You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need
–The Rolling Stones
Learning to start sentences with “I need” was one of the most life-changing lessons for me. For most of my adulthood, I felt uncomfortable expressing my own needs. I thought that asking for whatever I needed was selfish and that asking direct questions was rude. In fact, I thought that beginning too many sentences with “I” was a sign of narcissism. When I learned to use the phrase “I need” and its companion “I feel,” it was liberating.
These simple phrases gave me the ability to say, “I need some space. Please give me five minutes alone, and then we’ll talk about this some more.” Or, “I feel like you’re not listening to me.” Or, “I need you to help me solve this problem because I feel overwhelmed.”
I expected this to make me feel whiny, selfish, helpless, and vulnerable. I expected everyone around me to reject me the minute I started talking about what I needed or what I felt. But it had exactly the opposite effect. It was empowering.
To my surprise, I found that being assertive about my needs and feelings gave me the ability to make direct requests. When others saw me taking steps to get my needs met, they perceived that I was in charge of myself, and because of that, they trusted me to be in charge of them. I didn’t have to demand anything. I could just make a direct request and be met with cooperation.
No one bats an eye when an assertive person says, “I need to speak with you privately. When is a good time for you?” Or “I feel like this situation is getting out of hand. What are your ideas for resolving the issue?” When you are assertive and direct, you become authoritative without having to become an authoritarian.
Is being assertive and direct a magic formula for getting everything you want? No, obviously that’s not possible. If you got everything you asked for, it would screw up what someone else has asked for, because it’s impossible for everyone to have desires that perfectly align with each other. Sometimes you get what you ask for. Sometimes they get what they ask for.
I’m not giving you a spell to cast over your life to make it always go your way. I am simply encouraging you not to beat around the bush or play mind games. Just ask for what you need – not in a demanding way, but in an assertive way. “I need X.” Simple as that. You aren’t guaranteed to get what you ask for, but being assertive will get you more positive results than being demanding or using trickery or fear to get what you want.