Whether our request is met with a yes, no, or maybe, once we articulate it, we are on our way to self-care and satisfaction
By Selene Aitken
Often, we believe that asking for what we want is dangerous because it makes us either vulnerable for revealing ourselves or aggressive because other people feel obligated to acquiesce. In addition, we may question our right to have what we want and need.
Another view, however, is that when we ask for what we want, we are taking care of ourselves while giving others an opportunity to help us meet our needs. In my experience, as Marshall Rosenberg, author of “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,” claimed, people love to help others meet their needs.
What’s the catch?
It’s how we hold that request and how we express it. When we make a demand, we are coming from the positions “I have to have this” or “you are the only one who can give me what I want,” and we sabotage ourselves. No one wants to accede to a demand. And we undervalue ourselves when we believe our happiness depends on others or anything external to ourselves.
Clearly, I’m not here thinking of food, air, water, health care, shelter, freedom or safety. What I’m considering, for example, is that I’m sad, maybe lonely, and I ask my friend to go for a walk. She says she’s busy. I could get easily lost in thoughts about that. She was busy last time I asked, or I’m always available to her — so what gives?
I can consider other options and finally enjoy a walk alone loving the silence, or the sound of kids playing, or the comical sight of ducks floating on the rushing creek, or I can call another friend, or listen to a podcast, and eventually get to a place of contentment and peace.
What works here is remembering from the start that there are many options available to me even if, in the moment, I’m going through a crisis of the imagination. We have only to determine what it is we need and ask for it skillfully.
I once asked my son, then 17, to tell me about his terrible experience — the result of a unilateral decision I had made. He didn’t. I let go of my request, satisfied that I’d diplomatically asked for what I’d wanted. Fourteen years later, he chose to open up to me, and I was able to hear him. It was an important moment for us.
Whether our request is met with a yes, no, or maybe, once we articulate it, we are on our way to self-care and satisfaction because we have clearly asked for what we wanted.
Inner peace is restored when we have honored and taken responsibility for our own need.
Selene Aitken came to Ashland in 1985. She worked as co-director of Peace House for five years, as an adviser and adjunct faculty at SOU for 11 years and as an instructor in the LISTO Program in Medford for seven years. She is a communication coach, a mediator and a certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication.
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