Last week I wrote about giving wholeheartedly and freely – or deciding not to give at that point in time – and tried to give some pointers as to questions you can ask yourself to check whether you can actually give freely what is being asked.
This time I want to share some thoughts about the other side – the asking. It seems this is not as easy as we may think. How often do you actually clearly ask for what you really need? The catch is of course in being clear when asking and more importantly in being clear with yourself what it is that you need, what you actually want to ask for from someone else.
So as a first step you should take time to consider what your need is. You may think this is easy. Take something in mind, and then ask yourself why you need this. What is the purpose of getting this? Then you will see that your need is not that your husband/wife does the dishes. Your need may be that the other acknowledges in actions that the household is a shared responsibility. Or your need could be to free time (by not doing the dishes) to do something for yourself (reading that book, going for a stroll). Or your need might be recognition: that the other, by doing the dishes, realises that this is a “job” and sees your investment. Or something else entirely. As you see, your real need may not be so self-evident as you may have thought before.
Being clear about your need will help you identify what it is you should ask for. In the above example, it is not about today’s dishes (or as happens in my household – yesterday’s dishes…). It’s very possible that the other person could do the dishes as requested and still leave you dissatisfied. It is also possible that this person could meet your needs by doing something entirely different as your needs are more about dividing tasks (and sticking to the division), setting priorities, or being seen and honoured for what you bring into the relationship. For example.
Once you’ve got this cleared up, it’s important to be clear in your request, too. Don’t assume that the other person understands things that you haven’t actually said, and will act accordingly. Invest a little of your time in phrasing your request, make sure that it is clear and understood the way you meant it to be understood. Keep it as simple as “Pass me the salt please, would you?”. And keep it positive. After all it is a request, not complaining hour. If you want someone to hear your request and fulfil it, it does not help much to start out by telling them they are not worth a shit, and never have been. At least for me that kind of opening would not be a strong motivator to give my time freely to doing the dishes … Instead I might become highly motivated to give you, wholeheartedly, a piece of my mind in return!
More on the difficult territories of phrasing requests later. For now, just try to find out the why behind what you are asking people and see if this helps to at least ask for the thing you really want – even if it may not yet be phrased perfectly! Good luck!