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Asking for what you want

asking for what you want assertive communication boundaries frustrations healthy boundaries healthy communication leadership relationships self advocacy venting Feb 13, 2022
Laptop, bouquet of daises on a tan background with the title of the blog How to ask for what you want: 3 steps to make a request and set a boundary.

How to ask for what you want without being…



Sounding Needy


AND be prepared to get it!


Think about a topic you vent about on repeat. We spend a lot of time talking about what we dislike in our lives. It could be as simple as how we are annoyed how our neighbor parks their car or as complicated as feeling your compensation doesn’t match your workload. If something brings us displeasure, we most likely have made it known to those closest to us. I know I have and am not alone in this action.  And yet as frequently as we mention our frustration, we have not asked for what we want to be different. 


Asking for what we want in life is a skill. So I asked a few of my coaching clients if they had been taught this skill. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, very few had learned anything about making requests of others. They certainly had not been taught how to ask for what they wanted boldly.  It had not been a part of formal teaching at home or school. And yet, many of these same women criticize themselves that this action feels difficult.  There is also a big worry that we will be too aggressive or rude.  


Imagine how different life would be if you clearly and respectfully asked for what you need and expected to receive it.   But, unfortunately, it’s a life skill we learn by trial and error that gets in the way of our confidence in making requests.  Now learning through experimentation can be an excellent way to learn, but a foundational level of setting firm boundaries could do wonders for many relationships riddled with conflict.   

It is, however, never too late to learn, so I want to give you the best three steps to ask for what you want.  The steps can be used for a complex or straightforward request.  

Here are the best 3 Steps to Making a Request:

  1. Name it  - To make a request, you must be clear about the ask.
  2. Delivery - yes, the words you say are important, but being aware of non-verbals and communication can go a long way.
  3. Enforcement - Requests might be made once, but the ongoing tending keeps them enforced.

Naming the request may seem like an obvious first step.  The first step is harder than it appears at times.  In my example above of feeling like your compensation doesn’t match your efforts, it’s clear a raise is what you would want to name.  However, if your frustration is about job dissatisfaction in general, you may not initially recognize that it is efforts outpacing pay that would make you feel differently.   One way to think about this is to use magical thinking.  Imagine you wake up tomorrow and POOF by magic you love your job.  You love your job so much that you never have Sunday Scaries.  What is different from today to tomorrow? What changes after you wave your magic wand?   The difference is what you want to focus on naming and making the request. 


Delivery of the request includes not only the words you will say but everything that goes along with the request.  Naming your request clearly and specifically is enhanced by body language and tone of voice, and location of where you make the request.   It’s important to know your own body and practice a few calming breaths and mindfulness to help you soothe your shaky voice or trembling hands.   Practice making the request out loud and say it more than once.   This ensures that it feels conversational and in language that is comfortable and easy enough it can roll off the tongue.  I’ve seen times where someone writes up a long speech to give in an effort to make an ask of their romantic partner and it comes across too formal and stiff because they hadn’t practiced it aloud.   This is your life and you have the right to be able to ask for what you need and want, so feeling comfortable with the words will help the message come across with this attitude.  The delivery builds your own confidence too. 


Finally, once we made the request we may want to sit back and never address the topic again.  However, we often need to consider the enforcement of the request.  It is important to firmly and gently reflect on someone if the request isn’t honored, but also enforce it with yourself.   There can be a tendency to talk ourselves out of enforcement.  We rationalize that if a person respected our wishes, gave us what we wanted, or stopped a behavior once it was good enough and will hesitate to bring it up ever again.  I have heard from many women in particular that there is the concern this is seen as “nagging” to repeat or reflect on a boundary request a second or even third time.   I am here to tell you that it isn’t nagging but enforcing a boundary where you communicated a need.  It is a repeated request for something important to you.  It is fair to make that exact statement to anyone who might frame it as nagging. 


Now if these steps seem very direct, bordering on aggressive, it’s only because you are out of practice at asking for what you want in life.  When you make the request clear, use open body language, and enforce the request it is good healthy communication.  No one is a mind reader and so being able to clearly ask for what you want in life is truly the only way to ensure you get what you need.  The more you use these steps and practice, the less uncomfortable and awkward it will feel.

Asking for what you want and expecting to receive it changes your trust in your needs.  It is powerful to be able to ask for what you want in life.  It can improve relationships with partners, children, colleagues and most definitely improve your ability to be a strong leader.   Asking for what you want is also an act of self-care.   So show yourself some love today and Name It, Deliver it openly and Enforce it so that asking for what you want becomes the norm. 

What would you say if I told you that spending 5 minutes per day supporting your mental wellness could improve your gut health? And 5 minutes per day helping your gut health could improve your mental health?


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