As parents, we always have hopes and dreams for our children. It seems I wasn’t all that typical with mine. My biggest hope for my two boys wasn’t related to career choice or athletic success. I dreamed that they would be really good at managing relationships.

Why was this my dream for my children? Because, to me, the quality of relationships is at the heart of our success and happiness. Relationships are a big part of every single day, and they can be profoundly positive, profoundly negative, or anything in between. I wonder what comes to mind for you when you hear the word “relationships.” Is it family? Perhaps friends and family? Maybe colleagues and work relationships?

The idea that relationships need to be managed may be an uncomfortable concept for some people. It may bring forth thoughts of control or manipulation. Fair enough, but that is not the type of positive relationship management I want to talk to you about.

Establishing boundaries is an example of beneficially managing relationships. In a previous post, I have written about the value of and methods for creating boundaries.

Another critical aspect of managing relationships is asking for what you want.

I don’t think it’s possible to quantify all the past frustration and wasted energy I have spent thinking that people know, or should know, what I want or need in our relationship. This spans the gamut from my kids to colleagues, relatives, staff, partners, etc. Essentially, I assumed they were mind readers—that others would know what I was thinking and therefore know what I wanted/needed from them.

The humbling thing is that I could have avoided almost all this suffering if I had just adopted a simple mantra: ask for what I want.

But, of course, it’s never that simple. Asking for what you want first requires believing you deserve what you want. And unfortunately, this is a significant leap for many of us, but a bit beyond the scope of this post. Nevertheless, acknowledging our feelings in this area is the first step to overcoming them.

It also takes courage to ask for what you want. Many of us, particularly men, easily summon courage in many other ways, but the bravery to ask for what we want is elusive.

We avoid asking for what we want for various other reasons. Some of the most common are fear of confrontation, FOPO (fear of people’s opinions—looking stupid, rejection), not wanting to appear weak or needy (ego, pride), and the erroneous beliefs that authority knows best or that things must be the way they are for a reason (not visualizing better possibilities).

Not asking for what we want hurts us and can also be unfair to the other person, ultimately sabotaging the relationship. How can people support you and the relationship if they don’t know what you’re thinking? Most people welcome transparency in relationships.

We must, of course, be prepared to be rejected. But without needing to give examples, I’m sure you can easily visualize how that rejection or “no” can be very valuable. In many cases, it can provide the clarity we need to see a better path forward.

From my personal experience, it seems we get very little of what we want unless we ask for it. When we know what we want and summon the courage to ask for it, we create much better relationships and, therefore, a much better life for ourselves and others.

What are some positive experiences where asking has benefited you?

What primary fears prevent you from asking for what you want?

How can you start small and begin today to build your asking courage?

With loving kindness,

Coach Billy