What do You Want: Making Requests with Confidence

The truth is we never really know what is going to happen next. The unknown is always behind us, since cannot really look at our own back. Still, it is hard to take a risk and face the unknown. However we expect adults to do what is hard and adults have the power of choice to do it or not.

While we cannot control others response, we are in control of the time and place we ask for something we want. Asking is not a sign of weakness or dependency. It is a matter of interdependence between two equal, imperfect human beings.

If we succeed in asking and getting what we want, then we will experience confidence and optimism next time we ask. We are prepared to enter into appropriate give and take relationships with partners, family, friends and coworkers.

If the answer to our request is no, we have to avoid taking the “rejection” personally. The antidote is the understanding that self-respect is not conditional upon getting what we want. This is not a reflection on our worth as a person. We are a worthwhile human being whether the answer is yes or no.

We would have preferred a positive response, but we are worthwhile either way. If the negative response makes us angry, we can express our legitimate anger like a civilized human being, “It makes me angry when you won’t lend me a hand when I need you.” This is not self-pity, or a threat of revenge. It is telling the truth about ourselves even when that truth is displeasing.

How do we begin? We can catch ourselves wanting:

• Wanting to be liked by pleasing in ways that are inappropriate to the situation.

• Wanting to be more responsible than reality requires us to be.

• Wanting to prevent disasters in the future as if we knew what was going to happen, as if the worst case scenario was the only possible outcome and that it has to be prevented at all costs.

• Wanting to prove that we are not inadequate by doing more than the situation requires us to do “just to be on the safe side.”

• Wanting to prevent the humiliating exposure of our inadequacy to cope by withdrawing from reality.

• Wanting to get our own way by controlling others for their own good.

• Wanting to ensure a perfect outcome.

These “wants” are all useless antagonism. Rather, we can catch ourselves wanting to give ‘good’ advice: “This is what I would do” or “This is what you should do.” We do not give advice, it is a trap.

Instead of giving well-intentioned advice, we reveal to people that they are not powerless and dependent anymore. They have the power of choice; they have adult judgment that can be trusted to take life as it comes. It is good enough. They have the courage to take appropriate risks.

For example, we reveal that they have the option of doing what pleases them. They may not even know what pleases them. That possibility has not occurred to them. Their homework, is to find out for themselves what would please them to do and then do it, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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