“I’ll be there next week,” she said.
I felt the familiar sense of agitation creep in.
A person that I have a long history with is telling me something but not really telling me what she wants or needs. I find myself trying to read into it, hoping to fill in the unspoken gaps.
The old me would have tried to sort it out: Does she want me to get her at the airport? Does she need a place to stay? Should I write back and say, “Just let me know what you need.”
When I think of doing that I feel angry, because I don’t want to open that can of worms. I’ve been there before and it leads to me enabling.
I’m compassionate, I care, I will help. I also have limits and boundaries.
So I don’t play the game.
That might sound heartless.
I tell myself, “If she needs something, she will ask for it. When she does, I will do what I can.”
Here’s another scenario:
A relative tells another that she’s struggling. But when I talk to that relative she acts fine. News gets triangulated and I hear through the grapevine she’s depressed.
Someone wants to meet for coffee but instead she dances around, hinting and hoping I’ll be the one to ask.
This is how it works when people have not learned to be assertive.
I wish they would just say, “Would you be able to pick me up at the airport and let me spend a night?” or “Hey, I’ve got the blues, can we talk?” or “Hey, can we go have coffee?”
Assertiveness does not equal aggressiveness. Assertiveness equals honesty and authenticity.
There’s a book I keep in my bathroom. It’s called The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Beattie is famous for her books on codependency. August 9th’s reading from her book says this:
Decide what it is you want and need, then go to the person you need it from and ask for it. Sometimes, it takes hard work and much energy to get what we want and need. We have to go through the pains of identifying what we want, then struggle to believe that we deserve it. Then, we may have to experience the disappointment of asking someone, having the person refuse us, and figuring out what to do next.
Sometimes in life, getting what we want and need is not so difficult. Sometimes, all we need to do is ask.
Here are some more tips on How to Ask For Help.
Lucille Zimmerman is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Littleton, CO and an affiliate faculty teacher at Colorado Christian University.
She is also the author of Renewed: Finding Your Inner Happy in an Overwhelmed World. Through practical ideas and relatable anecdotes, readers can better understand their strengths and their passions—and address some of the underlying struggles or hurts that make them want to keep busy or minister to others to the detriment of themselves. Renewed can help nurture those areas of women’s lives to use them better for work, family, and service. It gives readers permission to examine where they spend their energy and time, and learn to set limits and listen to “that inner voice."