A couple of times a year, I encounter a parent telling a small child who is upset, “Use your words. Tell me what you want.” This is a wonderful practice. In the moment, it helps the parent find out what the child wants or is upset about. Longer term, it establishes a key conversational skill—asking for what you want. (from page 115 of Ten Powerful Things to Say to Your Kids)
The ability to express yourself and ask for what we want is a critical life skill. It’s not that you and I will always get what we want, but we feel better when we ask, and asking creates clarity for everyone involved.
If you stop and observe, you will notice that most of us are not asking for what we want.
• We are hinting.
• We are waiting for the right time.
• We are being careful.
• We are being indirect.
• We are asking for what we think we can get.
When we are not asking for what we want, we are not being effective. Usually we let our concern for being comfortable displace our real needs. Take a look. In your conversations with your team members, with your boss, with your family members…are you really asking for what you want?
It seems so simple. What if each member of your family has the ability and freedom to ask for what they want and need? And what if every other member has the freedom to decline or negotiate until you arrive at a place that works for everyone?
Of course, it’s not enough to be direct. It’s also important to learn to ask in a way that truly works for the other person. This is a matter of intention…of intending to be easy to talk with and deal with. If you keep that perspective in mind, you’ll be easy for your kids to approach.