Do you always get what you want? Really? Or do you find yourself settling for what you get? There is something to be said for acceptance and gratitude, but if you find that mostly (or even half the time) you aren’t getting what you want, you may need a tune-up.
Usually I find that when I’m consistently not getting what I want, I’m not asking for it or I’m not being specific enough. If you’re like me, you didn’t grow up with great models of how to do this. I got a lot of messages from friends, family, television, and society that if someone really loves me they should know what I want, and I should never have to ask. I know that mind reading doesn’t really work, but I’ve never given up hoping it will. We all do this in different ways, but the most common are asking indirectly, expecting, and not knowing what it is we are asking for.
Asking for things indirectly includes hinting, saying half of what we mean to say and hoping the other person will fill in the blanks, making comments about a desire which bring the conversation around to it again and again (this is not asking!), and various other forms of verbal sparring. Expecting for things without asking includes wishing, dreaming, and hoping. All of these are done in one’s head, and since they never get outside of your head, they are also not asking. And finally, there is not knowing what we are asking for. This includes not being specific enough, not knowing what we actually want, and expecting fulfillment from outside sources so we don’t have to take responsibility for ourselves.
Imagine you are in a restaurant. You are hungry, and a restaurant is the place one goes when it is time to eat. You peruse the menu and decide what looks good to you. Maybe it’s your favorite meal, or maybe you’re trying something new, or maybe you are looking for the leanest meal because you’re trying to lose weight. You make your decision about what you want to eat, but instead of telling the waiter you want the salmon, you return the menu and ask about how the salmon is prepared and when and where it was caught and any other questions that occur to you to ask about the salmon, but you don’t actually ask for it. Not only will you frustrate the waiter, who has other tables to attend to, but you won’t get the salmon. In fact, you won’t get anything but strange looks.
When we are in relationships, though, we feel like this is appropriate behavior. We usually don’t ask for things for good reasons: we want to be “nice”, we don’t think we should have to ask, we did ask, but in a roundabout way, or we are waiting for the right time to ask – which is usually never. We talk about what we want: the store that sells it, the price of the thing, the holiday coming up for which we expect to receive the item, how the last one broke recently, etc., but we never actually ask the other person to get it for us. Or maybe we ask, but we don’t tell them we want the green one or the biggest size. If the other person is really good at guessing, they might get it right sometimes, or at least get it half right. (I’d say that’s pretty good considering the situation they’ve been placed in.) But we either get nothing or end up disappointed and still having to be graciously thankful for it. This applies to chores and having an important conversation and getting our feeling needs met, not just to objects.
So the next time you get something you didn’t want, ask yourself “Did I ask for this?” Chances are, you kinda did.