Linda Lewis Griffith

How to get what you want

The News Tribune (Tacoma, Wash.)

Sometimes it’s hard to ask for what you want. You stammer, drop hints, change your mind or defer to the opinions of others — all in an effort to avoid saying the truth.

Lots of factors contribute to such wishy-washy behavior. For instance, folks can be inherently shy. They may suffer from what’s called “social phobia” and will break out in a cold sweat if they feel they might be scrutinized or rejected.

Others don’t trust their own judgment. Perhaps their opinions were chronically discounted when they were kids (“You don’t really want ice cream”), so they never learned how to identify and satisfy their own needs. In essence, they’ve become separated from their inner urges — they literally don’t know what they want or how to ask for it.

People can be afraid of what family members or co-workers will think of them. Women especially may desperately want to please others and worry about being labeled selfish or pushy if they have minds of their own.

People may even fear negative consequences from family members if they express how they truly feel. For example, a high school senior secretly longs to go to art school. But his parents expect he’ll attend a four-year university and major in business. He keeps his mouth shut to avoid confronting them.

Whatever the cause, the results are surprisingly similar. Speakers appear weak, indecisive and hard to please. They’re frustrating to work and live with. Even worse, they harbor years of resentment because they feel their needs are never met.

Fortunately, it’s possible to cut through the confusion and indecision. With soul searching and improved communication, they can have what they want and be easier to live with. Everyone wins!

Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her, visit

Tips for getting what you want:

  • Become quiet. Anxiety clouds your inner direction. Use deep-breathing techniques and meditation to create a clean mental slate.
  • Listen to your inner guide. Ask yourself honestly: “What would truly make me happy?” Allow a clear image to take shape.
  • Silence the critical dialogue that drowns out your wishes. It’s probably based on someone else’s words rather than your own. Allow it to fade into the background of your thoughts.
  • Communicate your desires. Let others in your life know what you want. Lay out a plan. Avoid being aggressive or apologetic.
  • Give yourself permission to meet your needs. No one can automatically understand what you want. You have every right to express who you truly are.
  • Be willing to problem-solve issues or adapt as needed. Address specific hurdles. Work within time constraints. Take steps to further your ultimate goal.
  • Get support. Find like-minded people who can serve as both mentors and cheerleaders. They’ll be vital to your ultimate success.