We get trained as kids to make demands, because it’s what our parents do with us … if we don’t do as we’re told, they demand that we do, using all sorts of “power over” techniques. And so that’s what we learn to do as well. If someone else isn’t doing what we what, or what we think is the right thing for them to be doing, we find a way to force it – we get angry with them, moralize, sulk (withdraw love), whatever it takes to get our way.
How often has that worked for you? Or with you?
Yeah, pretty much never, right? The thing is, we all have a massive need for choice – to have a say. As soon as there’s a demand, we dig our heals in and resist. Or we collapse and give up, and do the thing, but it’s always at great cost, both to ourselves and to the relationship with the other person.
Marshall Rosenberg gave this great example when talking about parenting. He said you only need to consider two questions. The first is, what do you want your child to be doing? Second, what do you want to be their reason for doing it? When you ask the latter, you realise that force or punishment never really get you what you want – they might achieve the first, but never the latter.
So we try not to use demand (and I say “try”, because it comes up so automatically and can be hard to resist doing!) … not because we’re trying to be better people (not that there’s anything wrong with that!) but because it simply doesn’t work. It doesn’t ever really meet our needs in the long term.