Your dinner was served cold, but you don’t feel comfortable asking the waiter to take it back. You don’t like something your boss just said to you, but you don’t know how to respond. You’d like a favor from a friend, but you don’t want to impose. On the other hand, you’re starting to feel that people treat you like a doormat.

If this sounds familiar, you probably find yourself hoping and wishing that people would do what you want, and feeling upset when they don’t. But since most people can’t read minds, the only way to get what you want is to ask for it!

You may have objections such as, “But if my friends were really considerate, they would offer.” “If my partner really cared about me, s/he would know what I want.” “If I have to ask, it doesn’t count—the other person will only be doing it out of obligation.”

Actually, if you ask others to do things for you, and they consent, that’s a sign that they listen to you and care about what’s important to you. Because we all have different wants, needs, and values, others can’t know what matters to you if you don’t tell them. You have to ask.

How can you do this if you’re not used to it? First, start small. Make a list of all of the situations where it’s hard to express yourself, and start with the easiest items.

Second, keep it simple, and skip the long explanations. (“I’d appreciate it if you could call when you’re running late.” “This product is defective and I’d like a refund.” “If you have a problem with my performance or behavior at work, please speak with me directly about it, rather than complaining to others.”)

Third, it’s okay to be nervous. Even if you’re terrified, you can still go ahead and ask for what you want. Who knows? You just might get it!