So there I am, hot, tired, feet hurting and looking for ice cream cones with my friend Shelley at Disneyland. The line for ice cream cones wove around the store and the idea of standing for another hour was not appealing. We saw there was a small café next to the ice cream line so we asked if they had ice cream. They did and said was OK to sit at a table even though we were just ordering dessert.
As we ordered our ice cream (bowls, no cones were listed on the menu), Shelley nicely asked the waiter if it was possible to get a cone. The waiter was friendly but explained that if you wanted a cone, you had to stand in line in the store. They actually weren’t even allowed to serve them in the café. Shelley agreed that she didn’t want one badly enough to stand in line and thanked the waiter. She politely and happily stated “You never know unless you ask.” And she was perfectly content.
I, on the other hand, was overcome with uncomfortable emotion. I sat next to her filled with embarrassment! And by embarrassment, I mean painful, squirming in my seat, uncomfortably looking around the café, red faced embarrassment. Shelley was oblivious to my emotional state. She was just happy to be sitting down and getting some ice cream. I started wondering what was going on. Why was I having such a strong emotional reaction? I was embarrassed and I wasn’t even the person who asked for something not on the menu! As I was analyzing my feelings, our bowls of ice cream arrived and we started enjoying the frosty treat.
As we ate our ice cream, the waiter was moving through the tables taking and delivering orders. As he passed by, a small bowl filled with broken ice cream cone pieces magically appeared on our table. Now my emotions became more complicated as I was filled with astonishment! Shelley had gotten what she asked for! Not in the form she had expected but she still had waffle-ly goodness to eat with her ice cream.
After the trip, I kept thinking about why I got so embarrassed. I realized somewhere along my journey, I received the message that you weren’t supposed to ask for what you want. That asking for what you wanted was selfish and/or pushy. Who the hell was I to ask for what I wanted? Also, by not asking, you couldn’t be disappointed or mad if you didn’t get it.
Over time I analyzed and broke down the whole interaction.
- Shelley had clearly and nicely asked for what she wanted (the yummy waffle cone taste to go with her ice cream). So clearly communicating what you wanted was the starting place.
- Upon learning that what she wanted was not possible, Shelley was fine. She did not get angry. So you are allowed to ask for what you want, but aren’t allowed to get bent out of shape if you don’t get it.
- Shelley did end up getting what she wanted but not in the form she expected. Sometimes, when you are clear about what you want and let go of the “how”, you get what you wanted but in a way you never expected.
Over the years I have gotten better at clearly and graciously asking for what I want. (Though I still work on the “graciously” part.) I do my best not to get angry or bent out of shape when the answer is “no”. (I have to admit this has been a challenge for me at times.) Sometimes I am surprised when get what I asked for but in a way or form that I don’t expect.
Do you ask for what you want?
Do you communicate it clearly and nicely?
Are you OK if the answer is “No”?
You are allowed to ask for what you want. You just aren’t allowed to get upset if you don’t get it.