Many people have serious trouble knowing what they want from their spouse, feeling comfortable communicating it, and stating it clearly. Many people have difficulty solving problems because they do not know what they want, or, if they do know, cannot express it effectively to their partner. We often grow up suppressing our desires -- sometimes to the extent of not even being aware of them. This can be a problem in a marriage, eventually leading to divorce.
Most of us learn in early childhood that:
- Wanting is selfish and that we should be polite and let others wants come first ("Be polite, let Susie have the toy").
- It isn't OK to want ("Don't even ask me for a cookie just before dinner")
- We want too much ("of course you can't have a new toy, do you think I'm made of money?")
- If we get what we want, someone else will be deprived. These internalized criticisms and restrictions make us anxious about getting what we want and even convinced that we won't. In addition to all these other restrictions on wanting, you may have the idea that the consequences of wanting are bad (no one will like you), and so it is too scary to know what you want. Because knowing what you want sometimes means you risk being disappointed and many people have an exaggerated idea of how bad disappointment feels (if I don't get what I want I'll be miserable), they avoid wanting at all.
STEPS TO GETTING WHAT YOU WANT:Tina Tessina, Ph.D., has been a licensed California psychotherapist for more than 30 years. She has authored more than 11 books, including "Money, Sex and Kids"; “The Commuter Marriage: Keeping your Relationship Close While you’re Far Apart”; "How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free"; "The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again"; and, “It Ends with You: Grow Up and Grow Out of Dysfunction.” Tina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have difficulty in knowing what you want and communicating it, try these steps:
1. Get clear about what you want:
You can’t express what you want effectively if you’re not clear what it is, so before approaching your partner, your boss or your child with a request, think about it and make sure you can write it down in one clear sentence.
2. Create a good atmosphere:
If asking for what you want is difficult for you, don’t do it without preparation. Make sure you and the person you’re asking both have time, and invite the other person to sit down and talk with you.
3. Simply state what you want:
Don’t preface your statement with a lot of disclaimers – they make the other person feel accused of something. Just ask, politely, for what you want.
4. Be prepared to accept a "no.":
Remember, if you can’t accept a no answer, then you’re making a demand, not a request, so have a backup solution. Find a way to get what you want for yourself, even if the other person isn’t cooperating. For example, if you don’t get that raise you deserve, maybe it’s time to begin a job search.
5. Listen politely to the other person’s answer:
Whether the other person says yes, no, or something in between, listen carefully to what he or she says. Don’t get all caught up in a lot of worry and noise inside your head – pay attention. You need to know what the answer is.
If you follow these steps, you’ll find you’re successful a good percentage of the time, and when you aren’t you have a backup plan – so you really can’t lose.