Okay, you have been getting in touch with what you want. Now how do we approach others? We have been conditioned to be nervous about asking for what we want. We remember all too well screaming in the grocery store, and the disappointment and ire of our parents as they wearily took us home to our doom. So, not only did we not get the treat, but we also got punished for our bad behavior. There is a reason we are afraid to ask for what we want! (I am not trying to blame parents, poor things!)
I would like to introduce a concept that may seem obvious, but in my experience, it has been at the root of many of my clients’ difficulties with this subject. If you ask for what you want, there are two possible answers – yes, and no. So when you ask, you are aware that the person you are asking can say yes, and they can also say no. If the other person is not allowed to say no, then you are not asking, you are demanding. (Now we are really getting into uncomfortable territory! But stay with me, please.) If it is a demand, be explicit about that, and say “I demand.” “I demand that you go with me to the family reunion.” This makes it clear that there is really only one acceptable answer, which is yes. Now, the other person can refuse to meet your demand. Where are you now? Don’t worry, you won’t have to scream and throw yourself on the floor, and neither will the other person. Now you can negotiate. This is important, because this takes care of the building resentment that accompanies having to say yes when you really don’t want to. This will help protect your relationship. The other person can say “No, I don’t want to go with you to the family reunion.” And then you can say, “I understand that you don’t want to do this, but I really would like for you to go with me. What if I go with you to your horrible Christmas office party? I actually don’t want to do that, but I will do that if you will do this.” Even though this may sound childish, this kind of exchange acknowledges the wants of each person. It allows people to say yes or no, which is very important. If someone can’t say no, (s)he is a slave. Also, it allows the demandee to give the demander a gift. It is truly a gift to do something you don’t want to do because it is important to the other person. And the demander gets to give the demandee a gift in return. It feels fair, and it feels like each person has been heard and honored.
Respect yourself by acknowledging your wants and asking for them. Respect others by accepting their answer. And go one step further. Don’t get angry. Don’t threaten, or cry. Negotiate. If the negotiation is not successful, perhaps there is another way to get what you want. No self-respecting two-year-old would give up after the first “No.” Combine that drive with your grown-up skills and experience, and I’ll bet you do get what you want—even if it looks different than you thought it would.