It’s de rigueur to tell young people, & especially young women, that the only path to success is unstinting drive & a willingness to push no matter what. But while being positively assertive truly is a great asset in both business & life, the oft-stated platitude that ‘it never hurts to ask for more’ lacks some much-needed nuance.
Following that advice to its logical end & acting like some ersatz Donald Trump isn’t natural for most of us, & would fit just as badly as one of you-know-who’s toupees. There are a ton of ways to be successful, & it’s silly to assert that having a high emotional IQ is bad for business.
When Asking For More Is A Mistake
We all know that it definitely can hurt to ask. Studies show that people actively avoid those they perceive as chronically entitled, & no one has ever gone “Wow! I’ve politely declined this guy three times & he just won’t take a hint. I really want to hang out with him more & am not quietly scanning for the closest exit at all!”
I don’t want to seem like I’m suggesting we all Lean Out or stop embracing our inner #GirlBoss here; I understand why ‘ask for more’ is such popular advice. Humans are a pretty polite species, & social fears run deep. Most of us sometimes avoid making reasonable requests on the off chance they’ll cause offense.
But advising people to ignore their instincts & push ahead is unhelpful. Its vagueness makes it sound like it’s advocating for myopic thinking, & it doesn’t differentiate being assertive from being an imposition.
Trust Your Instincts
Even if our social instincts tend to be over-active, we have them for a reason. They’re an asset, not a liability. Humans have to listen to their guts, because other people usually won’t tell someone they’re being being rude or behaving entitled — especially in a professional environment. Instead, when someone’s expectations are unreasonable, friends & coworkers become avoidant.
And avoidance is the kiss of death. If acquaintances run away from someone, that person can’t repair the damage that’s already been done, let alone further their relationships.
Testing Peoples’ Limits Can Backfire
Asking too much of others has plenty of negative consequences. Entitled people often get ‘ghosted’ on & have trouble maintaining ties. Managers who don’t respect boundaries frequently have high employee turnover & become liabilities to their companies, not to mention the negative effects bad word of mouth from ex-employees & ex-clients can have.
Plus, advocates of asking-at-all-costs really seem to undervalue being liked. In the long run, having peoples’ good will is far better than pushing through a small request.
You Have Lots Of Other Options
We’ve all been told to pick our battles; why not be strategic with our asks as well? That way, when it’s really important we don’t have to be worried that the people we’re asking are burned out on us.
There’s a wide, highly negotiable gray area between being a pushover & being Demand-Bot 3000, & I truly believe there’s room for all of us in there. It’s far better to be the best version of you than to cut your personality down to fit some cliched 1960s CEO ideal, & definitely a whole lot less miserable.
Bottom line: Assertiveness keeps relationships constructive & clears up issues quickly. Imposition breeds resentment & makes the person asking seem unprofessional or incompetent.
Have you ever been asked too much? How did you handle it?
Also, if you have any suggestions for better ways of asking, please do tell! Thanks for reading!