One thing I often hear about partners, spouses, and coworkers–indeed, even bosses, is that the person feels they “Should just know what I need” because the person with this particular narrative has been with them for umpteen days, months, or years. But have you said this to them? Ever? “Well, no, but they should just know!” In other words, you expect them to get out their crystal ball and engage in a bit of fortune telling.
Really? Why? And what is it you are afraid of if you actually ask them for what you need outright? Is it that they will say “No”? and yet you have not afforded them the opportunity to respond at all. When you ask for something in a way that can be heard, you give the other person a chance to:
A) Say yes
B) Say no
C) Say yes, plus I can even…
D) Say no, but here is what I can do instead
E) Say “Wow, I had no idea you felt that way.”
Fortune Telling Examples
I hope you are getting the idea that opportunity abounds. Please don’t assume everybody “just knows” what you need. And the best method for getting exactly what you want is to be specific and kind in your request. For example, if you ordered food in a restaurant, you would not say “I’ll take the entree.” Noooo, no,no, you would say “I’ll have the roast chicken with red wine demi-glace and polenta with the creamy potato stacks laced with garlic, thyme, and parmesan.”
That’s what I’m talking about 😉
Or this example:
Don’t say this: “You have no f’in clue what my day is like, so don’t come sashaying in here with your ‘When’s dinner, hon?’ self!”
Instead say this: “Well, little Topher has a fever of 103, Gracie threw up 14 times, and Dilbert just told me he needs a trifold for his science project due tomorrow at 8:00am. So I could use a little help with either dinner prep or watching the kids for a few.”
This might seem like I’m exaggerating, but you get the drift. And it is likely an understatement for those of you who single parent.
Learning to Say NO
The other piece of this is actually learning to say no. Forget about fortune telling. This is about setting healthy boundaries for yourself. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Know your limits. What can you tolerate?
- Be direct. That bush you are beating around isn’t going away!
- Acknowledge the fear you hold. Is it about the other’s potential reaction to your request?
- Guilt can be the culprit here. Wondering if you are a “good” mother, wife, child.
- Communicate when someone has crossed your boundary.
- And start small with boundary changes.If the first change you select is something large and hairy and threatening, chances are good you won’t go there!
A crystal ball would be a truly splendid thing–if it actually worked. Sadly, this is not the case. Learn to state your needs in a way that can be heard. You will feel empowered when you do. If this still seems too difficult to do on your own, shoot me an email or go to my contact page. I’ll help you get started. It can be tough to sort out what you have the right to do when you’re out of practice. I’m in your neighborhood and ready to help.
Resource: Boundaries, Where You End and I Begin by Anne Katherine, 1991