Ask for What You Want At Work. Or: Don’t Ask for Orange Juice if You Want Grape Juice

Have you ever known someone who doesn’t ever seem to know just what he or she wants? I know someone like that. In fact, I know him really well. He’s my 2-year old. He is in a constant state of not knowing exactly what he wants. A typical conversation:

Him: I want peanut butter and jelly. On bread.

Me: You want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Can you ask in a nice way?

Him: No. I want a waffle. (He proceeds to start removing an apple from the refrigerator.)

Another typical conversation at our house:

Him: I want orange juice.

Me: What’s a nice way to ask? (Pouring orange juice.)

Him: Please! No, I don’t want orange juice. I want GRAPE juice. In a cup.

I think you get the picture. If I’m lucky, he changes his mind before I prepare what he initially requested, but more often than not, I’m faced with trying to convince him to eat what he originally wanted or starting over. If I had a dollar for every time I say, “Oh…I should have known that when you asked for orange juice (and took it out), it really meant that you want grape juice!” – I would be on some island somewhere – someone would be serving ME drinks!

So, what does this have to do with the topic at hand? What does it have to do with your job?

Think about it – Do you really know what you want? Are you like the 2-year old who is asking for orangeĀ  juice, but really wanting grape juice? Are you impulsive, asking for (or wishing for) the first thing that comes to your mind? Unlike my 2-year old, whose only real consequence for his indecision is needing to say a few extra “pleases” or being stuck with whatever he first requested, there are real consequences for professionals who either don’t know what they want or don’t know how to ask for it.

What to do? Stop and think! Tiffany Monhollon writes that you should “stop, listen and move.”

It isn’t always easy to figure out what you really want. It certainly isn’t easy to decide to make a major change in the hopes of accomplishing what you really want. It is worth it, though. Don’t let life, or your job, just happen TO you. Stop. Listen. Move. If you want grape juice – don’t just ask for it – do what my 2-year old does when he is really desperate and I’m taking too long – get it out and pour it yourself!

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3 Responses to “Ask for What You Want At Work. Or: Don’t Ask for Orange Juice if You Want Grape Juice”


  1. 1 Tiffany Monhollon October 31, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Miriam – I love the analogy here. So many times we send mixed messages to our employers merely because we perhaps don’t know what we want to being with. We ask to take on a big project, and then we balk at it midway. We see the greenner grass in other pastures and we think, I need to move, instead of, what do I really want? It’s so easy to just go through the motions and harder to force ourselves to evaluate what we’re doing and take courageous actions in that way.

    Pour it for yourself! That’s something Gen Y really needs to learn how to do in the workplace. We’re pretty adept in doing it in social media, but when it comes to the workplace, we have a hard time applying this practical advice.

  2. 2 Miriam Salpeter October 31, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Tiffany,
    Thanks for your comment. Ironically, practical, basic advice is sometimes the hardest to implement. Recognizing how important it is to manage the basics is a first step. Getting it done – that’s the tricky part!

  3. 3 janepollak November 11, 2008 at 9:56 am

    Loved this, Miriam! I’ll never forget when our then 4 year old Laura insisted on ordering just tomatoes at the diner. When the plate full of sliced pinkish gray diner tomatoes arrived the expression on Laura’s face was priceless. We’re not sure what she’d had in mind, but it was clearly not tomatoes!

    I think it was more a language barrier than a decision-making issue. As adults, we know better. Your advice is great.


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