I came across this expression for the first time a few months ago and I was intrigued by the sheer audacity of it. I Googled it and it turns out this only represents two thirds of the full saying which is “Ask for 100% of what you want from 100% of the people 100% of the time”. Well that about covers it right?
I didn’t hear phrases like this when I was growing up. In our household, fairness and balance were stressed above all so I was more likely to hear things like “Take only what you need and leave the rest for someone else” or “Never ask for more than you deserve”. In this case, “deserve” meant only what I had earned through hard work. It was understood that tinkering with this formula would only upset the karmic balance and my “greed” would come back to bite me in the ass. And, growing up in small-town Ontario, it’s not like I was exposed to a lot of diverse points of view. Most of the people in my social circle shared the same “be happy with what you get” philosophy. Parents were more likely to encourage their kids to “get a government job with a pension and then never leave” than to “follow your dreams and be all that you can be”.
This isn’t necessarily a harmful approach to parenting. While not overly ambitious, the idea of taking only what you need cultivates compassion and collaboration, qualities that are in short supply in most workplaces. When I started my own career, my sense of fairness helped me seamlessly navigate internal politics and climb the corporate ladder slowly with each rung painstakingly earned rather than grabbed. And I can honestly say I’ve never stepped on anyone to get ahead.
I have wilfully maintained this philosophy more or less for my entire adult life and if I had read the 100% line even five years ago I would have dismissed it out of hand. But when I stumbled upon it recently, I said, “Yes! Why the hell not ask for 100% of what you want. Why would anyone in their right mind ask for 75% of what they want?”
So what’s changed? A few things. As I approach a really big birthday, I’ve questioned a lot of my assumptions and found to my horror and relief, some of them aren’t serving me well. Others are just plain dead wrong.
Earlier this year I blogged about learning to say no. This is a challenge for me and while working through it, I’ve realized I not only have trouble saying “no”, I also have trouble hearing “no”.
The problem with asking only for what you feel you deserve and can prove you deserve, is that you don’t hear no very often. If you only ask for a raise when you’ve spent years accumulating reams of examples of how you’ve gone above and beyond to do your job and other people’s as well, you’re probably going to get it. In other words, the answer will likely be “yes”
When you ask for a raise right here, right now because you deserve it right here and right now and you have no back-up documentation to support it, the answer might be “no” but you’ve empowered yourself by asking and there’s no harm in that right?
My kids have no trouble asking for 100% of what they want 100% of the time, and I have no problem saying no if I feel that they shouldn’t have it. The important thing is I just say “no”. I don’t say “No, and I can’t believe you had the nerve to ask me” or “No, and I’m hurt that you would even ask” or any variation of these responses. I don’t judge them for asking and there’s no emotion attached to my answer. It’s just “no” or, in some cases, just “yes”.
They will graduate into a world where competition is ferocious and they will need to stand on their own and not be devastated if they hear “no”.
After a lifetime of asking for what I want only when I feel I deserve it, I’m not really comfortable hearing, or saying, “no” but I’m working on it.