Some years ago my partner and I took part in a relationship workshop. The workshop leader encouraged us to ask for 100% of what you want, but be willing to hear 'no'. Of course we all got excited thinking about 100% of what we wanted.
Below you'll find an excerpt on Asking For What You Want, from The Gottman Institute's Blog. You can attend a session based on Gottman Relationship Work at Port Macquarie Counselling... text or phone 0408 792 747.
Here’s a scenario that may sound familiar to you. You’ve had a hectic day. Work, errands, a doctor’s appointment… you’ve been racing from one place to another and you’re exhausted. Finally, you walk in the door at 6:30 — and find your partner on the couch, watching television. They look up at you with a big smile and say, “Hi, hon! How was your day?” But you can hardly answer because you are so angry. Yes, it’s your night to cook — but they KNEW what a crazy day you were having, why didn’t they start dinner? They see the expression on your face, and ask you what’s wrong. You shake your head, and say “nothing” — then angrily walk into the kitchen.
Okay, so what’s wrong with this picture? Have you figured it out yet? The answer is: You didn’t ASK for what you wanted. That’s right. The fact is, you can’t complain about not getting something that you never communicated to your partner.
Rewind this scenario to the morning or even the afternoon of the same day. Maybe you made a phone call to say, “Honey, I’m running late. I know it’s my night to cook, but could you make dinner instead? I’m beat.” There’s a good chance your partner would have agreed, or if they were busy, too, maybe you’d suggest ordering in. The fact is, your partner can’t read your mind. You must ask for what you want in order to receive it.
And don’t forget there are many different ways to ask for what you want — and some work better than others.
If you say, “You never help me change the bedding. I always have to do it myself!” you’re probably not going to get what you want. Using words like “always” or “never” is a sure way of putting your spouse on the defensive. You’re basically asking — and criticizing at the same time.
If you say “If you have time, could you help me? You don’t have to if you don’t want to” — is still not asking for what you want. It’s vague and you’re almost backing off the request.
The best way to ask would be: “Honey, I’d love your help changing the bedding tonight. If we do it together, it would take half the time. And I love making the bed so cozy for us with clean sheets and pillowcases.”
Why does this example work so well? First, you’re making your desire known — help with the bedding. You then tell them why you’d like their help — it will take you half the time. Next, you give your partner clear expectations of when you want their help — tonight. And finally you tell them how much you love to make the bed cozy for you both. Bravo. You have set your partner up for success to say “yes” to your request.
The point is: How you say something is just as important as what you say. And asking for what you want — effectively and respectfully — is not only a powerful tool, but one of the greatest gifts you can give your partner.
Today’s small thing: The next time you get angry about your partner not doing something, ask yourself, “Did I verbally ask them to do this?” And if you did, how did you say it?
From The Gottman Blog