Some things are so much easier to say in your head than they are out loud. Your cousin asks if you could pet-sit her Newfoundlands and you think, “Oh, heck no” but say “Sure thing.” A potential employer asks your salary requirement and you think “I’m worth this much and not a penny less!” but say, “Well, I don’t want to take a pay cut.” We asked the experts for tips on how to let these and other important statements roll right off your tongue, without getting stuck in your throat.
What did you say the last time someone paid you a compliment? If it was anything other than “Thank you,” keep reading. “Many people feel so uncomfortable with compliments that they’ll put themselves down,” says Lauren Mackler, life/relationship/career coach and author of Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. “They’ll respond with, ‘Oh this old thing,’ or ‘It’s fake!’”
Mackler says you can learn to accept the praise—enjoy it even—and respond accordingly. “Pay attention to your reaction when you’re complimented,” she says. “How do you feel physically and emotionally: Does your face burn? Do you feel embarrassed? That’s your cue to change your story.” Instead of reacting with “Oh no, my kids are usually total monsters!” take a moment and consider the truth of the compliment. “Then do something new,” says Mackler. “Say thank you. It will feel weird, but do this often enough and the new response will become comfortable to you.”
There’s one simple reason to state your own worth clearly and firmly: “You aren’t going to get it otherwise,” says Sallie Krawcheck, former Wall Street executive and CEO and co-founder of Ellevest.
For many women, the fear is that if we negotiate, the employer will get mad at us—or worse, take the offer off the table. But, says Krawcheck, “that typically doesn’t happen. Even if they say, ‘We can’t afford that, this is our best offer,’ you can negotiate for other things, like working from home, or a commitment that you’ll get the next big account.”
Getting comfortable with money talk takes practice. “It’s an emotional topic—it’s about yourself, and your worth,” says Krawcheck.
Krawcheck’s winning strategy is to state your requirements before the employer can set theirs. “If you generally know the range of what others in a position make, you’re much better off asking for, say, $75,000 than waiting for them to offer $50,000,” she says. “From 75 they can talk you down to 70. But you’ll never talk them up to 70 from 50.”
A few truths about the word No: “It is a complete sentence,” says Krawcheck. And yet it’s a response many of us have a hard time giving. But here’s why it’s so important.
Chances are, any time you’ve said “Yes” to someone when you really wanted to say no, whether it was your boss, your spouse, your kid, or a fellow volunteer, you did it to preserve your relationship with them. Yet an unwilling yes actually has the opposite effect. “Not communicating your needs weakens the relationship,” says Mackler. Agree to give a friend a ride to the airport when your day is already jam-packed with other responsibilities, and resentment will build.
Putting aside your fear of conflict, rejection, or disapproval can be tough. “Check in with yourself,” she Mackler. “Is this a time to put aside any conflicts you have, because the other person’s needs are more important than your own? If so, say yes. But if not, don’t think of it as being selfish, but about taking care of you.” Take a deep breath and give a succinct reply along the lines of, “I have a conflict that day.”
Let’s just get this out of the way: There is always going to be someone who is more attractive than you are. The world is full of people, and beauty is subjective. The flip side is, the concept of beauty has room for everyone. You are beautiful, and it’s okay to admit it.
“We think, ‘Who am I to say that?’” says Alison Leipzig, body confidence coach and co-founder of women’s mind-body retreat Soul Camp. “We don’t want to be conceited, we want to be humble — but deep down, we don’t think we’re good enough.”
Leipzig’s strategy to overcoming those feelings: “Open your mind: What would it feel like if you did believe you were beautiful? What would your life be like?” With that vision in mind, start listing—aloud or to yourself—what makes you beautiful. Is it the way your hair falls across your shoulders? Is it your singing voice? Your sly sense of humor? Draw on both physical and non-physical attributes. “Often we’re unconscious of the words we use about ourselves,” says Leipzig. “Changing that language is a practice as important as working out every day.”
Admitting that you’re not happy, whether to yourself or others, triggers change. And while change is a wonderful thing, it can also be incredibly scary.
The alternative, of course, is burying your feelings and “sucking it up.” But Mackler cautions that not only does living in an unhappy situation diminish your quality of life, it can also create chronic stress, which over time can weaken the immune system. “Discuss your options with supportive friends or family, or a professional,” she says. “When you feel stuck, someone on the outside can help you look at possibilities you might not otherwise see.” A simple pro-con exercise can help spur you to action as well: List the plusses and minuses of putting up with the situation, then give each one a weight from 1-10, with 10 being a dealbreaker.
Finally, if you need to confront someone else in order to correct the situation, Mackler advises keeping the focus on you. “Say, ‘I am feeling undervalued in relationship,’ instead of ‘you’re not appreciating me,’” she suggests. “No one can argue with how you feel.”
There’s a fine line between someone who grabs attention and claims credit for others’ work—and someone who lets everyone else get praised for her accomplishments.
“We are so programmed to say ‘we,’” says Sallie Krawcheck. “‘We’ feels more comfortable, but there are points when it has to be ‘I.’ Be fact-based about it, and unemotional. Think about a year-end review: ‘I believe my contributions were helpful and I contributed x, y, z.’ Just rip off the bandage and say it.”
Still seems braggy? Look at things from another perspective. If you falsely share credit at work, for example, rather than identifying your own contributions, it could backfire. “The people who hear you say ‘everyone pitched in’ and know it isn’t true will think you’re insincere,” cautions Krawcheck. “Or they might believe you and end up promoting the wrong person.”
There are so many reasons you might not like to ask for help: Maybe you learned to be self-sufficient at an early age, or are worried that other people will say no to you, or you just don’t like the idea of coming across as needy. But when you’re faced with a situation you can’t handle on your own, there’s only one smart thing to do: Get over it.
The trick to overcoming a stubborn independence streak is to reframe the very idea of asking for help, says Mackler. “It’s actually a way of allowing other people to give to you,” she says. “Letting them help you makes them feel good and builds their self-worth.”
Mackler acknowledges that it’s possible someone won’t be able to help you. “Just as you want them to respect your boundaries, you have to respect theirs,” she says.