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I have good news and bad news.
Naturally, you want the good news first, right? Okey dokey. Here it is: You have access to conceive, achieve and receive, whatever you want.
The bad news? You have to ask for it.
Yes, siree. You have to say the words. Verbalize it. OH MY GOD…be vulnerable.
Wowza. We’ve just solved one of the biggest mysteries of life in a simple widow blog post. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.
I learned this very important lesson from a very important person.
Now I’m going to share it with you.
How I Learned About Asking for What I Want
When I was in my early twenties I worked for a car rental company. The goal of an entry-level management trainee was to become a branch manager. And then an area manager and possibly a district manager. I did this job for about 3 years until I decided managing a car rental branch wasn’t my jam. I mean, the customer service aspect was brutal. People who get in accidents and need to rent cars are not happy people.
So, I applied to be the General Manager’s executive assistant and got the job. One aspect of my job was to handle any computer-related tasks of the corporate office staff so I was tasked with ordering, installing and fixing any software issues. I also had to teach people how to use new software, too. This was all on-the-job training for me, but I learned how to do all sorts of computer-related tasks.
My life’s goal wasn’t to be an executive assistant either, so I applied for a job as a computer consultant since I had a few years of software training under my belt. When it came time for the interview, my husband suggested the salary range I should ask for.
His suggestion was DOUBLE what I made in my current position. I thought he was Crazy with a capital C. I mean, how could I possibly justify making twice as much money? How is that even possible?
He said very matter-of-factly, “well, it’s possible if you ask for it. You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”
He had a point. I mean, the worst they could say is no, right?
So I asked for what I wanted. I asked for DOUBLE my current salary. And, the interviewer didn’t even bat an eyelash.
I got the job and the salary. The next time I advanced my position I asked for double that salary. I kid you not.
It works, people.
When I Forgot This Very Important Lesson
So, fast forward to my post-widow days. You know, the days of slogging through umpteen mundane tasks because you’re the only one around to do them. Days of arguing with teenagers whose surly, rotten attitudes make you want to gauge out your eyeballs because it would be less painful.
Days that crush your soul because you have so much to do but can’t be in twelve places at once.
These days are killing me.
But, I rarely ask for help. Oh sure, I’ll ask my mother-in-law to babysit and help with the kids on occasion. But even then I don’t ask nearly enough.
I plow through my days, wiping away tears of frustration and getting stomach aches because I’m so overwhelmed. Until I have dinner with my girlfriends who ask me point blank, “well, have you asked for help? People don’t know what you need, Kim. We want to help you but we don’t know what you need.”
Hell. I don’t even know what I need most days.
All I know is I can’t continue down this path of DOING-IT-ALL-BY-MYSELF because the guys in the white coats will soon knock on my door. The song They’re Coming To Take Me Away keeps replaying in my head. Remember that song?
That really creepy singer who says, “They’re coming to take me away ha-ha, they’re coming to take me away ho-ho hee-hee ha-haaa…”
That’s me. The crazy lady in the white coat getting dragged away kicking and screaming because I lost my ever-loving mind.
I can hear my dead husband’s words echoing down my hallway as if he’s calling out to me from the other side, “silly girl, what did I tell you all along? You don’t get what you don’t ask for.”
I don’t want “them” to come and take me away. Ha ha. Ho ho. Hee hee.
So, I started asking for more help.
I’m not going to lie.
Knowing What You Need is The First Step
So, it sounds simple enough, right? Ask for what you want. Boom. Done.
Well, it’s not always that simple.
Part of asking for what you want is knowing what you need.
I think most of us, myself included, expect other people to see our overwhelm. We think they should be able to see/hear that we are going crazy and step in with a solution to lighten our load. Only people don’t always see it. How can they not see it? Or if they do see it, they’re possibly paralyzed by fear of overstepping boundaries or doing something wrong.
So, we have to TELL them. SPECIFICALLY.
We have to assess our own needs and then properly communicate those needs to whoever can help.
I hemmed and hawed for days before I asked my boyfriend to help me with my schedule. My younger son was going to be home alone a couple of nights a week while I took my older son to therapy appointments. Now, it’s not that my younger can’t fend for himself, he can. But, he shouldn’t have to. So I asked my boyfriend to bring dinner for my younger son and himself on those nights and hang out until I got home.
And the earth continues to spin on its axis.
How To Ask for What You Want
Once you’ve assessed your needs, you can start deciding whom to ask for what.
1. Assess Your Needs
This bears repeating because it’s the essential first step. Write down a list of all the things you want, need or things that are overwhelming you right now.
Want a raise? Need help with home repairs? Overwhelmed with carpool duties?
2. Be Specific
If you decide you want a raise, write down the specific reasons you deserve one. It’s OK if you decide you need help with home repairs. But specifically, which home repairs can you not reasonably complete on your own?
If carpool duty is getting too complicated, write down ways to alleviate the burden.
3. Realize Your Worth
It’s imperative to believe you’re worthy of what you’re asking for. Do you believe you’re worthy of more money? Worthy of receiving help? This one has taken me a long time to understand. If you don’t believe you’re worthy, your requests could come off as insincere.
For example, if you ask a neighbor for help finding a good lawn service and you say, “hey, Bill, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m thinking I might try to find a lawn service, but I’m not sure. I don’t know if I really need a lawn service or not. I mean, I could probably do it myself, but my schedule is so whacked I’m not sure I have time to get to it. What do you think?”
How likely is Bill to help you? I don’t even think Bill could understand the request! Do you really need help or not? This request doesn’t sound very sincere because it’s not specific and you don’t sound worthy of help.
Someone who believes she’s worthy of help might say, “Bill, I really need help with my lawn. Can you recommend a good lawn service or do you know someone who can?”
Don’t apologize for needing help. Believe your worthy and believe people really do want to help once they know what you need.
4. Be Prepared to Accept No
It’s quite possible you don’t get the raise you asked for. Or you request help from someone who legitimately doesn’t have the time or the means to help you.
That’s OK. It’s really good in fact.
When the answer is no, it gives you an opportunity to re-evaluate. If your raise request is denied, you can always ask why, but more importantly, ask what you need to do in the next six to 12 months to get to a yes.
If the request for help is denied, don’t take it personally. That person doesn’t have the means to help you and they just did you a favor by freeing up your time to find someone who can. It’s in your best interest to only accept help from those willing or able to help you anyway.
Once someone says no you can always follow-up with, “thanks so much for letting me know. Can you recommend anyone who can help with X?”
5. Work with Others’ Schedules
If someone agrees to help you it’s important to work with their schedules. Everyone is busy. Everyone has a million things on their to-do lists.
Of course, I’m one of those widows who thinks my schedule is 1,000% busier than anyone else’s, and while that may be true, I still have to take other schedules into account.
When you ask for help, be prepared to work on a mutually beneficial timeline.
Where to Turn for Help If You Don’t Have Local Support
I get that not everyone has family support, neighbor support, friends or acquaintances to ask for help. You might live in the boondocks. Be estranged from family. Or not have a large support network.
In that case, you can take advantage of one of the many websites or apps that can provide help.
As a single woman, I’m always cautious of strangers coming into my home. I NEVER tell people I’m a widow or that I live alone. I’ve had neighbors come over posing as my husband before. And I’ve been known to refer to my husband when talking to potential suppliers as in, “I’ll talk it over with my husband and get back to you.”
Exercise extreme caution when agreeing to let someone come to your house.
I get lots of really useful information from the Nextdoor website that bills itself as a “private social network for you, your neighbors and your community.” You can reach out to neighboring communities and ask for referrals for anything from painters to roofers to someone willing to pick up dog poop in your backyard.
The Home Advisor website hooks you up with pros in your area to help build, remodel or fix anything related to your house.
The Task Rabbit website (and app) bills itself as “The convenient & affordable way to get things done around the home.” Need a handyman? Someone to assemble furniture? Hang pictures?
You describe the task and Task Rabbit hooks you up with folks willing to do the job.
You can get groceries delivered from your local grocery stores right to your house with apps like Instacart or Shipt. Or you can shop online and pick up at the store of your choice with any number of retailers like Wal-Mart or Target.
Need a meal plan, workout routine or want an astrology reading? Fiverr is the world’s largest marketplace for digital services. Services start at just $5, hence the name. Fiverr enables you to browse the selection of freelancers offering services, and to place orders in just one click.
Widow Wrap Up
Asking for what you want is hard. Like, really hard.
But, you don’t get what you don’t ask for so it’s kind of necessary. Most of us don’t want to ask for help because we think we’re burdens on everyone else, but people do really want to help. They just don’t know how because they don’t know what you need.
My stress level has decreased since I started asking for more help. I’m not a bundle of nerves trying to figure out what how to be in 12 places at once.
Start asking. You’re worth it.
Need help organizing and prioritizing your tasks and helpers? Download the MY SOS LIST printable from the free resource library!