5 Ways to Get What You Want


By: , – Hillary Quinn, Family Circle
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Find yourself raising the white flag all too often when it comes to having your way? Whether you need more attention from your doctor or require approval from your boss to work from home, claiming victory could be easier than you think, says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., author of A Happy You (Morgan James Publishing). "The trick is not confusing assertiveness, which is expressing yourself in a kind manner, with aggressiveness, which is expressing yourself but not respecting others," she explains. Get it right, and you'll receive your heart's desire. Get it wrong, and you not only hit a roadblock, but the tension can cause everything from depression and lack of productivity to weight gain, colds and fatigue. We asked doctors, 800-number managers and even restaurant pros to find out how you can become a satisfied customer in the game of life. As the motto goes, it's not what you say but how you say it. 
At Home

The problem: It seems that no matter how many times you remind your kid, rules are being ignored. Your 11-year-old visited a neighborhood friend again without telling you where she was going; now you're seething.

The solution: Turn your kid into a problem-solver. "Don't hope that your yelling will make her understand how serious and important rules are and never do the behavior again," says psychologist Lawrence J. Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting (Ballantine Books). Instead, give yourself a cooling-off period by telling your child: "I'm really mad right now, so let's talk about this tomorrow." Then, once you do chat, explain how fearful you are when you don't know where she is -- but resist the urge to list all the reasons you think it's dangerous. "Kids believe they're invincible, so bringing up a news story about a missing child isn't effective," says Cohen. A better tactic: Explain that you need to know she's safe and ask for her help in finding a solution that works for both of you. "You're opening the door to genuine dialogue, allowing your child to be part of the solution and bolstering her own need for independence," explains Cohen.
At Your Job

The problem: Working from home once a week would allow you to cut down on wasted commuting hours and bypass interruptions from colleagues. But you don't want your boss to think you're not a team player.

The solution: Sell your idea. "Most people believe communication is talking about what you want, but it's the opposite," says Corinne Gregory, author of It's Not Who You Know, It's How You Treat Them (Maestrowerks). Ask yourself, "What's in it for the other person?" Present your boss with the request and the resolution in one fell swoop. Don't begin with preambles like, "I've been giving this a lot of thought and struggling with the changes going on in my family life." Instead, be direct: "I want to take 15 minutes of your time and discuss working remotely once a week. I've got a plan that would increase my productivity, plus free up my desk for the Friday intern." Stop, and resist the urge to fill the silence with nervous chatter. Skip the let-me-help-you-walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes speech. A smarter script: "I want to give 100% at work." "That they understand," says Gregory. "At the end of the day, the boss's goal is for you to get the job done."
On the Phone

The problem: Your flight was delayed, you missed your connection and the airline lost your luggage. You call customer service and get caught in automated-phone-system hell.

The solution: Kill 'em with kindness. "I deal with not-nice callers all day long, so it's the nice callers who get me to stand up and take notice," explains Stephanie Hensel, a customer-service rep who answers hundreds of calls each day. Using your best please-help-me-I'm-a-wounded-soul voice, try something like: "Hi, Stephanie, this is Janet Smith. I'm so frustrated, but I'm really hoping you can help me today." Let the employee know that you understand she did not cause the problem. Then, carefully explain your situation, knowing in advance what you'd like the outcome to be. (You might ask for more than you want to leave room for some negotiation.) Recently stranded by the airline? Get reimbursed for that lost luggage and score some free miles for your pain and suffering. Mailed a package that never arrived? Ask the company to re-send it and eat the overnight shipping fee, plus snag a 10% credit for the hassle. Setting a goal gives you a road map for the conversation and prevents the call from becoming a futile venting session. Then allow the rep a bit of time to actually do her job. If you're told you'll hear back within 24 hours, don't hang up and call another rep 4 hours later. If you can't get a human being on the phone, try this backdoor strategy from Shelly Rosa, call center manager at QCI Direct's Home Trends catalog. Dial the main company number and hit a random extension using the line, "Hi, I got stuck in the customer-service loop and was sent to you. Can you help me?" Finally, if you're hitting the wall and need a supervisor, skip the barking command (they'll just pre-warn their superior that you're a pill) and try this ploy instead: "Maybe you could switch me to a supervisor so you could continue to help other customers."
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