We know. Asking for what you want is potentially mortifying. What if you come off as needy or pushy? "But learning to do it is a crucial part of taking care of yourself," says Laura Fredricks, author of "The Ask." Instead of pussyfooting around, try using this formula: "May I have X because of Y?" with the emphasis on the word because. It's simple, but it works.
In a study at The City University of New York, people were instructed to ask someone using a copy machine if they could go first. When they offered a reason (e.g., "Can I go first because I'm in a rush?"), they were given permission 94 percent of the time, versus 60 percent when they gave no explanation. The tactic worked even when the "because" was as lame as "I have to make copies." Want to learn how to get much more than xeroxing privileges? Follow this primer to ask for...
Saying "I'm sorry" is only a start, says couples mediator Laurie Puhn, author of "Fight Less, Love More." First, admit you're at fault: "I'm so sorry I missed your birthdayparty." Then accept responsibility: "I was disorganized, and I double-booked." Expressing regret is also important: "I feel terrible that I was so inconsiderate. It won't happen again." Finally, make amends: "Let me buy you a drink. I won't flake this time."
Two rules here — be brief, and lay out the facts, says life coach Eli Davidson, author of "Funky to Fabulous." Research shows that when we're stressed, it's tougher to remember what we want to say, so the simpler your script, the more poised you'll be. Plus, people tend to be more receptive to short, clear requests, Davidson says. So skip the windup ("Um, so I hear you really like indie rock..."). Instead, briefly express your interest in getting together ("I'd love to hang out"), then focus on what Davidson calls men's magic three directives—what, when and where, as in, "Want to go to the Arcade Fire concert next Tuesday night downtown?" Still nervous? "Remind yourself that most men will feel relieved about not having to make the first move," Davidson says.
A discount or freebie
If you're squeamish about bargaining ("I'll seem cheap!"), start small. If you're considering joining a gym, ask if you can score a free personal training session if you sign up. To get a bargain with a professional such as a masseur or nutritionist, find out whether paying for several sessions up front will garner you a cheaper rate, or if she'll let you pay on a sliding scale (in other words, a fee that depends on your income level). Many merchants are open to bartering, too, particularly if they run their own show and have the power to make a deal. Approach them with a proposition such as, "I'll redesign your website for five free mani-pedis at your spa. How about it?"
A raise or promotion
Preparation is everything here, so have your numbers down before you negotiate. First, check out Salary.com or PayScale.com to see what others are earning for similar positions in your area; use that figure as a benchmark during your discussion. Before you go in, jot down reasons you're a valuable employee and deserve the bump up. "Mention specific new responsibilities you've taken on," says Libby Gill, author of "You Unstuck." You should also think of a few reasons why your advancement could help the company. Say something such as, "I've come up with a few new ideas to tackle our marketing problem, because I know marketing plans are one of the main responsibilities of a sales manager." It's also smart to anticipate challenges to your request; if your boss says, "Well, we're on a very tight budget right now," and your company considers promotions annually, negotiate for another review in six months. Lastly, rehearse your points beforehand in front of a mirror or with a friend so you'll walk in smiling—and walk out the same way, promotion in hand.
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