Friday, January 06, 2006

Asking for what we want

For many years, I have had a certain ambivalence about asking for what I want. Somewhere, I acquired a belief that it was not exactly wrong, but maybe tacky, to ask directly. So it always seems somewhat unfair to me when I notice that people are getting what they want simply because they ask for it.

I notice that I am not alone, when I search out sales experts and find them divided between the ones who say "you have to ask for the sale" and the ones who say "you do not have to ask if you have done everything else well." Asking for the sale is hard. It presupposes a risk of rejection. It also presupposes that we know what we want and are willing to be held accountable for wanting it. It is convenient to hope that we will not have to ask if we do everything else right. I am always suspicious of this kind of convenience.

Some people carry this further: they do not want even to let themselves know what they want. Nothing will stand between them and the things they want as long as they do not htink very hard about what it is they want. They will not be held accountable, even by themselves. These are not people who have horrible, twisted desires. They are simply people who have good reasons to value being stuck where they are, people who resist the knowledge that the one thing denied us as human beings is to stand still. We need direction because we are always going someplace. Change happens.

I am learning to ask for what I want. Not all the time and not from everyone I meet. Sometimes - when I have a voice for what I really want. I am learning that asking is not always the same as being exposed. The dazzling clarity of a simple request can distract attention from the muddle from which it issues. I am noticing that one of the reasons people who ask get what they want is that life rewards people who believe that change can bring good things. And who show a little moxy as they express that belief.

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