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  • Robert Schwebel, Ph.D.

Ask for It All, Then Compromise

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

One of the basic guidelines for a loving relationship is: Ask for 100 percent of what you want. Shocked? Many people are. They say it sounds terribly selfish, kind of dog-eat-dog.

Notice, however, that I did not say demand everything you want, nor grab it, nor take it. The key word is ask.

In good relationships, people meet each other halfway. In order to find the middle ground, it’s necessary to know where each person starts in the first place. Stating desires – asking for what you want – ensures that all desires are expressed. It’s the groundwork for cooperation.

Let’s take a look at a hypothetical example. Suppose that Chris and Janette are planning their Easter vacation. Janette wants to go to the mountains and Chris wants to be near the ocean. They can look for mountains by the coast, like in parts of California, or go to one place at Easter and the other in the summer. They can find a mutually satisfying solution.

As you can see, keeping everyone satisfied generally requires a little creative thinking and some solid compromises. While asking for what you want does not ensure a cooperative household, it does help avoid misunderstandings and unspoken resentment. It opens a pathway to mutual satisfaction.

Problems between partners often begin when well-meaning people fail to state their desires. In the previous example, let’s imagine that Janette did not say that she wanted to go to the mountains. So, for Easter they went to the coast, then again in the summer, and perhaps again at Christmas. Eventually, she would resent it.

Who knows, she might start undermining their vacations, perhaps by complaining about the weather or moping around the hotel room. Chris would be completely baffled by her behavior.

Janette might even be more straightforward and start complaining that Chris always wins when they plan vacations. She never gets to go to places she would like to visit.

Since Janette never stated her desires, Chris would be quite surprised and perhaps reply: “I thought you like it when we go to the coast.”

“Wrong,” Janette replies. “You really don’t understand me. You don’t understand my needs.”

Unfortunately, Chris can’t understand Janette’s need because she doesn’t express them. (It also must be noted that Chris could have at least asked about her preferences. That’s another important story.)

Ultimately, in order to successfully cooperate in a relationship, all parties must ask for what they want.

You may wonder, does “asking for 100 percent of what you want” mean that people can’t be generous? If you’re always asking for what you want, can you still be a ‘giving’ person? Yes, there’s plenty of room for generosity.

What changes when you ask for what you want is that compromises and concessions are apparent. After stating your own preference, any concession you make will be evident. For example, Janette says “I’d rather go to the mountains, but I’d be willing to go to the coast this time.”

If partners are committed to taking care of one another, this type of information is invaluable. It helps them balance their giving and taking. They could take turns making concessions.

This means Janette gets her vacation in the mountains next time.


These articles are written to share ideas about how to create and sustain loving and cooperative relationships based on equality and mutual respect.

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