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Asking for what you want might seem like a simple thing, but it isn’t. It is a complex process of noticing your desires, eliminating the selfish and unreasonable, feeling worthy of having, feeling safe that you won’t be judged or rejected, finding the time and space to be heard in our busy lives and competition for attention, and then phasing our request in a way that they hear and feel how important it is to us. If you are at work all this might get pushed aside because your priority is to take care of your boss’s needs, clients needs, and co-workers so that you can keep your job and take care of your financial needs. If you are a parent taking care of kids you might be so busy that you don’t have time to notice your own needs. When there is a break in the action and you have time to slow down, maybe all you notice is that you are too tired to want anything else. That is your sign that you need time to rest by the way.
This isn’t the complete list of how to become aware of what you want and how to ask for it, but it should help.
Know that wanting something for yourself isn’t selfish.
When you believe that asking for something that you want is selfish, you don’t allow yourself to even ask. Often, when sub-consciously you feel it would be selfish, you might even repress the desire for it, or quickly dismiss it mentally when the desire comes up. This kind of self-negation can stop your request from getting out of your mouth, or distort the way you ask so it is no longer clear that it is important to you.
Asking for what you want doesn’t mean you are needy.
Having desires, wants, and needs is a natural part of the human experience. We have a desire for water when we are thirsty, and food when we are hungry. These aren’t the only wants, needs, and desires we have as normal human beings. Other wants and needs that are natural are for emotional connection, support, time for our self, freedom, empathy, compassion, affection, understanding, sex, creativity, physical exercise, and to express our own authentic voice. When we don’t have these needs met we get restless, frustrated, or possibly depressed. Having wants and desires is natural. It doesn’t mean we are weak or petty. It means we are human. Meeting our wants and needs is what helps us feel satisfied and fulfilled.
Recognize that it is not the other person’s responsibility to provide what we ask for.
It is their choice. They can say no, or negotiate for something in between. If you demand or try to obligate another person to meet your needs and wants you may be interfering with their freedom of choice. People we ask have their own needs and when we obligate others we are not respecting what they need and want. If you ask someone and they say no, that has to be okay. If you become angry, annoyed, frustrated, or withdraw, then that kind of emotional punishment is a sign that you are not respecting their choices. It is okay if they say no. You don’t have to have all your needs and wants met by one person.
Tell the person you are asking how you feel and what it means to have what you are asking for.
If you are asking for some time alone your partner might think you don’t like him and reject himself with the lack of information. If you inform him that your time alone is how you nurture your soul and spirit so you can be more of yourself and better with him, then he is more likely to say yes, and feel good about it.
Always express appreciation.
If someone provides something you asked for then make sure they know you appreciate it. A big hug with your words makes more of an impact. Getting appreciation from people, particularly our partner is one way we get emotionally nourished in relationships. When people are recognized and appreciated for what they do they feel better about doing it and want to do it more. That means you will both be getting more of what you want.
Be reasonable and negotiate.
You might want that 2 week vacation to the Greek Islands this summer and you might not feel it is selfish. That’s good. But your partner might not want to empty the bank account to give it to you. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It just might be interfering with his need to provide for the family long term. Listen to what your partner’s needs are and how they can be met. Asking questions and listening to what your partner’s needs helps them get their needs met. Sometimes they might not be able to articulate exactly what their needs are. Those needs might seem like random thoughts and uncomfortable feelings at first. Asking questions and providing a space to listen will help them identify and articulate what they want and need. When you can help them get what they need in the negotiation then they are more likely to give you what you want as well. You might also discover that what you really wanted was a romantic dream getaway to a beach island. You might find that the middle ground that gets both your real needs and wants met is an island in the Florida Keys for a few days.
For Better Self Awareness so you can identify what you want more clearly, and clearly ask for what you want, check out Gary van Warmerdam’s Self Mastery Course.1