Do you find it hard to ask certain people in your family for help because you usually hear them say “no”? They might not actually say the word “no”, but their lack of response lets you understand that they will not follow through. First, let’s make the assumption that your request is reasonable (for example, it’s not too time or money consuming) and that it is appropriate (for example, you’re not asking your teenage boy to clip your toenails or something equally weird). Here are 5 things to consider when making a request and hearing the word “no”, AGAIN.
Lions and tigers and bears.
Could they be fearful? They might fear losing something they have (time, money or their sense of identity). They may fear failure. Some people may come across as unhelpful and/or unapproachable but are insecure. Parenting experts tell us to compliment and encourage our kids ten times as much as we correct and criticize them in order to increase their self-esteem. It works on spouses too! Consciously thanking and pointing out our loved one’s strengths and capabilities can go far in building their confidence and letting them know we are on their side. Appreciate them regularly!
Huh? I’m soooo confused!
Sometimes, as women, we give a lot of information when making a request. (I know that I am guilty of this mistake.) Men think and process differently than women do and our communication styles can overwhelm and confuse them. If someone is feeling confused, they can automatically say “no” to a request. So use the KISS system when making a request: Keep It Simple Sweetheart! It is better to break down the request into easier to understand pieces. Women find this annoying because now instead of one request, they are having to make several smaller requests (I admit that this drives me nuts). The point is, we all need to make adjustments in families. Over time, they shouldn’t need to be spoon-fed the same instructions over and over again. When it doesn’t feel important to them, they won’t necessarily put a lot of effort into showing initiative beyond a simple step or a simple request. Persistence might be required on your part, for them to follow through. Love them beyond that.
I’m not mad, I just hate you.
If you have a teenage girl living at home, you will most likely identify with this theme. They don’t like you – right now. In our family relationships, some people spend a lot of time harboring resentments while not having the emotional maturity to engage in a conversation about their negative feelings so that they can “let it go”. Let’s face it, giving voice to those negative feelings can be uncomfortable; both for them to express it and for us to hear it. Becoming available to hearing those feelings – without taking it personally – and validating why they might feel like that is the most valuable communication (and parenting) skill to have. Even if we get good at this communication technique, it is normal to get it wrong from time to time. Luckily, your loved one will probably give you other opportunities to practice this skill of emotional validation. Especially if she’s a teenage girl! 🙂
Is there something wrong with them? I mean really!
Everyone in our family can’t be wrong while we are right all the time. If your loved one sounds defiant and critical, it can be a personality quirk, developmental stage or it can point to something more worrisome such as a personality disorder. I want to be clear that personality disorders are not generally diagnosed in people under 25, because they are still developing and can be overly impulsive, excessively judgmental as well as blaming others for all their problems. Regardless of whether there is a concern of mental health or not, to help them along, it is important to communicate clearly. It is far more loving to set clear boundaries and expectations than to emotionally leave the relationship by being a doormat or by avoiding your significant family member. This applies whether it is your spouse, child, sibling or in-law. So, is this relationship an important one? Then boundaries are important too!
Honest Abe lives here.
What if they are being honest about not wanting to do what you are asking? So then, you have to ask yourself 2 questions:
- Is it important for them to do it, but they are avoiding it? (For example: your budding teenager is never available to discuss family values around drinking or sexuality).
- Does the quality of your relationship with them depend on whether they follow through on your request? (For example: asking your spouse to speak to your relative – like your mom – with respect).
If your request is important to the quality of your relationship with them and/or it is important for their personal development or security, then it is time to have a conversation about those two concerns. I recommend requesting a time to talk over food; maybe at a coffee shop, which is neutral territory. Once you’ve made sure they understand how important these concerns are to you, then remake your request. It is important that your loved one gets a second chance to make things right!
One final point about honesty: Ask yourself: Is your relationship a two-way street? Do you also do things for them you’d rather not do from to time? Competition naturally sneaks into our closest relationships. Sometimes we need to adjust our own behaviors and model that a relationship is a two-way street.
“Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” Sun Tzu