Imagine yourself going into a bakery. You enter the store filled with energy, looking forward to getting a special treat. You stand in front of the counter and wait until someone asks what you want. But you don’t answer. The woman behind the counter repeats her questions just a bit louder in case you didn’t hear her the first time. You look at her, but still don’t answer. Next, she tries making a suggestion: “Perhaps you’d like one of these delicious pastries?” You shake your head: “No.” So, she offers you a whole-grain roll instead. You shake your head now even more. “Would you like to try some rye bread?” “No, I don’t want that either,” you manage to say.
The woman, who is somewhere between annoyed and furious on the anger scale at this point, asks you to please make up your mind quickly because there are other customers waiting. She tries to be friendly, but the tone of her voice says otherwise. With that comment, you get angry and stomp out of the bakery muttering to yourself how rude it was of her not to offer you what you really wanted. Unbelievable!
Does this story seem silly to you? Yes, of course. But this is often how we act in relationships. We expect our partner to guess what we want. Then when they guess wrong (or not at all), we are disappointed.
Let’s assume you would like help emptying the dishwasher, but your partner just sits on the couch reading something on their smartphone. How dare they just sit there like that while you are putting the dishes away! You feel your anger slowly rising. You let out an extra loud sigh and do your best to rattle the dishes loudly without breaking anything. Shouldn’t they get the point and come help?
We have to learn to express our needs and ask for what we want. Sometimes this takes courage as we risk being rejected. At the same time, we feel a certain sense of rejection when our needs are not met.
Terry Real, author and therapist, has a simple rule: You do not have the right to complain about something you didn’t get if you never asked for it.
What seems logical in the bakery example may take a bit of practice in real life. In the Guess-What-I-Want game there are no real winners.
Moving to the next level in our relationship:
Do an experiment — be bold and ask for what you want!
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