There is a big difference between knowing what you want and asking for it. There is also an important distinction between asking and hinting. Unfortunately, many of us were raised in a culture that encouraged us to be less than direct about what it is we’d like to occur. I talk with many women who aren’t getting what they need or want and aren’t quite sure how to ask for it.
Interestingly, many women are able to be direct and assertive in their professional lives but find they stumble and feel uncomfortable when asking to have their personal needs met. I also hear from a lot of women who feel frustrated that their requests and needs aren’t being met even though they believe they are stating them clearly. They can’t understand what is going wrong.
After writing a recent article about the importance of clearly stating wants and needs, I noticed some areas in my own life where I wasn’t really hitting the mark with this. I also found some places where I initially believed I was being perfectly direct, but on further reflection, I realized I wasn’t getting my point across at all. And (big surprise), I was feeling frustrated with how things were going in those particular areas.
I’m making a concerted effort to practice really stating my wishes clearly. Here are some pointers you might want to consider if your asking muscles need strengthening:
1. Being dissatisfied doesn’t mean you have clarity about what you want. I can know I don’t like something and I can express my unhappiness with it, but if I haven’t taken the time to create a clear picture of what I DO want, the information isn’t necessarily going to lead to a better outcome.
2. Expressing dissatisfaction is not the same as stating how you would like something to be. There is a HUGE difference between complaining and describing the outcome you want. If we aren’t clear on this difference and aren’t careful, we (yes, I’m including myself here) can fall into the trap of expressing what we don’t like and might never clearly describe what we want instead.
3. Directness and clarity are very important. To be most effective, we should be drawing a very clear picture for the person we are communicating with. Example: “I want you to help out more” doesn’t really cut it. “I’d like you to make dinner twice a week and help with kitchen clean-up” paints a much clearer picture. Ask yourself the following question: if you had what you wanted, what would it look like? THIS is the description you want to be sharing and asking for.
4. Asking for what you want is NOT hinting, whining, complaining or describing how well this situation works in someone else’s life or business. A direct request should start with the word “I.” If you find yourself veering away from “I” statements, it’s a pretty good indication you need to practice using them.
5. For maximum success, your request should not be reactive or emotional. This one can be tricky if stating your needs is something you really aren’t comfortable with. If this is the case, know that it gets easier with practice. Start small and choose a calm time to practice your skills.
Melissa McCreery, PhD, ACC, is a psychologist, ICF-certified life coach, emotional eating expert and the founder of www.TooMuchOnHerPlate.com, a company dedicated to providing smart resources to busy women struggling with food, weight and overwhelm. Find out more, read tips and articles, and pick up her free audio series: “5 simple steps to move beyond overwhelm with food and life” at http://TooMuchOnHerPlate.com.