Christmas seems to be the only time of year where it is socially acceptable to ask for things that you want. As a child, we all ask Santa to bring us very specific items. Some children even write letters and send their requests to the North Pole. There is no shame associated with asking Santa to bring us the latest and greatest toys for the holidays.
Then we grow up and all of a sudden asking for what you want becomes something that is uncomfortable for many. Knowing what you want and asking for those things becomes associated with being pushy or being needy. It’s like you now need permission to to advocate for your wants.
As an adult, asking something of others can place you in a vulnerable position. When you ask something of others, you are forced to confront multiple fears centered around rejection, appraisal, and acceptance. When our past experience has shown us that it is not safe to ask or request things, you are less likely to ask again in the future. So then the act of asking for what you want can become quite intimidating. And asking for the salary increase that you know you deserve is something you push off until next year. Asking your partner to address your needs that you feel have been neglected lately becomes something that you allow to build up inside of you instead of sharing how you feel. And asking yourself, is it ok to take time out of your day for your own self care becomes something expendable and your health and well-being suffers.
Communication is key.
There are three main types of communication styles: passive, aggressive, and assertive. For individuals who present more passively, they are often more concerned about the wants of others and how another person would feel about their request. These individuals often have an overwhelming desire to be liked by others and therefore, forfeit their own wants and needs for the approval of others. Passive individuals will fail to communicate their thoughts and feelings in order to please others. They tend to allow others to take the lead and make decisions for them.
While those who communicate in a more aggressive fashion, are often viewed as a bully, centering their attention on their own needs. They normally do not care about how their actions make others feel and will do whatever they have to do to get what they want. They often fail to consider the views or feelings of others. They can be cut throat and tough.
Learning to be assertive is a necessary skill in order to act in your own best interests. It is the best communication style to promote your needs while safeguarding the relationship or interaction. Being assertive is a skill that does not come easily to everyone but it is a skill that anyone can learn. Assertiveness means that you are able to push those fears of rejection and judgement to the side and ask for what you want. You are able to communicate in a manner that displays tact, confidence, and without aggression. Being assertive allows you to express yourself in a clear and appropriate way without undermining the rights of others. Assertiveness is all about respect-respect for your needs and respect for the thoughts and feelings of others.
So how do I ask for what I want?
Assertiveness requires an individual to identify and recognize their needs and then have the ability to communicate those needs. An individual can display assertiveness by learning to say no to others, letting go of the guilt associated with asking for your needs, and by being empathetic to the content of the other person’s message, even if they are not communicating that message in the healthiest way.
A technique often used when learning assertiveness is called Fogging, where instead of arguing with someone, an individual attempts to find the truth in their message even if they are being critical, agree with their truth, and move on to make their point. The individual would make their point in a calm manner without being defensive while still acknowledging the facts in the other person’s statements.
Another technique used in assertive communication is called the Broken Record, where an individual continues to repeat their needs in a calm manner. They are not distracted by irrelevant arguments and they do not change their tone or display elevated emotions. They simply continue to ask for what they want without demonstrating a visible reaction to the other person’s behaviors. In this situation, the individual is not attempting to control the other person’s reactions, only focusing on their own. Compromise is an alternative outcome when using the Broken Record technique, if the individual is also pleased with the second option.
Regardless of the techniques, assertive communication requires practice. But just like any other skill, the more you practice being assertive, the easier it will be to automatically behave in this manner. And the more often you communicate assertively, the more often your needs will be addressed. When your needs are being met, you will experience a better quality of life, where you are receiving the things you ask for while receiving respect from others. You will feel more empowered and in control of your life because you were able to ask for what you needed.