for what I want. Many of the people I do know who ask routinely are labeled as “difficult.” Maybe because of the WAY they ask or because they don’t balance asking with consideration. I’m not sure. But it gives me pause. There is definitely gender politics in some of this … although I know men who also struggle with this, so you can’t completely generalize ….

13 k { 04.26.12 at 4:56 pm }

I have SO much trouble asking. And some of that comes with having reached out and gotten nothing when I’m that person who drops everything when someone reaches out. I really struggle with self-care on an emotional level because to me that requires asking something of someone else – watch the kids so I can go to a movie alone, that sort of thing. Heck I have trouble asking for time to take a bath in peace and quiet. I think in many ways I’ve been conditioned to feel selfish for those sorts of things.

I was in a very emotionally abusive relationship in my early 20’s, and it made the very independent and strong me a totally different person and I still have yet to shed all of the scars that created.

Like right now, I need – something. Support, love, my friends to reach out; but I feel selfish for asking it and needing it. We’ve made a huge life decision to stop ttc and I have started to engage in the “pain olympics” because I have friends with bigger issues going on. So I don’t ask. I help them through their ttc issues and related “stuff” and fall apart alone. I honestly don’t know how else to do it at this point. I think sometimes I feel like maybe this is just something I have to figure out by myself.

As women I do think we are conditioned to be “seen and not heard.” Take what we can get, and if you speak up you’re ungrateful. Even if nobody’s told you that outright, it’s all around us. Assertiveness is not seen as a feminine quality, and I think the big issue is redefining what “feminine” means.

Sorry for rambling, this triggered a lot for me. <3

14 Justine { 04.26.12 at 10:23 pm }

I think that k. hit the nail on the head when she said that assertiveness is not seen as a feminine quality. Men who speak up are deemed powerful. Women who speak up are, unfortunately, often dismissed as bitches … and not just by men, either, which, for me, is the worst part of it. Why are we not more supportive of other women who want something and go after it?

15 Tracey { 04.27.12 at 12:41 am }

I’m a bitch raising a nice girl, despite my efforts to raise a bitch.

Actually, I’m not a “real” bitch, just more toward that end than nice girl in that I usually get what I want. That said, I’m better at getting what I want when it’s in my control than when I have to ask for help to get it. I hate to ask for help. I don’t use sitters either, mostly because my little boy has autism, but am just now very rarely using his teacher to sit when I need to do go to something for my daughter because my inlaws are 84.

My daughter is a nice girl of 14, who dotes on her brother and is everyone’s idea of the perfect girl. She’d never ask for help. That worries me, which is why I’m trying to make her more of a bitch who sees herself as worthy of both help and rewards. The world is hard and while I move heaven and earth to “recover” my son to the point where he can live a happy and independent life, I know he will still be a burden of some level to her and I need her to be able to ask for help. But you can’t change. She’s nice.

As for your yoga situation, it seems the perfectly worded email from a writer like you is the way to go, especially since you’re not comfortable asking in the first place. If there’s a benefit in this for the yoga lady, be sure to highlight it, and play to the right emotions. Good luck.

An IVF mom, I blog for my IVF docs at Long Island IVF so I can share my stories. I’m hoping ICLW and NIAW can help me find blogs and spread the word about LIIVF’s free Micro-IVF cycle contest kicking off this week. Details for those interested are on the blog or Long Island IVF’s FB page.

16 Sara { 04.27.12 at 10:42 pm }

I find it nearly impossible to ask for things. I have absolutely no idea why. Yet, the one time that I DID try to ask for something (during salary negotiations for my current position, which I was already occupying in a temporary capacity), the person with whom I was negotiating actually yelled at me for asking, so maybe the reason is that I suck at asking for things, so I’ve learned not to do it. Hmmm.

17 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 04.29.12 at 9:55 pm }

I often don’t ask because I am very selective about how I use up social capital. I wouldn’t be concerned about using capital at the yoga studio, but if I’m asking for something from someone who’s in my daily or long-term life, I choose my requests very carefully. As if I’m only going to get one favor this year so it had better count. Even though for some people there are a large number of favors allotted to me, and for others there are zero.

Usually it seems like you’re better off asking, except that DH asks often and then at his annual review got chastised by his boss for asking for too much (though I think the exact word used was complaining). And so in the upcoming future he will probably not ask for anything even if it’s important. Hmmph.

18 Orodemniades { 04.30.12 at 4:00 pm }

I’ve stopped asking for things, because lifelong experience has taught me that I don’t get. It’s easier to rely on only myself.

19 Bea { 05.01.12 at 7:41 am }

Yeah, it’s hard to ask. I think strangers are worse for me – my family can be pretty frank. That said, my mother is a tricky one because she is of the always-say-yes persuasion, which gives me pause. But I think in the end you’re going to have to take a deep breath with the yoga situation, aren’t you? Have you done it yet?


(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
The contents of this website are protected by applicable copyright laws. All rights are reserved by the author