5 yr old: Mumma, you always play the podcast Vivaan wants to listen to. You “never” play what I like.
8 yr old: Did you ask or let her know what you wanted? She likely didn’t know that you wanted to listen to the Big Life kids podcast today.
Yep, this was a real exchange a few days back on our car ride to one of their classes. At first, before my older one would respond I experienced a flood of emotions, primarily guilt for not being inclusive or checking in with him on what he wanted before giving in to my older son’s request. (We typically have a “process” for podcast selection in the car but that day was a bit more adhoc.)
But once my older one responded, I realized it was a beautiful teaching moment to remind my kids to ask for what they want, to express their needs and of course then invariably learn to adjust, deal with disappointment and manage the discomfort of rejection.
I know this theme comes up so often in my conversations with friends, and with my coaching clients and I wanted to dig a bit deeper here around why is it so hard for so many of us to ask for what we need.
Here are some of the common (often times unhelpful) beliefs we carry around advocating for ourselves or asking for what we need. We pick them up from our families of origin, our workplaces, the overall culture, and the behaviors that are celebrated and rewarded and ultimately hold on to a belief that may or may not be serving us.
As you read through this list, ask yourself which ones best resonate and are their different beliefs in different situations (e.g. – boss vs direct reports vs partner).
— I shouldn’t need anything from anyone, asking makes me weak.
— I should be able to manage everything on my own.
— People who care for me should know what I best need and give it to me. (I know I carried this for a long time and sometimes still hold on to this!)
— Asking makes us weak and vulnerable.
— I must not be deserving hence didn’t get it. If I were that good, I would have gotten it anyway.
— How will I be perceived if I ask for X. What if they don’t like me anymore and think I am too …. (needy, greedy, emotional, etc)?
— How will I cope with teh pain of rejection? It’s better I don’t ask anymore?
I want to acknowledge there is a lot of nuance in these beliefs. There are times when it’s not that linear, not that binary. Which of these beliefs have helped you in the past but are no longer serving you? What new mindset can you adopt moving forward? Where do you need to up your game in better communicating your needs?