It happened again. When Angela asked her husband Justin to help her fold the laundry, he sarcastically complained about her lack of appreciation for all the things that he did for the family. Angela thought to herself, “What the heck just happened here? We’re getting into a conflict over the laundry! Is there any hope for us at all?”
I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s all in how you ask.
When we want something from someone we love, we don’t oftentimes think through our strategy of how to try to get it. Basically, we only have four strategies to try to get what we want in a relationship.
Let’s review, shall we?
Strategy #1: Request
Making a request is a simple, straightforward approach. It includes some sort of phrase like these: “I would like.. “, “will you…”, “are you willing…”. Often we think this is the strategy we’re using, but, um, no. It may actually be one of the other three strategies below.
Strategy #2: Parent
If your partner feels like you are trying to treat them like a child, even if you don’t intend to sound like a parent, you have picked a fight with their inner defiant child. You know what this feels like, because it’s happened to you before, where someone spoke “parent” to you and triggered the thought in your head, “Don’t tell me what to do.” Usually this type of request includes words like, “Need to…”, “Don’t need to…”, “Should…” “Shouldn’t…”.
Strategy #3: Manipulate
Manipulation is an unpleasant variation of the ol’ “if, then” condition. “If you do/don’t…, then…”. Many times we aren’t aware we are making our “request” in such a way that the other person feels manipulated four our purposes. Manipulation at its core is imposing an unpleasant consequence or withholding a pleasant affection or connection unless certain conditions are met.
Strategy #4: Blackmail
Manipulation on steroids.
Hmm…well now, after condering my options, I think I’ll choose…
The wisest choice of the above options is a no brainer, but it’s not so easy to implement. Making requests will mean being sad or disappointed if the request isn’t met, and NOT making such a fuss that you didn’t get your way *cough* (manipulation) *cough*.
There’s an art to making requests in your relationship. One of the many communication tools I teach clients in sessions to help them get a better “response rate” is a technique that maximizes positive results. It just might be worth investing in a counseling session to learn how to implement it in your most precious relationship. Hey, we all want something, and more “yeses” would be awesome, right?
Rev. Greg Griffin is a Board Certified Pastoral Counselor and Forgiveness Coach in private practice in Marietta, GA. His specialty is relationship repair and rescue- helping partners, spouses, and parents and their adolescents. He’s also the author of Dungeon Times Survival Guide, and Vital Faith.