Is That a Trash Can?
Standing in line at the airport, lugging two overstuffed duffle bags and the morning’s leftover banana peel, I spotted a trash can directly behind the airport attendant. I asked “is that a trash can?” Nodding, he extended his hand.
Is that a trash can? Well, it sure seemed to be a trash can. It exhibited no mammalian qualities, smelled nothing of lavender, could probably be ruled out of the electronics category; and if there was any doubt in my mind, the bolded “trash” label should have cleared up that confusion. Despite evidence otherwise, I was making a request—in the least burdensome and most convoluted method I could manage.
Newly conscious of this habit, I now hear myself insert “if it isn’t an inconvenience” and “are you sure that you don’t mind?” after every request, nonetheless using both with sincerity. But while softened appeals may be harmless, and genuinely polite, in the case of trash disposal, such restraint has been a handicap, not an advantage, in business.
In a boardroom as much as at an airport, I find myself tempted to ask around what I want, rather than for what I want. But fundraising seems less effective when I insert “if it isn’t an inconvenience” after my request. I’ve found that delegation instructions in a business context shouldn’t include the coda, “are you sure you don’t mind?” It turns out that convoluted solicitations carry no leverage.
In a professional world overwhelming led by men, women in particular must be bold in asking for what they want. Verbal distancing may be more comfortable, but it is certainly less valuable. You see that a change is needed? Be explicit. You want a raise? Say so. You need donations? Ask for them.
Be kind. Be polite. Be genuine. Recognize that you ought not and need not compromise any of these priorities in order to get what you want. Let please and thank you replace verbal meandering. Rehearse confidence in asking for trivialities now, so that you are prepared to ask for what truly matters later.
….That is, if it isn’t an inconvenience.
Image from http://trainpigs.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/trash-can.jpg