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Are You Asking for What You Want?

So you've gotten clear on what you're feeling and needing, and you've communicated that to the best of your ability, but the other person just doesn't seem to get it.

They aren't changing their behavior.

They aren't helping you feel better.

They aren't providing what you need.

There are a lot of possibilities here, but like any good trouble-shooting, let's start with the easiest possible fix to see if that resolves it before getting into the more complicated stuff.

Are you asking for what you want?

Seems simple. You may be thinking, "Duh, of course I am." But let's unpack this a bit to see for sure.

Don't Confuse Needs for Strategies

It's easy to unknowingly ask someone for something by simply stating your need.

For example, "I need you to support me." This is not asking for what you want. It's naming a need and telling them to figure out how to met that for you.

You're expecting them to read your mind.

There are endless strategies we can employ to meet our needs, and if we don't offer someone a specific suggestion that is meaningful to us, it's likely they won't guess the right one. No wonder we feel disappointed!

Instead, consider what it is that you are hoping they do. What strategy, or action, would help you meet your needs?

Focus on What you Do Want

Naming the behavior or action that is bringing you distress is a helpful part of making an observation (post coming soon.)

But when making a request, focusing on what you do want rather than what you don't want helps the other person make the change.

Instead of saying, "Stop interrupting me," you could ask, "Will you wait until I'm done talking before sharing your thoughts?"

When we stop one behavior, something else must take its place.

Naming what you want them to do instead of what you don't want gives them a clearer path for actually helping you meet your needs.

Make it Specific and Actionable

The more specific and actionable your request is, the clearer the path will be.

For example, if you're needing support in cleaning the kitchen, asking for something vague like, "I want your help in cleaning the kitchen" may or may not result in the kitchen being cleaned as you're hoping for.

Instead of giving a general goal, ask them to do specific tasks.

For instance, "Will you wash the dishes in the sink?"

And if you know you want the dishes done by a certain time, ask for it! "Will you wash the dishes in the sink this morning before lunch?"

Offer Choice and Freedom

The most important component here is that you're asking for what you want, not demanding it.

Telling them to "Clean you dirty ass dishes!" may work if you know they can hear humorous banter without taking it personally.

For the rest of us, it's important to keep blame, shame, or threats of punishment out of the ask!

Of course, actually framing the request as a question helps with this tremendously. In addition, hold your request lightly by recognizing that it's just one way to help meet your needs and that there are other possibilities if they say "no."

Presenting them with the choice and freedom to say no or adjust it to something that works better for them increases the likelihood of them following through with what they agree to.

People Will Thank You

Believe it or not, most loved ones, even strangers, want to help you meet your needs.

When your needs are met, you're more resourced, more pleasant to be around, and more available to help them meet their needs. Problem is, you know best what it is that would actually help you meet your needs.

By directly asking for what you want, you give them the opportunity to contribute to your wellbeing without having to guess and possibly get it wrong.

Some Suggestions

  • Notice what it is that you are not wanting. What's happening that you'd like to change? Use the undesirable condition to help you name your needs/values.

  • Consider then what you do want, and come up with at least one specific, concrete action.

  • Offer choice by framing your request as a suggestion that has space for change.

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Teri Grunthaner, Expressive Therapist, sittng on the grass with a smile

Hey, I'm Teri! I work with big-hearted people like yourself who long to co-create a more beautiful world—where respect, compassion, and authenticity hold the center our lives revolve around. Thanks for visiting me!​

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