5 Tips To Help You Ask For What You Want

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How To Be More Assertive In Your Relationships

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

We all like to help and take care of others, but when you ignore your own needs to please others it creates problems.

For some people, the need to please is driven by beliefs and fears that developed at a very early age – like the belief that it’s important to be liked and accepted by everyone or a fear of rejection.

These beliefs can make it hard for you to: say no, ask for what you want, and share your opinions and ideas. A fear of rejection might also mean that you constantly feel that you  need to be overly agreeable to other peoples opinions and always be ‘nice’ and sacrifice your own needs to meet the needs and wants of others.  

Tired of feeling like no-one listens to what you need?

Tired of feeling like no-one listens to what you need?

But while it might seem easier to say yes when you really want to say no, or to just do what it takes to keep the peace, people pleasing will leave you feeling bad about yourself and inferior to others.

Being “others” focused sends an unhealthy message to yourself: what you want and what you have to say does not matter, it is not important, it is not valuable.  What other people want or have to say is more important.

Breaking free from your need to please can help to restore your sense of self and improve your self-esteem.  Learn to value your own options and ideas and others will follow your lead.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Tip #1: Watch Your Level Of Agreeableness

It can be easy to follow the suggestions and wants of other people, being too scared to suggest your own opinions, only to then find yourself politely (and violently) nodding to suggestions that you go to the Mexican restaurant that you hate, or agreeing to share a dish that you can’t stand the taste of. Next time you’re with friends and social plans are being made, try to catch your head when it automatically falls into people pleasing mode. Stop nodding. Think about your own preferences.

Tip #2: Ask For What You Want

Take a moment to think about what you would prefer to do, what you think, what your ideas are. Then voice it! It might mean saying no to someone else’s idea and then stating your own preference, but that’s ok. Your ideas are just as important as anyone else’s.

Tip #3: Own What You Think + Feel

Use “I” statements to make it clear that what you are stating is your suggestion, opinion, or feeling. Using “I” statements can also help to avoid a defensive reaction from others. Saying “you never listen!” may get someone’s back up, but say “when you don’t acknowledge my suggestion I feel like I’m being ignored” and you’re more likely to be heard. As a general rule, if you’re unhappy with something that someone has done, use this formula:

I feel…(state how you feel) when you…(state what you are reacting to, stick to the facts, no judgments)

Tip #4: Say It With Conviction

When you have something to say, stand with a straight posture, but remain relaxed and open. Speak with a firm voice, not loud and not meek. Try to avoid using fillers like “ummm” or “errr” because they will make you seem hesitant. If you are hesitant, others are less likely to take you seriously.

Tip #5: Continue To Practice

Changing old habits is not easy. It can be tempting to revert to old patterns because they’re familiar and take less effort. But remember you are standing up for your right to have a say, you are learning to value yourself and you’re taking steps to restore your sense of self. People close to you may not receive the changes so readily because they’re used to the ‘passive you’. Don’t let that discourage you.

If you find your people pleasing habits difficult to break, seek help. A clinical psychologist can help you explore where your people pleasing patterns originated and why they have such a strong hold on you. A clinical psychologist can also help you to challenge the fears and thinking patterns that drive your people pleasing so that you can be successful in asking for and gaining what you want.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.


 

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