(This column is not directed at the chronically and unabashedly unreasonable and inappropriate people…and you know who you are…)
A common dilemma I run into, (both in my own life and in my clients’ lives), is the impulse to tolerate situations that make us feel uncomfortable or violates our values.
For instance, I was stymied trying to figure out what I should ask for from a provider who had not fully fulfilled his contract. I kept telling my coach, “I’m not sure what’s reasonable to ask for…”
So she asked me, “Well, what’s unreasonable?” By the end of the coaching, I decided that my ‘unreasonable’ request was exactly where I should start the negotiation. And I ended up getting some money refunded in a situation where most people thought I wouldn’t get anything.
Another case in point: a young woman I know (in a male-dominated department) regularly gets her work done on time, while her (male) colleague doesn’t deliver his work on time and continually gets time off for outside work activities. (And she suspects he makes more money than she does…)
Her ability to deliver work on time means she gets asked to do even more work-particularly when there is a last-minute assignment. She has already verbally asked for a fairer redistribution of work and for a resumption of weekly meetings where these things could be discussed. She continually worries about what’s appropriate behavior in this situation. It was clear how dissatisfied she felt with both the situation and her own actions to remedy it. It just didn’t feel like her concerns were being taken seriously.
I asked what an ideal resolution would look like. We (jokingly) coached around what would be inappropriate-losing her cool, throwing things, etc. Just joking about these things opened up some energy.
Suddenly she said, “I need to write down this request and email it to my supervisor.” I had a sudden burst of energy. It was clear this felt like a much stronger (and appropriate!) next action to both of us.
Sometimes it’s as simple as that. Many people stay in the ‘too nice’ zone when they want situations resolved. If you’re asking yourself (and you’re stuck too firmly) in the ‘what’s reasonable and appropriate behavior?’ question, you miss what it is that you really want or what a stronger action would look like on your own behalf.
And while you may not get everything you really want (especially where another person or group is involved), you definitely won’t get it if you don’t ask strongly enough for it.
May we pursue our paths, finding the best ways to advocate for ourselves, without an undue burden of what’s appropriate and reasonable,