I was listening to an interview on the radio the other day about the pay discrepancy at Google. A young woman was talking about her experience as an ambitious and hard-working staffer on a Google tech team. She described how, after she left the team, she learned that her former manager had considered her a pain in the ass. She thought he had been a great manager, someone to whom she could turn with her questions and insights. He, though, thought she was a pain in the ass.
About a year ago, when I gave my first Authentic Communication workshop, one of the participants bristled at my insistence that we learn to voice our needs by making specific, well-articulated requests. She worried that doing so would earn her the “PITA” moniker as well.
"That," I said, "is a risk you have to take."
If you don’t express yourself and your needs, you will probably avoid being known as a pain in the ass, but it's also likely that you'll squelch a part of you that has a valuable contribution to make. By repeatedly sidelining your own needs, you can fall into chronic disappointment, confusion, misunderstanding, overwhelm or even loneliness – a murky cocktail that can overshadow your bright light, your brilliance, your magic.
Maybe it’s helpful to remember that every time you ask for what you need – and risk being a pain in the ass – your action is about more than just you. Every request is two-sided.
On one hand, I’m asking for something that will meet my needs – big or small. I ask my husband to get me a glass of lemonade when I’m thirsty. I ask my client to pay more for my consulting work when my skills improve and costs rise. I ask my neighbor to keep the noise down after 11 p.m. when I need a good night’s rest.
On the other hand, my request creates an opportunity for building relationships. It’s an invitation for connection, for an expression of generosity, for giving that is only possible when there is someone like me who's there to receive.
Asking for what you need demands a certain amount of vulnerability, to be sure. But as the brilliant researcher, author and speaker Brené Brown teaches, vulnerability is inseparable from courage.
If you fail to ask for what you need, you shut down a part of yourself. Some aspect of who you are is not being expressed in the world. You're putting a barrel over the light that is your life.
Whenever you make yourself vulnerable enough to ask for what you really need, you're undertaking an act of connection, courage and self-love. Articulate your requests with dignity and integrity and come into an even fuller expression of your magnificent self. Please.
5 Tips for being a Pain in the Ass: