Do you make requests at work, only for your co-workers to brush you off? Or when you ask your kids for more help around the house, do your requests fall on deaf ears?
Women, and especially mothers, excel at taking care of the needs of everyone around us. But when it comes to persuading someone to do something for us, it can feel awkward or be difficult, says Laurie Puhn, a lawyer and author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life.
Well, not anymore! You can learn to be persuasive—and do so without being bullish. The path to getting what you need is filled with obstacles, but if you present your case the right way, you will find success. Here’s how:
1. Remember that Rules Can Be Broken
Don’t let a policy prevent you from asking for what you need or want. “Just because something is always done a certain way doesn’t mean you can’t be the exception,” says Puhn.
For example, if you want to return something after 35 days, but a store policy states 30 days is the limit, ask anyway. Simply be polite and apologetic. (Remember the saying “You attract more bees with honey than vinegar.”)
2. Give a Good Reason
To be successful, you must state your case—all of it. Utilize what Puhn calls “The Because Clause.” “Research shows you’re more likely to get what you want if you use the word ‘because’ and give a reason for making the request,” she asserts. Helping people understand why you’re asking makes them more sympathetic to your cause.
So, the next time you want to change tables at a crowded restaurant, don’t announce, “We want to move to that booth, please.” Try, “I’d like to move because this area is so loud I can’t hear my friend speak.”
If it’s a raise you’re after, tell your boss you deserve it because of specific contributions you have made—and name them.
3. Be Results-Oriented
Only presenting a problem (e.g., “I haven’t gotten a raise in two years!”) puts the other person on the defense right away. And if someone feels attacked, they are less likely to come up with a solution, says Puhn.
Likewise, if you place blame or waste time disagreeing over who is right and who is wrong (“No, the cable has been out since yesterday!”), it may only lead to a full-blown argument, not results.
Instead, summarize the problem without blaming anyone, then immediately suggest a few solutions. Proposing a resolution from the get-go makes it easier for the other person to simply say OK, recommends Puhn.
4. Ask For the Moon, Get the Stars
Not sure what to propose? Whether you ultimately want more help around the house or retribution from the cable company, start by asking for something big, then negotiate. “When the person feels like they’re getting you to back down, they feel better about giving in to a compromise,” says Puhn.
Fed up with gathering dirty clothes off your teenager’s bedroom floor, for instance? Calmly propose she start doing her own laundry. When she balks, negotiate the smaller task of her bringing clothes to the laundry room and sorting them herself.
5. Acknowledge the Other Side
When trying to persuade someone, it’s important to listen to and address his or her objections. “If you listen first, you can adjust your request based on the new information,” says Puhn.
If you meet with resistance (which is likely when asking for a raise or something else substantial), try turning the tables. Ask your boss: “What do I need to do to get a raise?” Then, come back three or six months later and show that you’ve met those requirements, suggests Puhn.
6. Don’t Take No for an Answer
If you can’t get exactly what you want, keep negotiating, and you may at least get something, advises Puhn.
Your boss can’t afford to give you a raise? Acknowledge her position by saying, “I understand there’s no budget for a $10,000 salary hike, but I would like a sign from the company that it values me as an employee.” See what she says but be ready to put to use tricks No. 3 or 4: Propose they give you more vacation days or allow a more flexible schedule.
No matter the situation, if you approach it with confidence and use these tricks, over time you will develop the powers of persuasion. You may not always get exactly what you want, but you will gain satisfaction in trying.
Anne L. Fritz is the former style director for Life & Style and has been on staff at Woman’s Day and Working Mother. She has contributed to Marie Claire, Glamour, Prevention and many websites, including Everyday Health and About . Fritz is also the founder of The Jet Set Girls , a website about girls’ getaways, and a frequent contributor to Life & Beauty Weekly.