Do you ever struggle to speak your mind or ask for what you really want?
I believe there is one main thing holding so many women back from their life calling. And it’s not lack of money or opportunity or experience—it’s failing to advocate for ourselves.
For the past 20+ years of my entrepreneurial career, I have lived by a simple maxim: “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.”
This philosophy has won me pitches for corporate clients that no one thought I could win, secured a spot for me in an elite conservatory that I missed the application deadline for, and has even gotten me special permission to import juggling balls from U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Pentagon. (But that’s a story for another time.)
I’ve used the same six strategies to advocate for myself and get what I want no matter what, and I’d love to share them with you.
1. Let life surprise you.
Advocating for yourself starts with an openness to discovering what you want.
Earlier this year, when I was in San Diego, I was driving up and down the city streets with my daughter Mirabelle.
To my surprise, we came upon a building that had my name on it—literally! “Elle” was elegantly scripted in gold lettering against a brick backdrop. Getting closer, I realized it was the sign for a bridal boutique named “elle.” It was Sunday, so they were not open, but after googling I found out they were closing their brick and mortar site in two days to offer online and appointment-only services.
Because I was observant and present, I noticed the elle sign in the first place. Granted, my brain was in vacation mode so the flexibility came easily—but who says we can’t keep our eyes and minds open all the time!
2. Ask for exactly what you want.
If the bridal shop closed, they wouldn’t need a sign, right? So I called and left a message explaining that I would be interested in buying the sign. I got a call back, and I explained to the elle boutique owner how I stumbled upon her beautiful sign and if she was closing, that I would be interested in taking it home with me.
Of all the things she needed to liquidate, the sign was not one of the things she even considered selling—but hey, Elle showed up! I found out there was an even bigger sign and said I’d take both. This was such a fun find and a delight for both her and me.
If I hadn’t dug a little deeper into learning about the bridal boutique, I would have never known they were closing and that the sign was even an option for me.
And if I hadn’t asked…the answer would have been no.
3. Believe that what may seem impossible is possible.
But then it hit me…. How in the world am I going to get this home? And how big is the big sign?
The big sign ended up being in two pieces and probably 4 feet long. Keep in mind that I am just over 5 feet tall.
I picked it up and decided it was doable. I could carry this on my plane ride home, couldn’t I? Of course, my teenage daughter thought I was crazy. We already had the limit of carry-on items, and this was definitely not going to fit under the seat in front of me.
“You will never make it home with those,” my daughter Mirabelle said.
When you come upon a seemingly impossible hurdle, cheerfully ignore the naysayers (looking at you, Mirabelle) and stay optimistic. Is there a chance you won’t achieve your outcome? Sure. But could you achieve it if you didn’t believe you could? Probably not! It starts with a mindset of abundance and possibility. Make a choice and move forward as if you will get the outcome you expect.
4. Get creative.
Believing I would get the signs home with me, I began creatively strategizing the journey.
I got packing tape, plastic grocery bags, bubble wrap and went to work. Thank goodness the sign material was lightweight! I stacked the pieces, mummified it in the plastic bags and bubble wrap, taped it like a cast and created a strap with anything left over. It ended up fitting over my shoulder and on my back like some oversized, very flat instrument.
I felt like a traveling indie musician toting her guitar, needing no other luggage. Mirabelle was still unimpressed. And we still had two carry-on bags.
You may have to make your own rules or turn a 4-foot sign into a carry-on bag, but be open to new possibilities. Obstacles aren’t problems—they’re opportunities for creativity!
5. Tell stories.
If advocating for yourself is difficult for you, you probably think “advocating” would look like being that person who demands she has her needs met and is always asking to “see the manager.” (You know the type.) And you do not have to be her in order to get what you want.
I didn’t convince airline customer service agents to let me take the sign on the plane by being demanding—instead, I treated them like a fellow human being and told them my story. When you are authentic about what you need and why you need it, people are so much more likely to say yes.
Every step of the trip home was an exercise in customer service. I tried to be the best customer possible so that every person along my travels would provide me with the service I needed in order to get this thing across the Ohio border.
I told the story of the bridal business that had my name and how my daughter didn’t believe I could actually get the sign home. I told the story of serendipity, timing and my hunt for supplies to wrap my masterpiece.
All along the way, people listened in and shared my excitement. It was an adventure, and everyone wanted to help me get this thing home.
And guess what? I did. Although the signs weren’t anything close to the size of carry-on bags, I carried them onto every plane—with permission. Soon, I’ll hang the elle sign on the wall in my office.
6. Never underestimate the power of kindness.
If you ask for what you want and have clear calls to action in your social media posts and on your website, people will respond. And if you live your life with eyes wide open and a creative spirit ready to problem-solve, no opportunity will pass you by.
Instead of assuming the world is against you, assume that people want to help you, support you, buy your products or use your services.
You’ll be amazed by how true that becomes!
I love spending Strategy Days 1-1 with women who are ready to expand, advocate for themselves, ask for what they need and take their business to the next level. Click here to schedule a discovery call with me!
Elle is a veteran entrepreneur and creative strategist who takes businesses to the next level and helps thought leaders expand their influence. As a pitch coach for Aviatra’s LAUNCH cohorts, she uses her background as a professional actress to help women explain what they do with confidence and presence. Visit her website here.