I’ve noticed that many participants in my seminars are struggling because they are not getting what they want from others. They are hoping that people will get the point (their subtle hints) and give them what they want—whether it is a promotion or a raise at work, or flowers or cards in their romantic relationships. Unfortunately, this “hoping” often causes disappointment because people don’t always do what we hope they will do.
The answer to this dilemma is simple. Don’t wait; start asking for what you really want. I know what you might be thinking… if someone gives you what you want because you ask for it, it is not as meaningful as if they just figured it out on their own. I agree. But the trouble is that not asking usually doesn’t produce what you want. If you’re not getting what you want, you have three options: you can complain about it, throw the relationship (or job) away, or do something about it. If you do something about it, then maybe people will learn how to treat you correctly. After all, the only person you can control is you.
If you’re in this situation, I recommend that you try training and conditioning people to treat you the way you want to be treated. The results can actually be life altering. My close friend was dating someone who told him, “You don’t appreciate me.” So he asked her how she would like him to express his appreciation for her. She said that she’d like cards and flowers and other small tokens of affection. He asked her why she hadn’t simply asked him for these things so he would know what to do.
She replied, “If I have to ask you, it will lose most of its meaning.”
He responded, “True. But it isn’t working this way, and I keep missing it. So why don’t you try asking and let’s see if over time, I can learn what to do.”
Reluctantly she started to ask for things. Most often he responded by giving her those things. Eventually my friend caught on and needed fewer reminders from his girlfriend. In other words he “got it.” And then one day, his girlfriend discovered that he really got it.
Here’s what happened. One day my friend’s girlfriend was told by her boss that the two of them would need to travel to London for business. When the day came and they arrived at the airport, her boss informed her he was not going with her and in fact she was not going to London. He gave her a notebook from her boyfriend to read through. She was to follow all of the instructions in the notebook. In the notebook was a ticket to Ireland where her boyfriend would be meeting her as well as strict instructions not to ask any questions once she landed.
She followed the instructions and flew to Ireland where her boyfriend met her. That night they stayed at a bed and breakfast. The next morning, the boyfriend left the room and the proprietor of the B&B knocked soon after and said, “Please come with me.” The proprietor drove the girlfriend to a field and dropped her off.
Let’s pause here. Just a day earlier this woman thought she was going on a business trip. Instead she found herself in a foreign country standing in the middle of a barren field early in the morning without anyone around. In other words, who knows what might happen when you start asking for what you want.
Soon the girlfriend saw someone coming across the field on horseback. As the person got closer, she realized it was someone dressed in a battlefield costume like in the movie Braveheart. Eventually she discovered it was her boyfriend.
What the girlfriend didn’t realize was that she was standing in the middle of a historic battlefield. Her boyfriend was from Ireland and he had paid someone to come up with an authentic costume of what people wore when they were going into battle — complete with a shield with his family’s coat of arms.
When he rode up to her, he got off the horse, turned to her, and said, “I want you to know the man I am and the family I come from. Will you spend the rest of your life with me?” And he gave her an engagement ring. She said yes and they now are married with two children.
You see, my friend got it. Because his girlfriend spoke up and asked for what she wanted, my friend learned the kind of things that made his girlfriend feel loved, valued, and appreciated. It isn’t that he didn’t love and appreciate his girlfriend before; he did. He simply didn’t know how important it was to her that he express that love and appreciation in particular ways. Because she helped him to understand that, eventually he learned. He learned to such an extent he was able to envision a proposal that would speak to her heart — an idea he came up with entirely on his own.
His girlfriend had successfully helped to train and condition him to appreciate her in the way she would want to be appreciated. In the beginning it may have not been that romantic; it may have even seemed laborious. But look at the results!
This principle isn’t just true for romantic relationships. Asking for what you want has applications in all aspects of life. Are you asking for what you want at work? Are you hoping to get a promotion or raise?
No matter what area of your life you want more results in, speak up, ask for what you want, and help make it happen…And watch out for a man riding a horse!
Pass this tip on to people you care about; your co-workers, your boss, your employees, your family and friends. Use it as a basis to talk to the people around your office, in your organization, and your personal life. Consider when you are not getting the results you want in life and start putting a plan into action. If you get stuck, send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact my office for help at 703 241 7796.