It can be hard to ask for what you want, particularly if you’ve been told not to all your life.

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The little girl was looking in the window of Mighty Mouse Toys, pulling on her mom’s hand, pointing at the beautiful dolls. She was maybe 7 years old.

“We can go in there,” her father told her, his tone harsh and mean and loud. “But if you ask for anything, you’ll get spanked.”

As I walked to my office across Pioneer Square, I could hear the parents arguing, the child crying. That man may be managing difficult stresses in his life, but oh, his little girl was crying.

I thought to myself, “She’s going to grow up afraid to ask for what she wants.”

I see that in my office as coaching clients struggle with how to ask for that promotion, how to ask for that project, how to ask for more money. How to ask for what they want.

“I thought if I just put my head down and did good work, I’d be noticed and promoted,” a coaching client said recently.

“Did you ask for what you wanted?” I asked. “Does your manager know you want this promotion?”

“Well, no, I thought my work spoke for itself,” she said. “I don’t want to be seen as a problem employee.”

It was like she was in a toy store, but afraid to ask for anything.

I use a technique called covert rehearsal to help clients prepare to make an ask: We develop the business case for the ask, write it out — word for word — and then practice.

Recently, a beloved client was anxious about asking for more money in her compensation package. She had never asked before.

“I’m so proud of myself,” she emailed me later, delighted to have successfully negotiated thousands of dollars more than the initial offer.

“I did it!”

She’s going to have fun in that toy store.