Ask – Grammie’s Magic Cupboard
(Time to read: ~ 3 minutes)
When I was about four, my grandmother had what she called her “Magic Cupboard”. Each morning we visited her, at some point she would ask “Do you suppose there is anything in Grammie’s magic cupboard?” She would look inside and out would come a little treat – a tiny chocolate bar, or a small bag of chips.
One morning I was feeling particularly hungry or something, and I kept wondering when she was going to mention her magic cupboard. I waited and waited, and finally I went up to her and asked “Grammie, do you suppose there is anything in your magic cupboard this morning?”
She looked down at me with love in her eyes and said “Of course, lovey, let’s go and see” and she went to look.
In the meantime, my mother pulled me aside and said with great vehemence “Don’t you ever ask for anything!”
Note: That is what my childhood brain remembers – I recognize that my mother may remember this very differently. And I recognize that she was acting out of love and care, seeking to support me in having a happy life by teaching me the behaviour patterns that were expected in the culture she grew up in.
Consequences of Not Asking
This “Don’t you ever ask for anything!” message has had some unfortunate consequences for my life.
It probably contributed to my not asking my mother, later that year when we were making cookies, if we could pause so that I could go to the bathroom, with the result that I peed on the floor. I felt ashamed for decades about that.
And, when I was in my first boyfriend’s kitchen and he got himself a glass of water on a hot day, it resulted in my not feeling able to ask if I could have one too.
In grade 9, I was offered the opportunity to go to a one-week summer leadership course. I said yes, and was told to be in the school parking lot at 9 am on a particular day to catch the bus to the course. But I was afraid I wouldn’t automatically know which was the right bus. Since I wasn’t supposed to ask, I didn’t see any way to find out. I didn’t go to the course. I’ve wondered what skills I might have gained then that might had made my life easier since. And I’ve felt guilty about the person who might have gone in my place.
Learning How to Ask
I’m deeply grateful to my coaching training that taught me to ask questions. And taught me some types of questions that are more likely to create connection, rather than triggering angry or defensive responses.
After almost two decades in the school system, pretty much the only questions I had encountered were ones in which there was a “right” answer – and some negative consequences of giving the “wrong” answer. And most of the people I encounter have had the same experience. So it is easy for us to get anxious or defensive when we hear questions, especially “closed-ended” questions.
Learning How to Hear “No” With Peace
And I’m even more grateful for my training in Nonviolent Communication, which has taught me how to stay compassionately connected to myself and the other person, even when they say “no” or respond with anger or defensiveness when I ask.
So I encourage you to learn to hear “no” peacefully.
And to ask for what you want.
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Do you find it difficult to ask for what you want? Or to hear no, anger or defensiveness with peaceful compassion for yourself and the other person? Glenda offers private teaching/coaching sessions to support you. Click here to find out more or to book a session to help you enjoy your life more fully.