How to Get What YOU Want (For a Change)

Do you consistently put your needs and preferences aside because you don’t want to risk upsetting others?

Have you ever had this conversation?

“Where do you want to go for dinner?”

You: “It doesn’t matter.”

“What movie do you want to watch?”

You: “I don’t care.”

“Where do you want to go on vacation?”

You: “You pick.”

But secretly you may have been thinking…

“We always end up doing what you want to do anyhow.”

“I never get to do what I want to do anyway, so why even bother.”

“I don’t have the energy to argue, and besides, I hate confrontation.”

If you can relate, you are not alone.

How are you ever going to win if you never get a turn?

Imagine you’re on a game show with two other players, and you’re player 3. Player 1 goes first. Then player 2 gets a turn. The camera cuts to a close-up of you, you are ready for your million dollar question… but the game show host skips right over you and gives the question to player 1. And the next question goes to player 2. This happens over and over again – and you never get your turn. The show is over and you go home, feeling disappointed – maybe even bitter, angry and resentful. If only you just spoke up and said, “Uh, excuse me, but when is it my turn?”

Well, life can be like that sometimes, and if we don’t speak up, we end up living someone else’s life – and passing up our turn, over and over again.  If that’s okay with you, you can stop reading this now. But if you want things to be different, then please keep reading.


Speaking up can be a challenge for those of us who hate confrontation. We may have been raised hearing things like: “Now be a good girl and don’t make a fuss”, and “Be nice, don’t make waves”. I can certainly relate to this. But in being so careful not to disappoint others, we end up letting ourselves down.

I could ask you to get more comfortable with confrontation, but I won’t. Because I don’t believe that speaking up for ourselves necessarily has to be confrontational. We can all learn to do it in a way that strengthens the relationship, both with others and, most importantly, with ourselves. It begins with making a request (which, by the way is not the same as hinting or nagging). Make the request with the intention of speaking up for yourself in a kind, loving way.

3 powerful ways to begin your requests:

Here are a few phrases to practice. Write them down and post them where you’ll see them. Now commit to trying one – just for today. Then just for tomorrow. Do it one day at a time, and eventually, it will become a habit that will nurture you (and your relationships) for the rest of your life.

  1. “What I’d like is __________” (fill in the blanks)
  2. “I prefer __________”
  3. “I’d rather ________”

It’s time to step up and take your turn now. Find the courage and strength – it’s there. Begin expressing your needs by making requests with grace – then notice what happens. You may not always get your way, and that’s okay – compromise is a healthy part of any relationship. It’s when the scales are constantly tipping to one side that we lose our balance.

What’s your experience like when it comes to making requests? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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This post has 14 comments

  • Evelyn Lew says:

    Hi Hellen –

    Yet another great article.

    And I agree – while asserting oneself, there is no need to be confrontational as well.
    In asserting oneself, it’s possible, and very important, to maintain positiveness and good relations

    Evelyn Lew

  • Wendi says:

    I am getting better at this!! Thank you for the phrases – they are great ones to have in the mental “toolbox”.

  • Shannon says:

    So true! However, by letting others decide for me for so long, when it’s my turn to speak up, I don’t know what I want!

    • Shannon, I understand what you’re saying and you’re not alone; I hear it all the time from clients I coach. I appreciate your openness in sharing. My suggestion is to start with the little things, asking yourself what you prefer. For example, do I prefer the red grapes or green? When you get into the habit of asking yourself this question, you’ll eventually get to the bigger things (as you get to know yourself better). Writing down one thing about your day that made you smile is also effective. Try it and let us know what happens.

  • susan says:

    Hi Hellen
    This article is so timely for me.
    I know what I want to do but my problem is that I know that I will disappoint my parents. My question is how to deal with the guilt in this situation (standing up for me rather than doing what they want)?

    Thanks for all your insight.

    • Hi Susan,
      It’s never easy disappointing others, especially our parents. But would they really want to have you trim your life for them? What do you need to hear or to do so that you can feel better about this decision?

      • susan says:

        Good point, Hellen!
        I come from a loving family and they do want me to do what is best for me. What I need to hear is that they still love me. Fortunately, I do get to hear that.

        • That’s awesome Susan! So, are you going to tell us what it is you want or are you going to keep us in suspense?

          • susan says:

            For the first time in many many years, I will not use my vacation time to visit my family. Instead, I am planning a getaway to my ‘piece of heaven’ -a place that I find peaceful and restorative. Can’t wait!

  • Denise says:

    With reference to Shannon’s post above, I agree. Whenever I need to make a decision, I find it hard to do so. Growing up, it was always easier to let others dictate what I should and should not do. I wonder if having being raised by a military dad (Korean War) or having gone to school with the Catholic nuns has anything to do with it?
    Please note that this reflection of mine is not to be read as a rant against the military or the nuns. My father was a very kind and generous man. And the education I received from the nuns was excellent. It’s just something that came up as I read her post. I would appreciate your thoughts on this Hellen. Can our upbringing have an impact on our decision making ability?
    So thank you very much Hellen for your advice to Shannon, I will certainly try it.


    • Hi Denise,
      Thanks for chiming in on this one – I appreciate your thoughts. Yes, our upbringing can have an impact on our decision making ability, just like it can have an impact on just about everything we do, especially the things we do subconsciously. But we can always strengthen our abilities and change some of the old beliefs that may be keeping us from living the life we want. The first decision is to decide whether you are going to let your upbringing (your ‘story’) dictate your life or whether you are going to begin a new chapter. You do have a choice.

  • audreyd says:

    Thank you Hellen, this is a great topic.

    This always happens when my husband and I go on vacation. Neither one of us can decide what we want to do and I usually go along with what he wants. Right now we can’t decide even where we should go for a much needed vacation. I’ve made suggestions and he shuts down. I think what I need to do is decide on a place and let him know what I’ve decided on.


  • sylvie says:

    Hi Hellen,

    thank you for this article and all the insight from the other readers. Until now I had never realized just how much I struggle with this… I have become a bit better at asking for what I want 30% of the time… the problem is that 15% of the time it seems to come out … a bit harsh (probably the result of denying my needs too often)… which then leads to guilt and takes all the pleasure out of having gotten my way… ugh. But maybe it’s just like you said… trying with the above phrases… I would love it if it were that easy. Thanks for the tools. I will give it a try for sure 🙂

  • TK says:

    My request often sounds like: “Would you mind [doing something] for me? I’d be [more comfortable, happier, etc] if you did.” By asking what the other person thinks and feels about my request in a polite way and making it sound like it’s more of a favour for another human being (me!), I feel like people respond more positively.