Tired of missing opportunities when making requests and asking for what you want? Here is the Avoiding Missed Opportunities Sandwich.
Do you ever feel like the way you ask for things impacts how people feel about connecting with you?
It can be challenging to know what you want to ask for… And even more challenging to come up with the courage to ask.
Yet the WAY we ask and the timing of it can make a huge difference on what that person thinks of you, and if they want to build a further relationship with you. No matter if their answer to your request is a yes or a no.
And the approach can influence if people feel safe enough to say yes or not, if they are interested in what you suggest.
I’ve struggled with this myself. I felt bewildered and confused when I thought I was doing everything “right” and making courageous requests that followed what I understood about consent. Yet people pulled away, were obviously uncomfortable, and certainly weren’t offering other ideas when they said no to me.
I’ve also coached thousands of people from all backgrounds who struggled with shyness and awkwardness. I’ve seen first hand how hard it was for some people, and how others naturally “got it” and formed deeper connections (even if they asked for things the other person didn’t want to do in the moment)…
Over time and with careful (and often painfully embarrassing testing) it became clear that there were 7 key steps to that could allow people to go from creating distance and avoidance, to allowing safety, openness and curiosity.
We’re not saying that following these steps will create, force or manipulate people to be a yes. That doesn’t work. Just the energy of forcing people creates distance, No one likes being forced or manipulated! (Do you?)
We do say that following these steps will create more ease and comfort, and the more you practice them, the faster and easier it will be to create spaces where people feel safe enough to try different things that are a yes for them.
These steps can be the secret between feeling like no one ever wants to do anything with you and avoids you, to discovering people listening to your requests and being curious about what you suggest, and even having people approaching you with fun ideas to do together.
Just like learning anything new, it can feel awkward the first few times through. And it gets easier each time, until its second nature… And you enjoy connecting more and more!
The best part? You don’t have to do this perfectly! Following these steps to the best of your ability will change your energy and give you a surprisingly rich connection with others.
(Hint: These approaches can help at work and in all kinds of situations!!)
When you want to ask or request something, especially sexual connection, follow these steps:
Pause – Take a deep breath, feel your toes, get present in your body and out of your head, feel into your body yes/no.
When people are nervous, most of the time they get in their head which makes them more nervous. Humans tend to feel nervous around nervous people (just like wild animals who rely on each other to watch for danger). Nervous people are less likely to listen to you with curiosity. The more grounded you are, the more grounded the other person is likely to be! And the more room they have to consider with curiosity whatever you’re proposing.
You can also ask yourself: “Am I willing to hear no? Can I hear no without demanding a reason, pressuring, or guilt-tripping someone?” If the answer is no, talk to a friend or coach/therapist and figure out why, and work on getting your needs filled in other ways* so you have more room to hear “no”. This will help people feel LOTS safer around you!
A blackbelt move is to notice where your identity and center of balance emotionally is. If you need them to approve of you or say yes, for you to feel good about yourself, people sense this and few will want that responsibility. The more your support your own self-worth, internally and with friends, work, and other focuses, the more you’ll be centered over your own center of gravity, and the easier it is for people to listen to you without feeling manipulated or that you’ll cling and obligate them.
Power Dynamics – Evaluate the differences in power between you and the person you’re considering approaching.
Who has the power in a given situation? That’s a great question, and sometimes tricky to answer.
I have single men tell me all the time, “Women have all the power.” And it may feel true to those making requests because women seem to have the say in whether something happens or not. What if you asked yourself, “What if this person feels powerless?” Just because you think they have all the power, doesn’t mean they feel powerful.
Regardless of who’s right, not being on the same page turns into a misunderstanding that pushes people further apart.
If you consider that women are often put in positions where they are forced to do things they don’t want, make choices to protect themselves, and struggle to be taken seriously- being gentle in your requests and realizing how complicated this might be for the other person can help a lot!
We get that you have likely never forced a women and would never consider it. And 1 in 3 females will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. They don’t know if you’re safe or not.
If you are bigger, stronger or have more power in the outside world, realize you may be intimidating to the other person. If they were taught to fear men or that men are not safe, then you might be intimidating to them for no other reason than you are a man. That’s not your fault, and its coloring the situation.
Luckily, there are a lot of things you can do to help people with less power feel safe! Some of them can feel counter-intuitive. If you’re used to people moving away from you, you may be inclined to block their exit so they’ll listen. Instead, don’t loom over them. Get on their eye level, soften your tone and your language, and use questions instead of statements to make your conversation more gentle.
When you can let the other person know that you get what might be making them feel unsafe, they feel safer. Especially since so many women rarely experience men “seeing them” in these ways.
To be frank, it can be hard to notice differences in power, especially when you’re trying to treat everyone as equals. A quick checklist is if the person is female, a person of color, those who have relationships that aren’t heterosexual, have different genders than what they were assigned at birth, people who are older or quite young, have bigger bodies, and person with a disability are often used to having less power than heterosexual males. Treat people with the same compassion and respect you would want for yourself AND adjust your tone, body language and words to create safety for those who don’t often see people account for them.
Showing yourself as an aware and savvy person around power dynamics is unusual and delightful. If you don’t think power dynamics play a role in human interactions, you have likely always had the power. Understanding other people’s perspectives is sexy!!
Key Take Away… Ask yourself: “Am I objectifying the person rather than seeing them as a human with needs and wants of their own?”
If your answer is yes, stop, go back to the first step and ground yourself, then see if you can connect with them as a person with hopes, fears, and desires that are rich and be curious about them that way. If you can’t see them that way, get your tanks filled up another way and try again.
If you’re not sure, Objectifying someone means: “Am I seeing this person as nothing more than a means to get what I want?” If you think “all women”, “all fat people”, “all ____ people” about someone, you’re probably objectifying them.
Place – Is this the right place and time for this conversation or request? What is the situation, sobriety, surroundings? Who’s there?
When we’ve gathered up all our courage to ask something, we often blurt out the request the first opportunity we get, before we lose it. Which means we often end up blurting it out at the worst possible moment. (Been there and done that!)
If in doubt, take a deep breath and feel your toes again. And try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Ask yourself if you’d like to be asked this question in the same situation.
Pace – Is this a good pace for the connection and situation? Does it seem like a good speed for the other person? Are you moving too fast for the level of connection you’ve built?
When in doubt slow down and figure out ways to set the pace together (and go at the speed of the slower person).
Honestly, pacing is the biggest mistake I see people make over and over again. And I see them getting more frustrated and angry, feeling unwanted and undesirable.
If you haven’t had connection in a long time, you may be hungry for it. The hungrier you are, the harder it is to be grounded, and consider the Power, Place and Pace. We want to dive into the deep end and grab everything we can get. I call this starvation mode.
This doesn’t feel safe! A lot of women compare starvation mode to feeling like an antelope surrounded by starving wolves ready to devour them. Their self-protection walls come up and they aren’t interested in connecting at all because they feel unsafe.
Rather than a big ask, making a time-limited, “shallow” (rather than deep-end of the pool) request can help build connection and a sense of safety. It’s much easier for someone we don’t know to say yes to a 10-minute conversation, or a 5-minute shoulder rub, than sex.
Building more relatedness with baby steps/small actions, over time, is usually a better choice.
As a basic request, you can try: “You seem really cool/fun/interesting. I’d like to get to know you better. Is there something you’d like to do together for 5 minutes to get to know one another better and build connection?”
I’ve had people tell me that this slow pace felt wimpy to them… Yet it takes courage, thoughtfulness, and care to develop relationships gradually. It shows that you have enough resources to take things slow, and the courage to dance with the other person. Sexy!!
Proof – What could I do that would make this situation less problematic, create lower risks of negative impact, take the other person into more consideration? (Just like a mathematician checking over their equations, proofing is where you review the overall process and make final upgrades.)
Do a scan of the following questions to see if there’s anything you can tweak to make your approach and request easier and more delightful to hear. Once you do this a few times, it gets easier and easier.
- Is there a way I can make this more of a win-win for everyone involved?
- Am I objectifying the person rather than seeing them as a human with needs and wants of their own?
- If I’m feeling insecure, how can I be more grounded and aligned with my values?
- Do I have FOMO? (Fear of Missing Out)
- Am I coming from a space of integrity and respect, or from manipulation?
- How can I handle rejection (if that were to happen) with grace?
- Can this person leave easily (physically and socially)?
- Are you pinning her in a corner or crowded with her energy? Are you providing her an easy exit?
Adjust your approach accordingly!
The more you tune into these questions and create safety, the more people will relax around you in general. While there will always be people who are nervous about requests, these shifts in energy are apparent. Even if people don’t know what you’ve adjusted, they can feel “off” about someone who’s objectifying them or trying to manipulate.
Consider these carefully, especially when its uncomfortable, so you answer these questions honestly and don’t hide things from yourself. And when taking these things into consideration, know that discomfort isn’t always a sign there is something wrong. Discomfort can often lead us to the truth. Humans are really good at justifying, denying and avoiding what’s real. When we take care and look at these questions objectively, that creates integrity. The more integrity you have in your approach, the easier it is for the other person to hear you. This can create a shift in the listener from defending and avoiding to curiosity.
Propose – Make your suggestion or invitation only if the power dynamics, place, and pace align. Make any adjustments for Proof you think appropriate. Alternately, wait, ask a 3rd party to make the request, modify the request or opt out of making the request at this time and place.
Pause – Wait for the answer.
Give them the space to consider your question and answer yes or no.
If you want to be super classy and help people feel safe with you, if they hesitate, say no, or make excuses, graciously say, “Thank you for letting me share my request! I hope you have a lovely evening.” And then leave them to whatever they were doing before you approached them.
Remind yourself that there are many other people you can approach and that the more you practice, the more your energy will shift and the easier this gets. It can be hard to remember this at first, especially if you’ve been lonely, haven’t had a lot of connection, and if it took a lot of courage to approach this person. The cool thing is that courage is just like a muscle, the more you use it the stronger it gets and the easier it becomes.
Sometimes, seeing how someone handles my “no,” tells me a lot about them. If they do it cleanly and in a self-supporting way, I get curious and want to learn more about them. It’s not a guarantee and you shouldn’t do it to manipulate people, but it does happen!
Finally, remember this is complex, and not everyone is going to get it perfect 100% of the time, not even you. It’s okay to be awkward sometimes, or get the power dynamics wrong, as long as you’re trying. Each request, each time you do this, you practice becoming more aware and tuned in. Your energy and approach shift, which will land on others as you being more inviting and interesting. All of this can be very sexy!
The way I remember this process is by using the Avoiding Missed Opportunities Sandwich. You can download that soon from this page!
* Filling Your Tanks:
When our tanks are empty, or we haven’t gotten needs met in a long time, its hard to feel grounded or to hear no! How can you fill your tanks up, and get your needs met? Just like you wouldn’t go to a fancy dinner so hungry that you start eating off everyone’s plates with your hands… You can get your tanks filled other ways!
- Get or trade massages with friends.
- Masturbate before events. Learn to know your body and enjoy it.
- Make sure you have same-gender, non-sexual friends who you can talk to and feel supported by!
- Practice good self-care, getting enough rest, healthy food, connection, and support to feel good about yourself.
- Evaluate what society says you need versus what you actually need. Believe it or not, humans function great without sex. They do experience skin hunger and need social connection.
- Humans can exchange massage, hugs and cuddles that are non-sexual. Even same-sex people! Men who are getting connection and touch from other men can often feel safer to women! Really!
- Watch your self-talk. Are you super critical of yourself? That can leave you feeling empty (I know!). Upgrade your self-talk or find a coach, therapist or group that can help you with that.
- How else can you feel fulfilled and grounded before you venture out to new experiences?