Want your guy to take care of dinner once in a while? Want him to help you get some time to yourself? That doesn't sound like too much to ask. So why do we all have such a tough time asking? In this excerpt from her book Saying What's Real: 7 Keys to Authentic Communication and Relationship Success, Susan Campbell, PhD, explains that being assertive and diplomatic isn't as difficult as we think:
Why We Don't Say What We Want
Some people are uncomfortable expressing wants because they imagine they'll appear demanding or controlling. ("What if I ask for what I want, and he sees me as a nag?") But my clients and I are discovering that expressing wants can be an act of transparency or vulnerability. It really depends on the intent. Are you asking in a way that reveals what you want? Or does your manner of asking imply a threat that if you don't get what you want, there's going to be trouble? Asking in a way that reveals yourself is an act of love. This is an example of the intent to relate. Asking in a way that implies a threat is aggressive and fear-inducing. This would be an example of the intent to control.
But even if you do get good at revealing your wants, it is still possible that the other might feel controlled ‑- even though this was not your intent. Consider Vera's story. Vera has been dating Howie for six months. Howie has told her that he often felt overcontrolled as a child, and is therefore vigilant about others' attempts to control him. Through trial and error, Vera has discovered a good way to bring both herself and Howie more present. After stating a want, she checks in with Howie to find out how her request has come across.
Here's an example of how I have used Vera's discovery in my life. I call my partner at work to ask him to come home on time tonight so we can have a long, intimate evening together. While my aim is to be open and noncontrolling in my request, I can't help but recall times in the past when my partner has disclosed that my asking something like this resulted in his feeling controlled and choosing to stay at the office even later "just to assert my freedom." So now, as I consider making this request again, I feel some trepidation. In an effort to be transparent and vulnerable, I tell him, "I want you to come home on time tonight, and I also feel some fear about asking for this." Then I ask how he is feeling receiving my request ‑- does it seem controlling? Does he feel resistance? Then I am silent as I listen to his response.