6 Reasons You’re Not Asking For What You Want
Knowing what you want and how to communicate it will help you to manage conflict. In its most basic form, conflict is fuelled by the perception that your access to a resource will be blocked by another person which means your needs and interests will be unsatisfied.
This blog post is essentially about being assertive which is not the same as being aggressive. Firstly, it comes from a place of self-confidence, balance and poise and is aimed at persuading, influencing and directing. Aggression is based on insecurity and seeks to dominate the other person rather than respecting that they have needs too.
In any type of relationship, the extent to which our needs are satisfied will determine how happy we are in it. When we are not fulfilled, we can often feel trapped, unhappy, undervalued or angry. I used to experience this when I had career conversations with my managers or I tried to discuss a problem with them. I would shy away from saying that I wanted a promotion or I wanted to travel to see clients. I would see other colleagues progress in some way and feel resentful. I immediately blamed an exterior force acting against me such as my manager not having good people skills or that he was harbouring a prejudice against me. This may have been true but I wasn’t making myself responsible for my own actions and behaviours.
Here are six reasons why you might not be asking for what you want:
- A fear of vulnerability. Asking for what you want involves revealing something about yourself. It might be that you want more intimacy with your partner or you are concerned about a team mate’s attitude at work. It can feel like you are disclosing a weakness but all you are doing is taking care of yourself and the relationship. Being human entails being vulnerable and being comfortable with your vulnerabilities will make you stronger, more compassionate and most beautiful of all, more comfortable being who you are.
- You feel inferior. This is ultimately about self-worth. When you put your manager, partner or anyone else on a pedestal, you sacrifice your own desires and needs so that theirs can be fulfilled. Your manager may have more authority within the four walls of your office but it will help to see them as having needs just like you do and for that reason alone, neither one of you is entitled to better treatment. Instead, why not find a way to satisfy both?
- You worry what others will think about you. Perhaps you were raised in an environment that taught you not to ask for what you want or maybe when you were young, you learnt that good girls don’t express themselves openly or that it is impolite for boys to make demands. There are so many ways that we are taught that this is ‘bad’.
- It’s not easy to express your emotions. It’s normal to feel strongly about something that you really want. Whether that’s the promotion, the need for a closer bond with your partner or for things to change in any other relationship. You may worry you will struggle to talk because of anxiety or you are concerned that you may end up shouting because you feel so angry. For more tips on how to express your feelings neutrally, read my blog post on emotional options.
- You’re scared about the other person’s reaction. You may have formed a friendly attachment to a new service provider or a co-worker and you don’t want to anger them by being too direct. You fear that the relationship will instantly end, lead to conflict or that they will form a negative opinion about you. You may even fear being fired! Our imagination can snowball when we feel anxious. It’s important to remember that we cannot control the reaction of the other person, nor can you know what they are thinking. We can, however, control how we communicate , especially when managing conflict.
- You fear you will lose approval. From a very young age, we are taught to gain the approval of our parents and those who we see as senior to us. We equate that approval with our self-esteem and our self-worth and this influences the actions that we take. I stopped gunning for a promotion in a job I hated because I realised, I was doing it solely to get the approval of my managers. The promotion itself made no sense to me as it meant more responsibility for a miniscule pay rise. After that realisation, I began to focus on what I do want, free of any conditioning. I also became more open about my wants and needs in my personal relationships because by staying quiet about them, I was hoping to maintain a safe level of approval and self-esteem.
The Consequences of Staying Quiet
When you aren’t communicating assertively about the things you want, the other person may perceive that you don’t care about the relationship, you’re not interested, you’re happy to be pushed around or you don’t know what you want. That might be the case but make sure you aren’t unintentionally communicating that!
When you start to become more assertive, it may sometimes feel uncomfortable in certain areas of your life because you are behaving differently to how you always have done. Remind yourself that this will pass and if you want more satisfying relationships, you need to learn how to manage potentially conflictual situations and accept the discomfort that this may cause you. With practice, it will become second nature.
Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!