Summary of Ask for It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Ask for It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Being able to ask for you want is an underrated skill. Many of us struggle to ask for what we want, be it an argument with a loved one or asking for a raise at work. However, for women, there are even bigger obstacles to overcome which require a rather specialized skillset. It is not impossible to get what you want as a woman but your negotiation skills need to be on point. 

Ask for It aims to enable readers to hone their negotiation skills and guide women through the particular issues that they face. As much as we strive for a world of equality, every woman knows the difficulties they face in trying to get people to see things from their perspective. So, how can you make this process easier?

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • Ask the right questions to find what you really want
  • Why women don’t ask for a raise
  • Prepare to negotiate
  • Ask for enough

Key lesson one: Ask the right questions to find what you really want

Everyone gets asked the question ‘what do want to be when you grow up?’ as a child. However, it does not stop there, when we grow up, the question turns into the famous ‘where do you see yourself in five years?”. It’s basically the same question just tailored to different age groups and for most of us, the answer is not always clear. Women, especially battle with the question as it becomes a struggle to separate what they want and what is expected of them. It is an age-old struggle, one that women have had to live with. However, more and more women are trying to break free from this cycle and the easiest way to figure out what you really want is by asking yourself what is missing from your life. 

For example, a friend of the authors was unsure which career to pursue after college. She eventually decided that since her mom and sister were both teachers, she would do the same. Once she became a teacher, however, she realized that the profession is not what she wanted. It was only when she took a step back and questioned what she really wanted did she discover that she wanted to spend all her time in the garden. This led to her becoming a landscaper with her own company!

It’s not just about finding the career you want, it is about discovering what is missing from your life. You could, for example, rediscover something you did in your youth that brought you joy like painting, ice skating or singing. Whatever it may be, you will find that reintroducing this into your adult life might help you achieve the happiness you lack even if you have a career you love. It is all about filling your life with the things you truly want and the only way you can is by asking yourself the right questions.

Key lesson two: Why women don’t ask for a raise

In the 80s and 90s, a series of studies showed that women were more likely to believe that they had no control or influence on situations in their life. Instead, they tend to just deal with situations without any complaints. In contrast, men see the world as something they control and that contains opportunities for them to benefit from. This is a consistent trend, globally and is no different in the workplace. 

Very few women step forward to ask for a raise because of this mindset. A study was done by a psychologist in 2006 to see if men and women agreed with one simple sentence. The sentence was ‘I decide what my value in the workplace is and I am responsible for ensuring that my employer pays me appropriately.’ The results were extremely informative with only 17 per cent of women agreeing with it in stark contrast to 85 per cent of men. The study concluded that women measured their value by what their employer paid them without question. Thus, they never ask for a raise. This type of mindset must change for women. If you believe that you have no control or influence over your own life, you are empowering someone else to determine your worth which is simply unacceptable. 

Another important factor for women to consider is how they ask for what they want. In a male-dominated world, women have to remain polite unless they wish to take the risk of being called aggressive. This is exactly what happened to a designer who applied for a new job. Given her experience and skills, she felt confident asking for a salary of $58 000 which was within the range offered of $42 000 and $60 000. Her decided approach was to be firm and direct about what she wanted. In response, the interviewer thought she would never be a good team player because she came across as too aggressive. This is rather unfair, considering the same would probably not be said to a man in her position but the simple truth is women are successful in negotiations if they communicate pleasantly. Women have to maintain a friendly tone and be mindful that their body language also remains positive. 

Key lesson three: Prepare to negotiate

Negotiation is a powerful tool that everyone uses every single day. It is not just reserved for boardrooms and business deals. It is used when we want to bring about a change that is dependent on the cooperation of others. Sometimes, even asking your toddler to have dinner is a negotiation! However, no matter where it is used, you still have to follow the same basic rules. 

That is, you should never lie or try to bully the other person into giving you what you want. You have to communicate intelligently. This entails listening to the other person and gathering all the information you need before coming up with a solution. Thus, to be able to succeed in negotiating, you have to be thoroughly prepared. Very rarely do things go as expected, thus you should be prepared for obstacles. This is often referred to as Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA. If you fail to get to your desired outcome, you can use BATNA as your backup plan. For example, when negotiating your salary for a new job, if you don’t get the salary you want, you could have another job as a backup plan. You can even use this fact as part of the negotiation. 

It is helpful if you know what the negotiator wants as well. Of course, this once again requires you to gather all the information you can. The more you know, the better your negotiation can proceed. For example, an aspiring director found a book that she wanted to turn into a movie. When she approached the author, the only thing she thought about was how much money she could offer him for the rights to the story. However, the author was not basing his decision on money. Instead, he was more concerned with how true to his novel the movie would be. This factor did not even cross the director’s mind and because of this, she did not get the rights to the story. 

Negotiation needs to be seen as an opportunity to cooperate. It should not be seen as a competition. If you pay attention to the person you are negotiating with and listen to what they have to say, there is a greater chance that you can work together to come up with creative solutions. Cooperation is a much stronger tool than competition, both parties will benefit. In fact, an effective negotiation should always consider the interests of everyone involved. 

Lastly, when it comes to negotiating, you should aim to be patient and keep your end goal in sight. You should always keep your upper target or desired outcome in focus. This will ensure that you aim to get as close to it as possible. If you keep your lower target in focus, you will most likely end up with less. Patience is key at this stage. You should allow anyone to push you into caving. By maintaining your stance in negotiations, you stay in control and can allow both parties to have their say. 

Key lesson four: Ask for enough

Negotiation is a skill of balance. You need to have all the information available for you to negotiate successfully. The best thing to know is if what you are asking for is too much or too little. Therefore, it is crucial that you have all the information needed before you begin negotiations. For example, if you ask for a 15 per cent increase and your boss says no, you could show him data that shows that people in your position are earning 15 per cent more than your current salary. You could even find data from your competitors regarding salaries. This will make your boss think twice as they are now faced with data that proves you are being paid less than others in the same position. 

The crucial factor when it comes to negotiations is to always be reasonable but never underestimate your worth. You have to think about what you want from a job without settling for slight improvements that are lower than what you deserve. Thus, information once again plays an important role in helping you make decisions. Find out about what starting salaries in your role are and negotiate accordingly. The same can be done regarding annual bonuses. If you have the information, it makes your solidifies your request and negotiation regarding the matter. 

There is no harm in asking for more if you know that it is what you deserve. 

The key takeaway from Ask For It:

Women need to be skillful negotiators if they aim to ask for what they want. It is a delicate balance of being prepared, having all the information and understanding how to approach negotiation. Success is possible if you master the art of negotiation. Be open to listening to others so that you can come up with the best possible outcome for everyone involved. Just because people don’t agree with you does not automatically mean you should back down. Instead, you need to show them the information needed to get them to change their mind. 

How can I implement the lessons learned from Ask For It:

Know your worth. Whether it comes to your salary or if you are selling your car, know how much money you want. This takes some work on your part to gather all the information you can. Thus, when people start making offers, you have valid reasons as to why their number is too low and why what you are asking for is justified. You will also be more likely to settle on a number closer to your target than one that is too low.

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