Do you always ask for what you need? If yes, then move on. This piece isn’t for you.
If you’re like me, however, and you sometimes have trouble asking for what you need, well then, keep on readin’, friend.
Recently, I was in a situation where I got that itchy, rubbed-the-wrong-way feeling. To protect the innocent, I can’t give you loads of details, but I can tell you it tasted like overwhelm with a hint of taken advantage of, which is, to say, totally awesome. (No, it was not totally awesome. It sucked. That’s me throwing some sarcasm your way).
So, what did I do?
Well, I trotted out my tried-and-true, well-worn coping strategy of repressing my feelings, keeping them to myself, whilst letting anger and resentment take root in every corner of my being. So, totally winning! (Again – sarcasm. Still not feeling it?)
And this went on for awhile.
Now, Tony Robbins is not my guru (Get it? Because he has that movie on Netflix called “I’m Not Your Guru”. Are you keeping up here?), but as I burned with resentment, I thought about how he says: “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”
That’s good, right? Say what you will about the guy, but damn, he’s quotable.
Well, after enough stewing in my own resentment, I guess I sort of crossed that pain threshold ‘ole Tony speaks of, and it became clear that saying nothing was worse than the fear of being honest. So, I gathered up my courage and decided to speak up. And it looked like this:
Well, it was for me.
Again, don’t want to be doing any unmasking here (I hear that’s not very popular these days), so I’m keeping the details thin, but the other party responded with something akin to, “Had no idea. So sorry. Yes, let’s look at fixing that.”
Which, of course, got me thinking, Well that was easy. Why didn’t I say something sooner?
And so, with the intention of never doing that again (Who am I kidding? This is me we’re talking about; I’m not good at ‘never.’ Let’s go with, ‘Hopefully, never.’), I’ve sketched out my “Three Things to Think About” when I find myself staying silent about what I need:
• Remember, resentment isn’t a long-term solution. As a coping strategy, resentment works, but only for a while. In the short-term, resentment tricks you into thinking that you have some sort of control and it mitigates whatever deprivation your feeling. It emboldens and empowers. But resentment thrives on your silence, is fed by you denying yourself. Saying what you need is like administering a lethal dose to resentment; it starves resentment of its source. Eventually, resentment does more harm to you than anyone else. So, ask yourself, “How is this resentment moving me closer to what I need?”
• The inverse of resentment is vulnerability. For this one, I made a handy chart:
Basically, the more we ask for what we need, the less resentment we feel. BUT, herein lies the rub. It’s also true that the more we ask for what we need, the more vulnerable we feel. Ultimately, you’ve got to make a choice. Will you trade resentment for vulnerability? It’s up to you. Which is worse? (P.S. – I’m a writer, people, not a chart person, so don’t send me comments about the quality of my darn chart).
• Yes, you’re risking disappointment – and that’s OK. The minute we lob our request at someone else, guess what? They’re now holding the ball and they might very well answer with, ‘No, I’m sorry. I can’t give you what you need.’ Believe me, I’ve dealt with that kind of no before and it’s some soul crushing stuff. The kind that makes you wonder why you ever asked in the first place. But, in reality, ‘no’ is not so different from where you started. You’re already living with ‘no’, right? You’re already not getting what you need. But here’s the good stuff: You can work with no. No puts you back in the driver’s seat. You’re not the victim having things done to you. You’re the one who now gets to choose whether to accept what’s being offered or move in a new direction. Either way, it’s up to you. Not someone else.
Before I go, here’s one Bonus Tip. When asking for what you need, state it plainly. For example, I need:
• To feel more respected
• To be included
• An apology
• Help because I’m overwhelmed
Then, don’t stop there. Offer specifics. People can’t help if they don’t understand. What would this look like?
• I’d like to be invited to your meeting with Client X.
• I’d like you to fold two loads of laundry every Sunday.
• I’d like our visits to your sister’s house to last no more than two days.
• I’d like you to take the 7am feeding.
So that’s it; our first (and maybe only) What I Know Wednesday. I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to this one again in the future. I hope it helps you, too.