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Requests v Demands

When I was growing up, we had very little money. One of the less useful assumptions I picked up was ‘never ask for anything unless you′re desperate, and then the other person doesn′t have any right to refuse.’ As I never knew if I was desperate enough, I never asked for anything. On the other hand, if anyone asked me for something, I assumed they were desperate, and I believed that if I was a kind, decent person, I should always give whatever was asked of me. In my mind it was not a request, it was a demand which I had to satisfy.

Many of us have been socialised into believing that if we′re a good person, we′re required to focus on and contribute to the well-being of others. This is fine, but only if we have a choice, and except for emergencies, we also keep our own needs in the equation of the relationship. However, very often it becomes for us, a series of shoulds, oughts, must do′s, have to′s, duties and obligations which keep hounding us internally and/or externally, and can be a very heavy burden to carry. This leaves precious little time and energy to focus on what it is that we ourselves need/want for our own health and well-being, and often we feel great resentment, because it seems so unfair.

Some of us also spend a lot of time trying to work out what others need or want and give it to them, without necessarily checking it out with them. If they are not appreciative of our efforts, because they didn′t want what we gave them in the first place, we can end up feeling resentful, because the other person isn′t grateful for our efforts on their behalf. We can then reproach the other person with ‘after all I′ve done for you– how could you be so mean and unkind.’ So again, we can end up resentful, because we have the belief that whatever we give we should get back in equal measure.

This is transactional bargaining– if I do this for you, then you are obliged to give me this in return. This has nothing to do with generosity of spirit.

I brought up my daughters to keep asking for what they want, as long as they were accepting of a ‘No’ answer. Otherwise it′s a demand and not a request. In relation to me at least, they don′t seem to have challenges around asking for what they want, and are very accepting if my answer is ‘No.’

If we feel free to ask for what we want, while fully accepting a ‘No’ for an answer, it is far more likely that we′ll get our needs met and we′ll also enjoy healthier relationships.

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