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How to ask for what you need

How to ask for what you need

Do you find it difficult to ask for what you need? Maybe it’s even hard to know what you need or what you want in the first place.


Why it can be difficult to ask for what you need


Perhaps you have learnt, from your family, school, or society in general, that it’s not okay to have needs and express them. Maybe you have been taught that being ‘good’ means keeping quiet, not making a fuss, and going along with others to keep the peace. If so, then it might have become such an automatic habit that you don’t even know you are doing it.

Perhaps it’s really difficult for you to know what you need because you are not used to asking yourself that question. But it’s something you can learn and get good at with practice.

If you don’t ask for what you need or want, you may miss out on lots of opportunities and possibilities in your life.  Sometimes this can be big, life-changing things, and other times it’s the little things – and they are important too.


How overthinking can get in the way


I was reminded of this last weekend when I was out for dinner with a friend.  We ordered our meal and drinks, and when my drink – sparkling mineral water – was served, there was no ice in the glass.  I felt disappointed but it took me a few moments to process that feeling, by which time the person who served the drinks had left.

I thought about going to the bar to ask for some ice, but it felt really difficult. These were the thoughts spinning round in my head…

Maybe they’ll be too busy.

They might look annoyed with me.

I might feel stupid because they’ll think I’ve finished my drink and now I’m asking for some ice.

Maybe I’m making a fuss about nothing.


I had more or less decided not to bother, when I realised that I was acting as if my needs and wishes don’t matter. And if I act like that, how can I expect anyone else to do otherwise?  That’s a slippery slope, and I’ve learned that in this, as in so many other areas of life, the little things really do matter.




Trying something different


So, after all that, I went and asked for ice at the bar. I had to wait a little while which felt difficult, but while I waited I reminded myself of what I know to be true – it’s okay to ask for what you need even if it feels uncomfortable sometimes.  When I asked, I did get a bit of a surprised look in response, so it probably did look like I’d finished my drink and then wanted ice.

But do you know what? It really didn’t matter. The person serving me was pleasant and friendly – if a little surprised – and I got my ice!

And not just a little bit of ice either. My glass was full to the brim. When I showed it to my friend, we had a good laugh about it, to the consternation of the original waiter who was concerned that there might be a problem.  I reassured him that I was very happy with my drink and my large glassful of ice!

And really that abundantly full glass is a great image of what can happen when you ask for what you need.  Instead of getting the negative response you are afraid of, you may end up with more than you expected.

I had a lovely meal with my friend, and I definitely enjoyed my drink more because it was really cold, just the way I like it.


Start with the little things


How about you? Do you sometimes miss out because you don’t ask for what you want or need? This can be small (but still important) needs – food, drink, physical comfort – and bigger ones in all areas of life – work, relationships, health, finances.

If you find it difficult to ask for what you need, start small and practise with easier things first. Ask for your coffee the way you really like it instead of accepting something that’s not quite right, and drinking it even if you’re not enjoying it. If your meal in a restaurant is lukewarm, ask for it to be heated up. If you’re in a counselling session and you feel too cold or too warm, ask for windows to be closed or opened.

This can help you build your confidence up. Your needs and wishes matter, and once you’ve practised in these everyday ways, it can help to remind you that it’s okay for you to ask for what you need in other areas of your life too.




Three steps to asking for what you need


So how can you do it? Whether it’s something big or just a little thing, these three simple steps can help you to ask for what you want or need.


  1. Know what you need.

If that’s hard for you, how can you find out? Asking yourself the question, “What do I need right now?” on a regular basis can make it gradually come more naturally. Listen to your body. What’s it telling you? Even simple signals like hunger, thirst, or being too hot or cold can go ignored if you’re usually focused on keeping everyone around you happy. And if you’re feeling stress, anxiety, or tension in your body, these can be clues that your needs are not being met. It takes practice but the more you learn to slow down, ask yourself the question, and tune into your body, the more easily you can find out what you need.

  1. Think about who can help you.

Sometimes, that’s quite straightforward (like asking the person serving at the bar for ice). In other situations it might not be so obvious, but whatever it is you need, there is always someone who can help, whether it’s a friend, family member, or professional. You don’t have to manage everything on your own and it’s okay to ask for help.

  1. Ask for what you need in a clear and straightforward way.

Keep it brief and remember that you don’t have to explain yourself. The person at the bar really didn’t need to know the back story – that I’d been served a drink without ice – and they were more than happy to help. Sometimes our anxiety about asking for help can lead to us asking for things in a complicated, confusing, or long-winded way. It’s usually better to keep it simple.



So, if you’d like to be able to ask for what you need and want, start by checking in with yourself more so you can learn to recognise your needs. Then take some small steps and practise asking for what you would like in situations where it feels more manageable. When you feel comfortable doing that, you’ll notice that you will be more able to do it in other situations in life which have a bigger impact.


And if you’d like a bit of help finding out what you really want and need, and learning how to ask for it, contact me by email on or by phone on 07305 424417 to find out more or to schedule your first counselling session.


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