Representing one’s own needs comes naturally to some people and not to others. If I am to be direct, and I usually am, men have no problem asking for what they want but most women are stuck in this people-pleasing word where we feel guilty if just for asking for what we want. Excuse me? Why is that? I think its genetic or biological or maybe we are brainwashed from a young age. Whatever it is representing my needs has never come naturally to me. But, in my journey to self-discovery and fulfillment, I have been exploring, without judgment, my natural tendencies. And, in the process, I’ve discovered that I am a people pleaser … a junkie for external praise, if you will. My focus, in my work and my personal life, is to please everyone but myself. I’m always last.
What I’ve come to realize is that my people pleasing mentality has contributed to my feeling of discontent in my work and at home. From what I have observed, when I consistently please people, at one point I inevitably get pissed off that I have given too much of myself and more often than not, I feel underappreciated.
I don’t know about you but I have a hard time advocating for myself without being a total bitch. I hate to say it’s the plight (fear) of many women.
How does a woman represent their needs without feeling guilty?
It’s hard for me, I can tell you that. At work, I start thinking, before a meeting, about how I’m going to advocate for my needs and the needs of my company, my team. I race through a mental process that goes something like this: I anticipate a fight, predict the outcome, and then sell myself short. From the beginning of the conversation, in the hopes of avoiding the conflict, I acquiesce. In the end, I have agreed to do something I don’t really want to do, and inevitably I become resentful. It’s fine at the onset; I’m usually accommodating, even-tempered, helpful and happy, but eventually I reach a breaking point, which doesn’t usually mean a happy ending.
I’ve been a creative director of my digital design firm for over 15 years. I’ve watched the process above unfold many times. It’s not my client’s fault. It’s mine. It’s my fault for approaching work with a people pleasing mentality. A wise man once said to me, “you are not there to please them you are there to serve them. Serve their needs. If you aren’t serving them then you aren’t helping them.” Clients don’t need people pleasers they need someone who serves their needs. This is the same in teams. Serve your team, rather than please them. And guess what, it’s the same for spouses, children, and friends.
For everyone, men and women included, defining one’s needs and advocating for those needs is crucial to fulfillment and success in all aspects of life, both professional and personal. So here are four steps I’ve learned that help me get what I need and serve my clients, friends and family in the process. I call it a win/win and so does Stephen Covey (7 Habits of Highly Effective People).
A 4 Step Approach to Getting What You Need
- Approach a problem with the mantra “I am not fighting with them, I am representing my needs.”
- Focus on serving rather than pleasing; it will be better for all in the long run.
- Communicate what you need from someone, without thinking of the person’s incapabilities, perhaps they will surprise you.
- Say what you need, simply, plainly, effectively, without anticipating or even trying to imagine what the other person is thinking.
Remember, how can you get what you want if you don’t ask for it? Imagine the day when your needs are not only met, but fulfilled beyond your wildest dreams. Now move toward that direction.