Jackson, hand raking through his hair; “I need a raise, but there’s no way in hell my boss will give me one.”
Stella paces muttering, “If I tell her I don’t want to babysit her kid anymore, the friendship’s over. For sure!”
Because being rejected is wired into our survival instinct – feelings of rejection activates our belief we will die – from early, early in our lives we learn to do everything in our power to please others. If you are anything like me, you find yourself doing all kinds of mental gymnastics trying to figure out how to say how you feel, ask for what you want or make a statement of some kind BUT only in a way that will make others feel comfortable, agree with you or at the very least, react mildly. Or, how many times have you talked yourself out of a conversation because you’ve already had it in your head and it didn’t go well? If you can relate to this then you understand how exhausting this can be. This is a pattern of learned behaviour that can be changed, but some effort is required.
It Is YOUR Job To Make You Happy
Now, Georgia, Jackson and Stella’s first motivation is to ‘get’ their ‘others’ to do what they want. It is never anyone’s job to do what you want or to make you happy.
Yes, manipulation in the form of guilt or intimidation works. Honey, if you let me have what I want I will …… OR if you don’t let me have what I want, I will..! In the case of I want a raise – if you give me a raise I promise I’ll do more, or if you don’t, I’ll quit. In the babysitters’ case: She either babysits and has a friendship or doesn't babysit and has no friendship. These choices keep us stuck in immature relationships and prevent us from moving forward.
Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want
It is o.k. reasonable and acceptable to ask for what you want, state how you feel, voice your needs. And, it is a fact that no one can read your mind. You must ask for and be clear about what you want.
Describing clearly or having facts handy shows thought and consideration has gone into the request and you are taking responsibility. Example: Instead of Georgia complaining to her husband that the bathroom is ugly and she’s tired of it becomes: “The cabinet is outdated, the flooring is lifting and I could really use a mirror with a cabinet. I’ve priced them out, here is a spreadsheet of the comparative costs among hardware outlets.” Jackson presents a list of his daily responsibilities, and all of the new projects he’s created in the last year. Stella explains to her friend, “I am not really all that crazy about kids, not any kids. ‘Nothing personal. It’s you that I want to spend time with.”
How Others Respond Is Not Your Responsibility
I have and eventually, everyone must, come to know that the only person you control is yourself. You are mature, wise and strong enough to accept and respect the response you get when you clearly articulate your request. ‘They’ are completely free to respond however ‘they’ like. If the reaction is derisive, disrespectful or not helpful, remind yourself again, “How others respond is not my responsibility.”
You Always Have a Choice
If the response to your request is not helpful, you can still choose what to do next. Georgia could choose to pay for the bathroom reno herself and arrange the contractors. This could have consequences for her relationship both negative and positive. Jackson might consider looking for another job before his meeting with his boss or ask for a future date to re-visit the request. Stella could allow said ‘friend’ some time to mull things over before any further discussion. Dialogue is a great discovery tool. (Maybe Georgia’s husband has money set aside for travel instead of renovation. Jackson could suggest an option for a shorter workweek or less responsibility and keep the same pay.) Or, they can all accept the answer they receive and leave it at that, content that they brought it up.
Contrary to popular belief, It Is Not Your Job To Make Others Happy (this is also a choice!)
This is turning the point around. When someone states or asks you for something, you are completely free to react however you wish. Instead of being quick to give the requester what you think they want, in order to please them, ask questions, ask for time to consider before you answer or answer how you really feel – see what happens!
Starting with an attitude of ‘allowing’ and removing the 'responsibility for happiness' automatically shifts the emotional, charge around any issue, making open dialogue more likely.
Georgia’s husband did have money set aside and when Georgia presented her spreadsheet, he immediately got on board. They negotiated the elements and the budget of the bathroom and came up with a renovation they were both pleased with and the project gave their relationship a lively boost.
Jackson got the raise! Once his boss saw what he was doing and the extra money his projects brought in, he agreed to the increase in pay.
Stella has not had to babysit since but her friendship with the mom has cooled. Stella has realized that the mom valued her more as a babysitter than a friend. Information she is glad to have.