How to Ask for What You Need
How do you ask for what you need?
Most people understand that when a baby cries, it’s because he’s hungry, wet, or experiencing some form of discomfort, and he doesn’t have the words to tell us what’s wrong.
We don’t judge the baby’s motives or character when he cries. We simply feed, change, or comfort him.
We also understand that when children misbehave, it’s often driven by the desire or need for attention or reassurance. They don’t know how to ask for it; they may not even consciously recognize what they’re after, but they understand that misbehaving makes people notice and acknowledge them.
The funny thing is, adults attempt to be comforted and reassured in ways that aren’t very different from the crying baby or the misbehaving child.
Even funnier is that we assume adults somehow magically learn how to clearly evaluate their emotional needs and articulately express them to the people around them.
Of course, they don’t! (We don’t!)
Notice the next time an adult in your sphere “misbehaves.”
See if you can look beyond the behavior to the need they have but are unable to articulate.
Instead of reacting to the behavior, ask questions to learn what’s driving it.
Also, pay attention to your behavior and the different ways you ask for what you need.
When I look at my own behavior, I see how when I “misbehave” (for example, speak harshly to Tim), beyond the surface reasons (what he did or didn’t do), there’s always some discomfort in me that wants to be comforted.
Unfortunately, I don’t always say to him, “When you do ____, I feel ____. That feeling is uncomfortable, and what I’d like to feel is ___.”
Gimme a break. I'm not that enlightened...*yet*! :)
Instead, I lash out in frustration – my personal favorite way to “ask” for what I need – and say something defensive, accusing, or snarky.
When I do that, it isn’t until later, when I examine what I was thinking and feeling just before I lashed out, that I come up with the brilliant insight: Oh, I was feeling ___ or afraid of ____, and I wanted comfort and reassurance but didn’t know how to ask for it.
The good news is, I AM aware that a better way to ask for what I need exists – and now you are, too.
I don’t always choose the better way, but when I don’t, the time between my crying or misbehaving (my ineffective ask) and my awareness of the choice shortens.
It’s fascinating to notice how our minds can take just about any behavior from another person, spin it with all kinds of nuance and meaning that the other person is usually oblivious to, and come up with one of two results: Either we’re comforted by their behavior, or we’re threatened by it in some way.
Test me on this and see if it’s true for you.
And then realize that every person you interact with is doing the same thing.
Try cutting them some slack when they “misbehave” (and reveal their inability to ask for what they need) and offer them some comfort and reassurance.
You’ll both be glad you did.
And if you are curious about what it would be like to be coached by an unenlightened being who is walking the same path you are and just happens to know a few shortcuts and places to avoid to make the journey smoother, you can schedule time with me here.
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