Wright Foundation | April 13, 2017

From Doormat to Direct: How To Ask for What You Want

If you want to stop being a doormat, it’s time to face confrontation head-on and ask for what you want. Are you ready to speak up and get what you want? 


Wondering how to ask for what you want? The Wright Foundation has the answers so you can stop being a doormat and start being direct.

You’re at a restaurant you’ve been hearing about for weeks.

You’re excited to try the food.

The atmosphere is nice; your company is delightful.

You order and request they leave the green peppers out of your dish (blech). The server doesn’t write down your order. He seems harried.

Out comes your food, steaming hot, beautiful…and covered in little chunks of those damned green peppers!

What do you do?

How many of you read this and thought, “I’d just pick them off and go on with my meal” or “I wouldn’t want to make a fuss”…?

How many of you cringe at just the thought of sending the meal back—or even worse (the horror!)—requesting they make amends with a free round of drinks?

Many people, especially women (but some guys, too) HATE the thought of confrontation—even if it’s polite, and even if they aren’t at fault.

We don’t want to come off as a “bitch” or a jerk…particularly when it comes to social situations and interacting with strangers. It’s as though we don’t feel we deserve to inconvenience someone with our patronage. We worry we’ll offend someone or we’re afraid to engage.

Others of us (myself included!), don’t run into this problem so often. We have the opposite issue: we have to temper our reaction and learn to listen.

If I was in the restaurant, I would, without question, send the meal back. I’m paying for it and I intend to get what I ordered. I know I deserve it. We all do. I don’t feel I deserve it because I’m more important than other people, but I deserve it because I’m paying for the meal, so it should be right.

Now, as my lovely wife will tell you, people have occasionally (okay, maybe more than occasionally) pointed out that I can come off as a bit abrasive, even insensitive. It’s something I’ve worked very hard to become aware of.

There’s a fine balance between being direct, being a jerk, and being a doormat. It’s all about how we embrace and work with conflict.

Doormats Unite

Are you a cringer? Afraid to send back your meal? TODAY, I want you to go out into the world and tell someone what you want. Pick a situation that’s tough, walk in, and do it.

Why? Because you deserve to get what you want.

You are a gift.

Each of us is a gift to the world. Every human being is part of a large fabric. We are interconnected and we affect each other. Your thread is not more or less important than those around you.

You deserve to have good things. You deserve to receive what you ordered, to be properly compensated for the work you do, and not to have to pick up after your children, husband, or those around you. You deserve to be heard and seen for who you are. You deserve to be loved.

When we believe this within ourselves, we start to find our voice. Our limiting beliefs build up over the years. These are the thoughts that hold us back, like, “I’m not good enough. I am stupid. I’m less deserving than others.” We believe our own negative self-talk and internalize it.

Take the negative self-talk and tell it to go to hell. Turn it off.

You’re probably thinking, “Yeah, easier said than done,” but I’ve seen CEOs with PhDs who were afraid to speak up, engage, or tell people how they felt because they didn’t want to rock the boat. They didn’t think they deserved it.

Until you believe you deserve to get what you want, you will keep holding yourself back.

Kick yourself in the butt and embrace it.

Because you know what doormats become? Passive-aggressive. Doormats are often the ones who are big fans of what we call the “hidden middle finger.” You know the deal: you sigh loudly when you pick up your husband’s socks. You purposely put them away dirty or mismatched, or you throw in the trash. You’re pissed off but you say nothing, hoping your message gets to him.

Meanwhile, he’s clueless (and sockless). He keeps throwing the socks on the floor and you keep getting angrier and angrier.

Passive-aggressive behavior solves nothing. It only serves to damage our relationships and make things worse. In fact, I’d much rather send my order back at a restaurant and tip well, than pick off the peppers and leave a crappy tip. Your message won’t be “You got my order wrong,”—it will be “I’m a crappy tipper.” Passive aggressive behavior solves nothing.

Instead, say something. It can be very polite: “Excuse me, but I didn’t order this,” or “I’m frustrated because when you leave your socks on the floor I feel like you don’t respect the work I put into the house. I’m not going to pick them up any longer.” It’s not about screaming and yelling, it’s about fighting fair. It’s about speaking up and getting your point across. You deserve to be heard.

For All the “Jerks”

On the other hand, if you would’ve sent back the meal without hesitation, bravo! I get it.

If, on the other hand, you send back the meal AND then get punitive with the tip (even when the server made amends), you might be veering over into the jerk category. Take a step back.

I’ve found when people get offended, it’s often an issue of tone over message or a problem with listening skills. A few important rules of engagement? Everyone is 100% responsible for themselves and their own happiness, and also, no one gets more than 50% of the blame.

In the restaurant scenario, the server might be the one who got your order wrong, but once he or she is aware of the issue and works to resolve it, there’s no sense in continuing to heap on the blame.

Similarly, another important rule is to assume good intentions and fight FOR (not against) each other. If you’re fighting FOR a relationship and to find a resolution in a conflict, chances are good you’re fighting for the right things. If you’re fighting to shame the other person or just to continue to dwell on the problem, you may need to reassess.

When we assume good intentions, we realize that no one purposefully tried to screw up our order. Our boss isn’t trying to make us miserable. Our girlfriend or boyfriend isn’t trying to make us upset. There might be an upsetting situation, but rarely is the other party intentionally trying to hurt us. In fact, oftentimes they’re hurting too and just expressing it differently.

When it comes to conflict, it’s not something to be avoided, but rather, embraced. We can be polite and civil about it and we should never personally attack someone, but engaging in dialogue and finding common ground is the only way we can truly connect and come to a resolution.

We are all gifts in the world. We have an important role and limitless potential. We all deserve to have our needs and yearnings met and to be happy. So engage! Embrace conflict! Don’t back down!

But still leave a tip when the server brings your corrected order!

For more on embracing conflict and fighting fair, visit www.wrightliving.com. Give back to the world around you and become your best self!


Dr. Bob Wright

Liked this post and want more? Sign up for updates – free!

Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.