Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex - John Gray 1992
How to Ask for Support and Get It
If you are not getting the support you want in your relationships a significant reason may be that you do not ask enough or you may ask in a way that doesn’t work. Asking for love and support is essential to the success of any relationship. If you want to G-E-T then you have to A-S-K.
Both men and women have difficulty asking for support. Women, however, tend to find it much more frustrating and disappointing to ask for support than men do. For this reason, I will be addressing this chapter to women. Of course, men will deepen their understanding of women if they too read this chapter.
WHY WOMEN DON’T ASK
Women make the mistake of thinking they dont have to ask for support. Because they intuitively feel the needs of others and give whatever they can, they mistakenly expect men to do the same. When a woman is in love, she instinctively offers her love. With great delight and enthusiasm, she looks for ways to offer her support. The more she loves someone, the more motivated she is to offer her love. Back on Venus, everyone automatically gives support, so there was no reason to ask for it. In fact, not needing to ask is one of the ways they show their love for one another. On Venus their motto is “Love is never having to ask!”
On Venus their motto is “Love is never having to ask!”
Because this is her reference point, she assumes that if her partner loves her, he will offer his support and she won’t have to ask. She may even purposefully not ask as a test to see if he really loves her. To pass the test, she requires that he anticipate her needs and offer his unsolicited support!
This approach to relationships with men doesn’t work. Men are from Mars, and on Mars if you want support you simply have to ask for it. Men are not instinctively motivated to offer their support; they need to be asked. This can be very confusing because if you ask a man for support in the wrong way he gets turned off, and if you don’t ask at all you’ll get little or none.
In the beginning of a relationship, if a woman doesn’t get the support she wants, she then assumes that he is not giving because he has nothing more to give. She patiently and lovingly continues to give, assuming that sooner or later he’ll catch up. He assumes, however, he is giving enough, because she continues giving to him.
He doesn’t realize she is expecting him to give back. He thinks that if she needed or wanted more she would stop giving. But since she is from Venus, she not only wants more but also expects him to offer his support without being asked. But he is waiting for her to start asking for support if she wants it. If she is not asking for support he assumes he is giving enough.
Eventually, she may ask for his support, but by this time she has given so much more and feels so much resentment that her request is really a demand. Some women will resent a man simply because they have to ask for his support. Then, when they do ask, even if he says yes and gives her some support, she will still resent that she had to ask. She feels “If I have to ask, it doesn’t count.”
Men do not respond well to demands and resentment. Even if a man is willing to give support, her resentment or demands will lead him to say no. Demands are a complete turnoff. Her chances of getting his support are dramatically reduced when a request becomes a demand. In some cases he will even give less for a while if he senses that she is demanding more.
If a woman is not asking for support a man assumes he is giving enough.
This pattern makes relationships with men very difficult for the unaware women. Though this problem may feel insurmountable, it can be solved. By remembering that men are from Mars you can learn new ways to ask for what you want—ways that work.
In my seminars I have trained thousands of women in the art of asking, and they repeatedly have had immediate success. In this chapter we will explore the three steps involved in asking for and getting what you want. They are:
(1) Practice asking correctly for what you’re already getting;
(2) Practice asking for more, even when you know he will say no, and accept his no; (3) Practice assertive asking.
STEP 1: ASKING CORRECTLY FOR WHAT YOU ARE ALREADY GETTING
The first step in learning how to get more in your relationships is to practice asking for what you are already getting. Become aware of what your partner is already doing for you. Especially the little things, like carrying boxes, fixing things, cleaning up, making calls, and other little chores.
The important part of this stage is to begin asking him to do the little things he already does and not to take him for granted. Then when he does those things give him a lot of appreciation. Temporarily give up expecting him to offer his support unsolicited.
In step 1, it is important not to ask for more than what he is used to giving. Focus on asking him to do little things that he normally does. Allow him to become used to hearing you ask for things in a nondemanding tone.
When he hears a demanding tone, no matter how nicely you phrase your request, all he hears is that he is not giving enough. This makes him feel unloved and unappreciated. His tendency is then to give less until you appreciate what he is already giving.
When a man hears a demanding tone, no matter how nicely you phrase your request, all he hears is that he is not giving enough. His tendency is then to give less until you appreciate what he is already giving.
He may be conditioned by you (or his mother) immediately to say no to your requests. In step 1 you will be reconditioning him to respond positively to your requests. When a man gradually realizes that he is appreciated and not taken for granted and that he pleases you, he will want to respond positively to your requests when he can. Then he will begin automatically offering his support. But this advanced stage shouldn’t be expected in the beginning.
But there’s another reason to start by asking him for what he’s already giving. You need to be sure you’re asking in a way he can hear you and respond. That’s what I mean when I say “asking correctly.”
Tips for Motivating a Man
There are five secrets of how to correctly ask a Martian for support. If they are not observed, he may be easily turned off. They are: appropriate timing, nondemanding attitude, be brief, be direct, and use correct wording. Let’s look at each more closely:
1. Appropriate Timing. Be careful not to ask him to do something that he is obviously just planning to do. For example, if he is about to empty the trash, don’t say “Could you empty the trash?” He will feel you are telling him what to do. Timing is crucial. Also if he is fully focused on something don’t expect him immediately to respond to your request.
2. Nondemanding Attitude. Remember, a request is not a demand. If you have a resentful or demanding attitude, no matter how carefully you choose your words, he will feel unappreciated for what he has already given and probably say no.
3. Be Brief. Avoid giving him a list of reasons why he should help you. Assume that he doesn’t have to be convinced. The longer you explain yourself the more he will resist. Long explanations validating your request make him feel as though you don’t trust him to support you. He will start to feel manipulated instead of free to offer his support.
When asking a man for support, assume that he doesn’t have to be convinced.
Just as a woman who is upset doesn’t want to hear a list of reasons and explanations about why she shouldn’t be upset, a man doesn’t want to hear a list of reasons and explanations about why he should fulfill her request.
Women mistakenly give a list of reasons to justify their needs. They think it will help him see that her request is valid and therefore motivate him. What a man hears is “This is why you have to do it.” The longer the list, the more he may resist supporting you. If he asks you “why?” then you can give your reasons, but then again, be cautiously brief. Practice trusting that he will do it, if he can. Be as brief as possible.
4. Be Direct. Women often think they are asking for support when they are not. When she needs support, a woman may present the problem but not directly ask for his support. She expects him to offer his support and neglects directly to ask for it.
An indirect request implies the request but does not directly say it. These indirect requests make a man feel taken for granted and unappreciated. Occasionally using indirect statements is certainly OK, but when they are repeatedly used, a man becomes resistant to giving his support. He may not even know why he is so resistant. The following statements are all examples of indirect requests and how a man might respond to them.
What He May Hear When She Is Nondirect
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you pick up the kids?”
What she should not say (indirect): “The kids need to be picked up and I can’t do it.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “If you can pick them up you should, otherwise I will feel very unsupported and resent you” (demand).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you bring in the groceries?”
What she should not say (indirect): “The groceries are in the car.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “It’s your job to bring them in, I went shopping” (expectation).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you empty the trash?”
What she should not say (indirect): “I can’t fit anything else in the trash can.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “You haven’t emptied the trash. You shouldn’t wait so long” (criticism).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you clean up the backyard?”
What she should not say (indirect): “The backyard is really a mess.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “You didn’t clean up the yard again. You should be more responsible, I shouldn’t have to remind you” (rejection).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you bring in the mail?”
What she should not say (indirect): “The mail hasn’t been brought in.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “You forgot to bring in the mail. You should remember” (disapproval).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you take us out to eat tonight?”
What she should not say (indirect): “I have no time to make dinner tonight.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “I have done so much, the least you could do is take us out tonight” (dissatisfaction).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you take me out this week?”
What she should not say (indirect): “We haven’t gone out in weeks.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “You are neglecting me. I’m not getting what I need. You should take me out more often” (resentment).
What she should say (brief and direct): “Would you schedule some time to talk with me?”
What she should not say (indirect): “We need to talk.”
What he hears when she is indirect: “It is your fault we don’t talk enough. You should talk with me more” (blame).
5. Use Correct Wording. One of the most common mistakes in asking for support is the use of could and can in place of would and will. “Could you empty the trash?” is merely a question gathering information. “Would you empty the trash?” is a request.
Women often use “could you?” indirectly to imply “would you?” As I mentioned before, indirect requests are a turnoff. When used occasionally they certainly may go unnoticed, but persistently using can and could begins to irritate men.
When I suggest to women that they begin asking for support, sometimes they panic because their partners have already made comments many times such as:
· “Don’t nag me.”
· “Don’t ask me to do things all the time.”
· “Stop telling me what to do.”
· “I already know what to do.”
· “You don’t have to tell me that.”
In spite of how it sounds to a woman, when a man makes this kind of comment, what he really means is “I don’t like the way you ask!” If a woman doesn’t understand how certain language can affect men, she will get even more snarled. She becomes afraid to ask and starts saying “Could you …” because she thinks she is being more polite. Though this works well on Venus, it doesn’t work at all on Mars.
On Mars it would be an insult to ask a man “Can you empty the trash?” Of course he can empty the trash! The question is not can he empty the trash but will he empty the trash. After he has been insulted, he may say no just because you have irritated him.
What Men Want to Be Asked
When I explain this distinction between the c words and the w words in my seminars, women tend to think I am making a big deal over nothing. To women there is not much difference—in fact, “could you?” may even seem more polite than “would you?” But to many men it is a big difference. Because this distinction is so important, I’m including comments by seventeen different men who attended my seminars.
1. When I am asked “Could you clean up the backyard” I really take it literally. I say, “I could do it, sure it’s possible.” But I am not saying “I will do it,” and I certainly don’t feel like I am making a promise to do it. On the other hand, when I am asked “Would you clean up the backyard” I begin to make a decision, and I am willing to be supportive. If I say yes, the chances of my remembering to do it are much greater because I have made a promise.
2. When she says “I need your help. Could you please help?” it sounds critical, like somehow I have already failed her. It doesn’t feel like an invitation to be the good guy I want to be and support her. On the other hand, “I need your help. Would you please carry this?” sounds like a request and an opportunity to be the good guy. I want to say yes.
3. When my wife says “Can you change Christopher’s diaper?” I think inside, Sure I can change it. I am capable, and a diaper is a simple thing to change. But then if I don’t feel like doing it I might make some excuse. Now, if she asked “Would you change Christopher’s diaper?” I would say “Yeah, sure,” and do it. Inside I would feel, I like to participate and I enjoy helping raise our children. I want to help!
4. When I am asked “Would you help me please?” it gives me an opportunity to help, and I am more than willing to support her, but when I hear “Could you help me please?” I feel backed up against the wall, as if I have no choice. If I have the ability to help then I am expected to help! I don’t feel appreciated.
5. I resent being asked “could you.” I feel like I have no choice but to say yes. If I say no she will be upset with me. It is not a request but a demand.
6. I keep myself busy or at least pretend to be busy so that the woman I work with doesn’t ask me the “could you” question. With “would you” I feel I have a choice, and I want to help.
7. Just this last week my wife asked me, “Could you plant the flowers today?” and without hesitation I said yes. Then when she came home she asked, “Did you plant the flowers?” I said no. She said, “Could you do it tomorrow?” and again, without hesitation, I said yes. This happened every day this week, and the flowers are still not planted. I think if she had asked me “Would you plant the flowers tomorrow?” I would have thought about it, and if I had said yes I would have done it.
8. When I say “Yes, I could do that” I am not committing myself to doing it. I am just saying that I could do it. I have not promised to do it. If she gets upset with me I feel like she doesn’t have a right. If I say I will do it, then I can understand why she is upset if I don’t do it.
9. I grew up with five sisters, and now I am married and have three daughters. When my wife says “Can you bring out the trash?” I just don’t answer. Then she asks “why?” and I don’t even know. Now I realize why. I feel controlled. I can respond to “would you?”
10. When I hear a “could you” I’ll immediately say yes, and then over the next ten minutes I will realize why I’m not going to do it and then ignore the question. But when I hear a “will you” a part of me comes up saying “Yes, I want to be of service,” and then even if objections come up later in my mind, I will still fulfill her request because I have given my word.
11. I will say yes to a “can you,” but inside I resent her. I feel that if I say no she will throw a fit. I feel manipulated. When she asks “would you,” I feel free to say yes or no. It is then my choice, and then I want to say yes.
12. When a woman asks me “Would you do this?” I feel assured inside that I am going to get a point for this. I feel appreciated and happy to give.
13. When I hear a “would you” I feel I am being trusted to serve. But when I hear a “can you” or “could you” I hear a question behind the question. She is asking me if I can empty the trash when it is obvious that I could. But behind her question is the request, which she doesn’t trust me enough to directly ask.
14. When a woman asks “would you” or “will you” I feel her vulnerability. I am much more sensitive to her and her needs; I definitely don’t want to reject her. When she says “could you” I am much more apt to say no because I know it is not a rejection of her. It is simply an impersonal statement saying I can’t do it. She won’t take it personally if I say no to a “Could you do this?”
15. For me, “would you” makes it personal, and I want to give, but “could you” makes it impersonal, and I will give if it is convenient or if I don’t have anything else to do.
16. When a woman says “Could you please help me?” I can feel her resentment and I will resist her, but if she says “Would you please help me” I can’t hear any resentment, even if there is some. I am willing to say yes.
17. When a woman says “Could you do this for me?” I get kind of honest and say “I’d rather not.” The lazy part of me comes out. But when I hear a “Would you please?” I become creative and start thinking of ways to help.
One way women are sure to relate to the significant difference between would and could is to reflect for a moment on this romantic scene. Imagine a man proposing marriage to a woman. His heart is full, like the moon shining above. Kneeling before her, he reaches out to hold her hands. Then he gazes up into her eyes and gently says, “Could you marry me?”
Immediately the romance is gone. Using the c word he appears weak and unworthy. In that moment, he reeks of insecurity and low self-esteem. If instead he said “Would you marry me?” then both his strength and vulnerability are present. That is the way to propose.
Similarly, a man requires that a woman propose her requests in this manner. Use the w words. The c words sound too untrusting, indirect, weak, and manipulative.
When she says “Could you empty the trash?” the message he receives is “If you can empty it then you should do it. I would do it for you!” From his point of view he feels it is obvious that he can do it. In neglecting to ask for his support he feels she is manipulating him or taking him for granted. He doesn’t feel trusted to be there for her if he can.
I remember one woman in a seminar explaining the difference in Venusian terms. She said, “At first I couldn’t feel the difference between these two ways of asking. But then I turned it around. It feels very different to me when he says ’No, I can’t do it’ versus ’No, I will not do it.’ The ’I will not do it’ is a personal rejection. If he says ’I can’t do it’ then it is no reflection on me, it is just that he can’t do it.”
Common Mistakes in Asking
The hardest part of learning to ask is remembering how to do it. Try using the w words whenever possible. It will take a lot of practice.
To ask a man for support:
1. Be direct.
2. Be brief.
3. Use “would you” or “will you” phrases.
It’s best not to be too indirect, too lengthy, or to employ phrases such as “could you” or “can you.” Let’s look at some examples.
Do say: “Would you empty the trash?”
Don’t say: “This kitchen is a mess; it really stinks. I can’t fit anything else into the trash bag. It needs to be emptied. Could you do it?” (This is too long and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you help me move this table?”
Don’t say: “I can’t move this table. I need to rearrange it before our party tonight. Could you please help?” (This is too long and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you please put this away for me?”
Don’t say: “I can’t put all of this away.” (This is an indirect message.)
Do say: “Would you bring the groceries in from the car?”
Don’t say: “I have four bags of groceries left in the car. And I need that food to make dinner. Could you bring them in?” (This is too long, indirect, and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you pick up a bottle of milk on your way home?”
Don’t say: “You’ll be going by the store. Lauren needs a bottle of milk. I just can’t go out again. I am so tired. Today was a bad day. Could you get it?” (This is too long, indirect, and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you pick up Julie from school?”
Don’t say: “Julie needs a ride home and I can’t pick her up. Do you have time? Do you think you could pick her up?” (This is too long, indirect, and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you take Zoey to the vet today?”
Don’t say: “It’s time for Zoey to get her shots. Would you like to take her to the vet?” (This is too indirect.)
Do say: “Would you take us out to dinner tonight?”
Don’t say: “I am too tired to make dinner. We haven’t gone out in a long time. Do you want to go out?” (This is too lengthy and indirect.)
Do say: “Would you zip me up?”
Don’t say: “I need your help. Could you zip me up?” (This is indirect and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you build a fire for us tonight?”
Don’t say: “It’s really cold. Are you going to build a fire?” (This is too indirect.)
Do say: “Would you take me to a movie this week?”
Don’t say: “Do you want to go to a movie this week?” (This is too indirect.)
Do say: “Would you help Lauren put on her shoes?”
Don’t say: “Lauren still hasn’t put on her shoes! We are late. I can’t do this all by myself! Could you help?” (This is too long, indirect, and uses could.)
Do say: “Would you sit down with me now or sometime tonight and talk about our schedule?”
Don’t say: “I have no idea of what’s going on. We haven’t talked and I need to know what you are doing.” (This is too long and indirect.)
As you have probably noticed by now, what you think has been asking is not asking to Martians—they hear something else. It takes a conscious effort to make these little but significant changes in the way you ask for support. I suggest practicing at least three months correcting the way you ask for things before moving on to step two. Other request statements that work are “Would you please …?” and “Would you mind …?”
Start out in step 1 by being aware of how many times you don’t ask for support. Become aware of how you do ask when you do. With this increased awareness, then practice asking for what he is already giving you. Remember to be brief and direct. Then give him lots of appreciation and thanks.
Common Questions About Asking for Support
This first step can be difficult. Here are some common questions, which give clues to both the objections and the resistance that women may have.
1. Question. A woman might feel, Why should I have to ask him when I don’t require him to ask me?
Answer: Remember, men are from Mars; they are different. By accepting and working with his differences you will get what you need. If, instead, you try to change him he will stubbornly resist. Although asking for what you want is not second nature to Venusians, you can do it without giving up who you are. When he feels loved and appreciated he will gradually become more willing to offer his support without being asked. That is a later stage.
2. Question. A woman may feel, Why should I appreciate what he does when I am doing more?
Answer: Martians give less when they do not feel appreciated. If you want him to give more, then what he needs is more appreciation. Men are motivated by appreciation. If you are giving more it may, of course, be hard to appreciate him. Gracefully begin to give less so that you can appreciate him more. By making this change, not only are you supporting him in feeling loved, but you will also get the support you need and deserve.
3. Question. A woman may feel, If I have to ask him for support, he may think he is doing me a favor.
Answer: This is how he should feel. A gift of love is a favor. When a man feels he is doing you a favor, he is then giving from his heart. Remember, he’s a Martian and doesn’t keep score the way you do. If he feels that you are telling him he is obligated to give, his heart closes and he gives less.
4. Question. A woman may feel, If he loves me he should just offer his support, I shouldn’t have to ask.
Answer: Remember men are from Mars; they are different. Men wait to be asked. Instead of thinking, If he loves me he will offer his support, consider this thought, If he were a Venusian he would offer his support, but he’s not, he’s a Martian. By accepting this difference, he will be much more willing to support you, and gradually he will begin to offer his support.
5. Question. A woman may feel, If I have to ask for things he will think I am not giving as much as he is. I am afraid—he may feel like he doesn’t have to give me more!
Answer: A man is more generous when he feels as though he doesn’t have to give. In addition, when a man hears a woman asking for support (in a respectful way), what he also hears is that she feels entitled to that support. He does not assume she has given less. Quite the contrary, he assumes she must be giving more or at least as much as he is, and that is why she feels good about asking.
6. Question. A woman may feel, When I ask for support, I am afraid to be brief. I want to explain why I need his help. I don’t want to appear demanding.
Answer: When a man hears a request from his partner, he trusts she has good reasons for asking. If she gives him a lot of reasons why he should fulfill her request, he feels as though he can’t say no, and if he can’t say no then he feels manipulated or taken for granted. Let him give you a gift instead of taking his support for granted.
If he needs to understand more he will ask why. Then it is OK to give reasons. Even when he asks, be careful not to be too lengthy. Give one, or at most, two reasons. If he still needs more information, he’ll let you know.
STEP 2: PRACTICE ASKING FOR MORE (EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW HE MAY SAY NO)
Before attempting to ask a man for more, make sure he feels appreciated for what he is already giving. By continuing to ask for his support without expecting him to do more than he has been doing he will feel not only appreciated but also accepted.
When he is used to hearing you ask for his support without wanting more, he feels loved in your presence. He feels he doesn’t have to change to get your love. At this point he will be willing to change and stretch his ability to support you. At this point you can risk asking for more without giving him the message that he is not good enough.
The second step of this process is to let him realize that he can say no and still receive your love. When he feels that he can say no when you ask for more, he will feel free to say yes or no. Keep in mind that men are much more willing to say yes if they have the freedom to say no.
Men are much more willing to say yes if they have the freedom to say no.
It’s important that women learn both how to ask and how to accept no for an answer. Women usually intuitively feel what their partner’s response will be even before they ask. If they sense that he will resist their request, they won’t even bother asking. Instead, they will feel rejected. He, of course, will have no idea what happened—all this has gone on in her head.
In step 2, practice asking for support in all those situations where you would want to ask but don’t because you feel his resistance. Go ahead and ask for support even if you sense his resistance; even if you know he will say no.
For example, a wife might say to her husband, who is focused on watching the news, “Would you go to the grocery store and pick up some salmon for dinner?” When she asks this question, she is already prepared for him to say no. He is probably completely surprised because she has never interrupted him with a request like this before. He will probably make some excuse like “I am right in the middle of watching the news. Can’t you do it?”
She may feel like saying “Sure I could do it. But I am always doing everything around here. I don’t like being your servant. I want some help!”
When you ask and sense you will get a rejection, prepare yourself for the no and have a ready answer like “OK.” If you want to be really Martian in your response, you could say “no problem”—that would be music to his ears. A simple “OK” is fine, however.
It is important to ask and then act as if it is perfectly OK for him to say no. Remember, you’re making it safe for him to refuse. Use this approach only for situations that are really OK if he says no. Pick situations where you would appreciate his support but rarely ask for it. Make sure you will feel comfortable if he says no.
These are some examples of what I mean.
When to ask: He is working on something and you want him to pick up the kids. Normally you wouldn’t bother him, and so you do it yourself.
What to say: You say “Would you pick up Julie, she just called?”
If he says no, then graciously and simply say “OK.”
When to ask: He normally comes home and expects you to make dinner. You want him to make dinner, but you never ask. You sense he resists cooking.
What to say: You say “Would you help me cut the potatoes?” or “Would you make dinner tonight?”
If he says no, then graciously and simply say “OK.”
When to ask: He normally watches TV after dinner while you wash the dishes. You want him to wash them, or at least help, but you never ask. You sense he hates doing dishes. Maybe you don’t mind it as much as he does, so you go ahead and do it.
What to say: You say “Would you help me with the dishes tonight?” or “Would you bring in the plates?” or wait for an easy night and say “Would you do the dishes tonight?”
If he says no then graciously and simply say “OK.”
When to ask: He wants to go to a movie and you want to go dancing. Normally you sense his desire to see the movie and you don’t bother asking to go dancing.
What to say: You say “Would you take me dancing tonight? I love to dance with you.”
If he says no, then graciously and simply say “OK.”
When to ask: You are both tired and ready to go to bed. The trash is collected the next morning. You sense how tired he is, so you don’t ask him to bring the trash out.
What to say: You say “Would you take the trash out?”
If he says no, then graciously and simply say “OK.”
When to ask: He is very busy and preoccupied with an important project. You don’t want to distract him because you sense how focused he is, but you also want to talk with him. Normally you would sense his resistance and not ask for some time.
What to say: You say “Would you spend some time with me?”
If he says no, then graciously and simply say “OK.”
When to ask: He is focused and busy, but you need to pick up your car, which has been in the shop. Normally you anticipate how difficult it will be for him to rearrange his schedule and you don’t ask him for a ride.
What to say: You say “Would you give me a ride today to pick up my car? It’s being repaired.”
If he says no, then graciously and simply say “OK.”
“OK.” In each of the above examples, be prepared for him to say no and practice being accepting and trusting. Accept his no and trust that he would offer support if he could. Each time you ask a man for support and he isn’t made wrong for saying no, he gives you between five and ten points. Next time you ask he will be more responsive to your request. In a sense, by asking for his support in a loving way, you are helping him stretch his ability to give more.
I first learned this from a woman employee years ago. We were working on a nonprofit project and needed volunteers. She was about to call Tom, who was a friend of mine. I told her not to bother because I already knew he would not be able to help this time. She said she would call anyway. I asked her why, and she said, “When I call I will ask for his support, and when he says no I will be very gracious and understanding. Then next time, when I call for a future project, he will be more willing to say yes. He will have a positive memory of me.” She was right.
When you ask a man for support and you do not reject him for saying no, he will remember that, and next time he will be much more willing to give. On the other hand, if you quietly sacrifice your needs and don’t ask, he won’t have any idea how many times he is needed. How could he know if you don’t ask?
When you ask a man for support and you do not reject him for saying no, he will remember that, and next time he will be much more willing to give.
As you gently continue to ask for more, occasionally your partner will be able to stretch his comfort zone and say yes. At this point it has become safe to ask for more. This is one way healthy relationships are built.
A relationship is healthy when both partners have permission to ask for what they want and need, and they both have permission to say no if they choose.
For example, I remember standing in the kitchen with a family friend one day when our daughter Lauren was five years old. She asked me to lift her up and do tricks, and I said, “No, I can’t today. I am real tired.”
She persisted, asking playfully, “Please, Daddy, please, Daddy, just one flip.”
The friend said, “Now, Lauren, your father is tired. He has worked hard today. You shouldn’t ask.”
Lauren immediately responded by saying, “I am just asking!”
“But you know your father loves you,” my friend said. “He can’t say no to you.”
(The truth is, if he can’t say no, that’s his problem, not hers.)
Immediately my wife and all three daughters said, “Oh yes he can!”
I was proud of my family. It has taken a lot of work, but gradually we have learned to ask for support and also to accept no.
STEP 3: PRACTICE ASSERTIVE ASKING
Once you have practiced step 2 and you can graciously accept a no, you are ready for step 3. In this step you assert your full power to get what you want. You ask for his support, and if he starts making excuses and resists your request, you don’t say “OK” as in step 2. Instead you practice making it OK that he resists but continue waiting for him to say yes.
Let’s say he is on his way to bed, and you ask him, “Would you go to the store and get some milk.” In his response, he says “Oh, I’m really tired, I want to go to bed.”
Instead of immediately letting him off the hook by saying “OK,” say nothing. Stand there and accept that he is resisting your request. By not resisting his resistance there is a much greater chance he will say yes.
The art of assertive asking is to remain silent after you have made a request. After you have asked, expect him to moan, groan, scowl, growl, mumble, and grumble. I call the resistance men have to responding to requests the grumbles. The more focused a man is at the time, the more he will grumble. His grumbles have nothing to do with his willingness to support; they are a symptom of how focused he is at the time when asked.
A woman will generally misinterpret a man’s grumbles. She mistakenly assumes that he is unwilling to fulfill her request. This is not the case. His grumbles are a sign that he is in the process of considering her request. If he was not considering her request then he would very calmly say no. When a man grumbles it is a good sign—he is trying to consider your request versus his needs.
When a man grumbles it is a good sign—he is trying to consider your request versus his needs.
He will go through internal resistance at shifting his direction from what he’s focusing on to your request. Like opening a door with rusty hinges, the man will make unusual noises. By ignoring his grumbles they quickly go away.
Often when a man grumbles he is in the process of saying yes to your request. Because most women misunderstand this reaction, they either avoid asking him for support or they take it personally and reject him in return.
In our example, where he is headed for bed and you ask him to go to the store for milk, he is likely to grumble.
“I’m tired,” he says with an annoyed look. “I want to go to bed.”
If you misunderstand his response as a rejection, you might reply with “I made you dinner, I washed the dishes, I got the kids ready for bed, and all you did was plant yourself on this couch! I don’t ask for much, but at least you could help now. I am so exhausted. I feel like I do everything around here.”
The argument starts. On the other hand, if you know that grumbles are just grumbles and are often his way of starting to say yes, your response will be silence. Your silence is a signal that you trust that he is stretching inside and about to say yes.
Stretching is another way to understand a man’s resistance to your requests. Whenever you ask for more, he has to stretch himself. If he is not in shape, he can’t do it. That is why you have to prepare a man for step 3 by moving through steps 1 and 2.
In addition, you know that it is more difficult to stretch in the morning. Later in the day you can stretch much farther and easier. When a man grumbles, just imagine that he is stretching in the morning. Once he has finished stretching he will feel great. He just needs to grumble first.
Programming a Man to Say Yes
I first became conscious of this process when my wife asked me to buy some milk at the store when I was on my way to bed. I remember grumbling out loud. Instead of arguing with me, she just listened, assuming that eventually I would do it. Then finally I made a few banging noises on my way out, got in my car, and went to the store.
Then something happened, something that happens to all men, something that women don’t know about. As I now moved closer to my new goal, the milk, my grumbles went away. I started feeling my love for my wife and my willingness to support. I started feeling like the good guy. Believe me, I liked that feeling.
By the time I was in the store, I was happy to be getting the milk. When my hand reached the bottle, I had achieved my new goal. Achievement always makes men feel good. I playfully picked up the bottle in my right hand and turned around with a look of pride that said “Hey, look at me. I’m getting the milk for my wife. I am one of those great generous guys. What a guy.”
When I returned with the milk, she was happy to see me. She gave me a big hug and said, “Thank you so much. I’m so glad I didn’t have to get dressed.”
If she had ignored me, I probably would have resented her. Next time she asked me to buy the milk I would have probably grumbled even more. But she didn’t ignore me, she gave me lots of love.
I watched my reaction and heard myself think, What a wonderful wife I have. Even after I was so resistant and grumbly she is still appreciating me.
The next time she asked me to buy the milk, I grumbled less. When I returned she was again appreciative. The third time, automatically I said, “Sure.”
Then a week later, I noticed that she was low on milk. I offered to get it. She said she was already going to the store. To my surprise a part of me was disappointed! I wanted to get the milk. Her love had programmed me to say yes. Even to this day whenever she asks me to go to the store and get milk a part of me happily says yes.
I personally experienced this inner transformation. Her acceptance of my grumbles and appreciation of me when I returned healed my resistance. From that time on, as she practiced assertive asking, it was much easier for me to respond to her requests.
The Pregnant Pause
One of the key elements of assertive asking is to remain silent after you have asked for support. Allow your partner to work through their resistance. Be careful not to disapprove of his grumbles. As long as you pause and remain silent, you have the possibility of getting his support. If you break the silence you lose your power.
Women unknowingly break the silence and lose their power by making comments like:
· “Oh, forget it.”
· “I can’t believe you are saying no. I do so much for you.”
· “I don’t ask you for much.”
· “It will only take you fifteen minutes.”
· “I feel disappointed. This really hurts my feelings.”
· “You mean you won’t do this for me.”
· “Why can’t you do it?”
Etc., etc., etc. You get the idea. When he grumbles, she feels the urge to defend her request and mistakenly breaks her silence. She argues with her partner in an attempt to convince him that he should do it. Whether he does it or not, he will be more resistant next time she asks for his support.
One of the key elements of assertive asking is to remain silent after you have asked for support.
To give him a chance to fulfill your requests, ask and pause. Let him grumble and say things. Just listen. Eventually he will say yes. Don’t mistakenly believe that he will hold this against you. He can’t and won’t hold it against you as long as you don’t insist or argue with him. Even if he walks off grumbling, he will let go of it, if both of you feel it is his choice to do or not to do it.
Sometimes, however, he may not say yes. Or he may try to argue his way out by asking you some questions. Be careful. During your pause he may ask questions like:
· “Why can’t you do it?”
· “I really don’t have time. Would you do it?”
· “I am busy, I don’t have time. What are you doing?”
Sometimes these are just rhetorical questions. So you can remain quiet. Don’t speak unless it is clear that he is really looking for an answer. If he wants an answer, give him one, but be very brief, and then ask again. Assertive asking means asking with a sense of confidence and trust that he will support you if he can.
If he questions you or says no, then respond with a brief answer giving the message that your need is just as great as his. Then ask again.
Here are some examples.
What he says in resistance to her request: “I don’t have time. Can’t you do it?”
How she can respond with assertive asking: “I’m also rushed. Would you please do it?”
Then remain silent again.
What he says in resistance to her request: “No, I don’t want to do that.”
How she can respond with assertive asking: “I would really appreciate it. Will you please do it for me?”
Then remain silent again.
What he says in resistance to her request: “I’m busy, what are you doing?”
How she can respond with assertive asking: “I’m busy too. Will you please do it?”
Then remain silent again.
What he says in resistance to her request: “No, I don’t feel like it.”
How she can respond with assertive asking: “I don’t feel like it either. Would you please do it?”
Then remain silent again.
Notice that she is not trying to convince him but is simply matching his resistance. If he is tired, don’t try to prove that you are more tired and therefore he should help you. Or if he thinks he is too busy don’t try to convince him that you are more busy. Avoid giving him reasons why he should do it. Remember, you are just asking and not demanding.
If he continues to resist then practice step two and graciously accept his rejection. This is not the time to share how disappointed you are. Be assured that if you can let go at this time, he will remember how loving you were and be more willing to support you next time.
As you progress you will experience greater success in asking for and getting his support. Even if you are practicing the pregnant pause of step three, it is still necessary to continue practicing steps one and two. It is always important that you continue to ask correctly for the little things as well as graciously accept his rejections.
WHY MEN ARE SO SENSITIVE
You may be asking yourself why men are so sensitive about being asked for support. It is not because men are lazy but because men have so much need to feel accepted. Any request to be more or to give more might instead give the message that he is not accepted just the way he is.
Just as a woman is more sensitive about being heard and feeling understood when she is sharing her feelings, a man is more sensitive about being accepted just the way he is. Any attempt to improve him makes him feel as though you are trying to change him because he is not good enough.
On Mars, the motto is “Don’t fix it unless it is broken.” When a man feels a woman wanting more, and that she is trying to change him, he receives the message that she feels he is broken; naturally he doesn’t feel loved just the way he is.
By learning the art of asking for support, your relationships will gradually become greatly enriched. As you are able to receive more of the love and support you need, your partner will also naturally be quite happy. Men are happiest when they feel they have succeeded in fulfilling the people they care about. By learning to ask correctly for support you not only help your man feel more loved but also ensure you’ll get the love you need and deserve.
In the next chapter we will explore the secret of keeping the magic of love alive.