How to ask for what you want – and get it!
Have you ever walked away from a
situation frustrated, angry, and ready to kick a wall, because you really wanted
something from someone that you just couldn’t get?
One of the top reasons
relationships – personal or business - fail is poor communication. Someone
is not getting what he or she wants, and decides to quit the relationship as a
In business you have to listen for
what your client is really asking for, and to discover if what you have to offer
will fill that need. Your job is to communicate to the client how the
widget you’re selling can make her life better. You give her a solution,
she gives you money, everyone is happy. Simple, once you know how to do
In personal relationships, the give
and take is not always so clear. And to make things even more challenging,
it is often not what you ask for that determines the outcome, but how you are
asking for it. Complicated, huh?
You've gotta give for what
The trick of how you ask for something is to do it such a
way that the impact on you, and the benefit to the other person are made
clear. Yup, it’s the old quid pro quo, something for something, win/win
By making clear how what you are
asking for benefits all parties, you create a situation where everyone feels
good about what is happening. And as we all know, people are more likely
to do things that make them feel good and to repeat a pleasurable
experience. At Scarlet Girl we count on it!
An exchange doesn’t always have to
be a “thing for thing” or “service for service” situation to work, either!
So on the day you suddenly feel that you might take a sledge hammer to the stove
or set fire to the next dirty sock you see, instead of shouting or quietly
seething consider asking your partner – or kids - for assistance.
Be very conscious of how you phrase
things. Take a deep breath (don’t scream!) and try something like,
“Snookems, I’m feeling overwhelmed with all the tasks that need to be
done. If you could help me out by taking on the laundry duty I would be
grateful. I would not feel so stressed, and if that happened I would be a
much more pleasant person to be around. Could you please help me with
It’s a fair request, and one of
those “I feel” statements that doesn’t shout, “You never help me around the
house!!!!” or accuse anyone of anything. You have not really asked for the
task so much, as for the relief the task will provide.
This also makes the task in
question negotiable, but it ensures a reward for both sides. Maybe
Snookems would prefer to take on dishes instead – either way you are still
getting the break you want. Your reward is relief, and your partner’s
reward is a spouse that is not resentful, and quietly (or vocally!) angry.
Be specific. B-E specific!
Sometimes you have to look very closely at what
it is you really need. Is it simple trashcan duty, or is it actually more
involvement in caring for the household? Be specific, and break it down
for the person you are talking to.
When you do get what you want it’s important that you make a
big deal of it! Your partner or friend is much more likely to give you
what you want, if you use positive reinforcement each time things go your
way. You also have to be equally willing to grant requests. Be
gracious and grateful – it’s easy to be nice to a nice person!
The Magic 8 Ball approach to
We’ve all done it. A partner or friend asks us “What’s wrong?” and
you respond with something clever like, “Oh, nothing…” or “If you don’t know,
then I’m not going to tell you!” and wait for some sort of craven plea for
forgiveness or an oath of future obedience to your every whim.
Ladies, we are guiltier of this
than our male counterparts, and it never works. We’re not psychic, and
shouldn’t expect people around us to be, either. You actually have to ASK
for what you want in life, or you don’t get it. This goes way beyond
simple tasks to include things like space, attention, help, acceptance,
etc. You get the picture.
are also guiltier than our testosterone gifted brethren of being afraid to ask
for what we want, and there are lots of reasons.
We are AFRAID
· Being vulnerable
· Being seen as a nag
seen as controlling
· Being rejected
· And (drum roll please…
this is the grand poobah fear for a lot of women), we are afraid of being seen
So, get over it! If you have
looked deeply inside, and really do need something from your partner or friend
that you are not getting, ASK! If you are not willing to discuss the
issue, then you have to reconsider how important it really is to you.
don’t ask, you are not allowed to be resentful for not having what you
You can’t always get what
you want, but if you try sometimes…
So, you’ve asked, offered a quid pro
quo, made the benefit of action clear, and still you are unsatisfied.
Ouch. Terrible, but true - sometimes, it happens. What now?
First, assume that your friend or
partner has your best interests at heart, and would do what you ask if it were
possible, and if they understood the importance. You have to assume that
the person you are in this relationship with (and it doesn’t have to be a
romantic relationship) has your best interests at heart. It should be a
given that they want you to do well, and be happy. If this is not the
case, then RUN! Seriously, RUN!!!
If you have asked for what you want
and gotten a negative response, be sure to explain yourself. Do it only
once more, very clearly, calmly, and gently. Asking for the same thing
over and over when the answer has been “no” is nagging, which will ensure that
future requests cause an instant shut down in your partner or friend. It
also creates resentment for both of you.
So be prepared to take action based
on the response you get, and be gracious. It is more likely that you will
get a positive response the next time. The only response you can control
is your own, and it may influence future interactions with your friend or
partner. Just as you have a right to ask for what you need, they have the
right to say yes or no, so you must have an alternate strategy if that answer is
Avoid using ultimatums, or
Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Ultimatums are just nagging
with more anger behind them, and they rarely get you anywhere. If you do
use an ultimatum, be sure you are prepared to follow through to the end.
This is where having an alternate strategy will do you good.
I saw a great example of alternate strategy use in my
past life working with a cleaning service. After meeting with a couple to
discuss house cleaning, they informed me that the service was actually to save
One partner was a neat-nik - the
other, not so much. The neat-nik felt resentful at having to work harder
to keep things the way he liked them, and his partner felt resentful at having
to achieve what she considered an unreasonable standard. Neither was
willing to take on all the responsibility, but they decided they could both live
with the solution of an outside cleaning service.
Wrap it up, I’ll take
You’ll never get everything you need all the time, but your
reaction to the response you get will influence future interactions. If
you give as well as take when you do get what you want, the next “yes” will come
more easily. And, if you accept a “no” graciously, a “yes” will also be
more likely the next time.
Nagging and demanding make both
parties unhappy and resentful. A demand leaves no room for give and take –
it’s like a grabbing fist. But a request is more like an open hand, which
is free to give and receive – and it’s easier to fill with good
Article author, Vicki Kriner, is a small
business aficionado and sometime author with nearly two decades in the
world of customer service, business building, and the general realm of helping
She books Scarlet
Girl shows and other lectures in Portland, OR and the San Francisco Bay Area of
CA. Her greatest joy lies in finding solutions for clients,
networking, and creating sustainable business