When and How Do You Ask for What You Want?

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open this week. Why? Because she would have to meet with the media right after her play.

This is a big deal. She’s one of the top tennis players in the world. I suspect that she’s a big draw for the television rights.

Naomi asked for what she wanted. First, she skipped the press conferences. They fined her. Then, she dropped out of the Open altogether.

She asked for what she wanted—when she wanted it. I admire her courage.

Other athletes use their courage, too. Marshawn Lynch famously gave a press conference where he said, “I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”

I wonder why we expect sports figures to dissect their performance immediately after they finish. I don’t think we demand that from us normal people. Back in my ballroom dancing days, we let several days pass before we discussed our dance performance with our coach.

And, if the athlete in question is an introvert, someone who finds their energy from within? They might not have the emotional energy to give a reasonable press conference right after they perform.

Even I, an extrovert, get tired after I deliver a talk or a workshop. I don’t want to discuss my work immediately after. I prefer to wait until I have a little perspective.

How about you? When do we find our courage to ask for what we want, and how? I’ll start with the when.

When Do You Ask for What You Want?

We don’t have to be sportspeople to choose when to ask for what we want. I was at a family dinner at a restaurant. I didn’t like a lot of what was on the plate (including asparagus), so I asked for green beans instead. The waitperson said that was fine. Everyone else received their dinner. 20 minutes later, I walked out of the room and asked the waitperson what the story was. A beloved family member (BFM) asked the waitperson to get me double asparagus. The kitchen didn’t know what to do. I said, “Believe me,” and then discussed our options. All of which included “Bring me something now!”

I returned to the dinner and BFM was out of her chair, looking worried. I said, “I hate asparagus. Hate it. When you told them to give me double-asparagus, they didn’t know what to do.”

I sat back down and my dinner arrived in stages over the next several minutes. The green beans were delicious.

My stakes were much less important than Osaka’s or Lynch’s. While my family relationships might have partly been on the line, my career was not on the line.

But think about this—what might be the effect of asking for what you want, at this time?

The when is often about the personal stakes for you. The how to ask might also be related.

How Do You Ask for What You Want?

My guiding principle when I think about the how question is this: Can I ask for what I want in a way that respects the other person’s desires?

At a restaurant, ordering dinner, BFM tried to take care of me. I’m quite capable of taking care of myself. I spoke with respect.

Osaka and Lynch had more people to consider—their livelihoods were at stake. This means their work supports their families and business associates. All that pressure requires the courage to speak clearly and respectfully.

When I have a lot at stake, I’m not always able to speak with respect—especially if I feel the other person doesn’t respect me.

If I remember congruence, I’m better off.

Congruence offers me a lens through which I might see the whole situation better.

Osaka and Lynch had these problems:

  • The context was that they play their sports where the media rights compose a huge piece of revenue. The media wants access to the players on a regular basis.
  • The other person (the officials at the Open and the NFL) don’t feel as if they need to negotiate with each player. The officials make agreements with the media. The officials placate the media, disregarding the athletes’ needs.
  • The self, the athlete, might not even feel as if they have choices—the context was already decided before they showed up to play.

I suspect the athletes felt the same way about the situation as I feel about asparagus. Even with butter and salt, I hate it.

Osaka left, took herself out of the tournament. I suspect she felt as if she asked and she got nowhere.

Lynch decided on a sentence that would serve his needs (for over 6 minutes!) and repeated it. They decided how to use their courage and respect the situation.

Courage Counts

We each use our courage differently in different situations. I am sure the stakes matter. When I think clearly, I can use the options in What Does Courage Mean to You?.

I can think clearly when I’m congruent. That means I need to find my center to be able to ask for what I want when I want it. Easy to say. Not easy to do.

That, my dear adaptable readers, is the question this week: When and how do you ask for what you want?

One thought on “When and How Do You Ask for What You Want?

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