Be A Pain in the Donkey. Please.
Photo Credit: Sergio Rao / Unsplash
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 a**. 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 derriere.
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 backside, 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 you-know-where – 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 Authentic Communication Tips for being a Pain in the Donkey:
Jennifer, I’m so glad I ran across your post. I told someone this morning exactly what I needed and I know they weren’t expecting it and it was uncomfortable. I’ve been second-guessing myself all day. Your post reinforced my decision and intent and renews my confidence that I did the right thing. Thank you
That's great news, Mary. I applaud you for your expressing your needs. It's a powerful way to uphold our own integrity while deepening connections with others. Thank you for sharing your story!
It occurs to me that asking for what you need or want, does not only have to be adressed to someone specific, but actually is something you can do to your self or the universe.To clarify to yourself what you really want can be quite revealing.Most of us (women) want to please and wait for many years until we dare to speak out loud. The other aspect is ; when you speak to your bodycells or to the universe, tell them what you want but as if it allready has happened.
Hi dear Kerstin,
Jen, great points! Even I can learn from my younger children! Thank you. I will try not to avoid being a pain in the donkey, and ask for what I need. However, I by now know most of my audiences and will be very selective of who I ask for what I may need.
Much love to you. Great message. Thanks so much.
Thank you so much, Fran! I think you know how liberating it can be to live this way! :-)
Hi Jennifer. Great info! I must confess that while I have become quite good at communicating my needs in my professional life (absolutely necessary working in a male dominated industry), often the struggles continue in my personal life, particularly with my family. But I continue to make progress and this just helps to encourage me even more. XO
Hat's off to you, Christy, for running a business AND for making clear requests at work!
Yo Annie! :-)
Thanks Jennifer¡ Great article. I agree with this part "Be clear. take a few minutes to think about what you’re asking for" Sometimes you just talk without thinking on being as much clear as you can, It is just taking a few seconds and rethinking what you want to say, lately I do it and it has helped me a lot. BE CLEAR¡
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Here you'll find some of my thoughts about communication, contemplation, yoga, life and various other topics. Thanks for giving them a read.