“Take out the trash.”
“Get this report to me tomorrow.”
“Stop quoting lines from ‘The Princess Bride.’”
What do the previous phrases have in common? Well...they are demands and as such, we have a tendency to feel rebellious towards them (I’ll quote “The Princess Bride” as much as I want, thank you very much). They also have something else in common:
They take away a basic human need: Choice.
When we have a choice, we feel like we not only have a stake in what we are being asked to do, but it makes us feel like we are in control of our destiny because we are free to say, “no.”
There is something freeing about feeling like we are allowed to say, “no.” It actually causes us, more often than not, to say, “yes.” Why? Because when we are asked to do something and given a choice, we feel like the other person respects us; that they value our time and our input. When someone makes a demand or gives us a “no choice” option, we feel like our backs are up against the wall and we may abdicate and do what we are asked...but we might do it poorly or it may start to contribute to a pool of angst and resentment we are unconsciously harboring. And that pool can quickly overflow, leading to fights, anger, break-ups, and poor performance. However, when given a choice, the walls fall down, our defenses fade away, and we take a moment to consider what we are being asked.
When we make demands of other people, not only do we tap out of life, but we cause others to do the same.
So, how do we tap back in? Give people a choice. At work it could be as simple as saying, “Would you mind if I put you on hold,” or, “I need this report by tomorrow, are you able to do it for me?” In in our personal lives it could be, “Would you mind cleaning the bathroom tomorrow,” or, “I’d really appreciate it if you’d clean up the minefield of poop in the backyard, would you take care of that after work?”
Here’s the pro-tip: sometimes the choice is an illusion, even in the examples above. The customer needs to be put on hold, the report is due tomorrow, the bathroom is a mess, and the backyard is a “number two” away from being a taxable manure farm - in other words: these things need to be done and, odds are...you are going to do them!
BUT, by feeling like you have a choice - by feeling like the other person considers your feelings and your time, you will feel respected and are more likely to happily agree to help them. Even if you REALLY don’t want to clean up the dog’s messes.
Give people a choice, even the illusion of one, and see them smile more, become more agreeable, and possibly help them to tap back into life.
Tap back in.