Communicating Our Needs
Nearly twenty years ago, I facilitated a Healthy Sexuality group for women. One of the things we discussed was their personal rights. I am a huge believer that we all have personal rights and it’s okay to ask others to meet them. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was not capable of asking anyone else to meet my needs. If I’m going to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t even capable of speaking my needs. I remember clearly when my husband and I moved in together. I used to get so very frustrated by his lack of attentiveness to my needs. Countless times I would say things like, “No I didn’t tell him! If he really loves me, he should just know!!” Now that phrase absolutely stops me in my tracks.
What that sentence speaks to me of is Shame! Let me draw this out for you: the way Shame works is it convinces us that we are not worthy of asking for our needs to be met! We are not worthy of even having needs, let alone asking for someone else to attend to them. This is a common experience among people who carry with them a significant amount of Shame.
On my first birthday as a married woman, I had significantly unrealistic expectations of my husband. I wanted a massive party! I wanted gifts from him that touched my soul! I wanted an amazingly delicious flourless cake! Not one of those things happened. This was primarily because I didn’t communicate any of what I wanted until I was in a fit of hurt and disappointment, and crying like a child. As a result of that painful experience, I learned a valuable lesson about communicating my needs to him. Since then, he asks for a list of what I would like before every birthday and Christmas, and I happily supply that to him. I never want to set my partner up for failure; I want to set everyone in my life up for success. Communicating my needs to the people in my life helps them to be successful at meeting my needs.
I can’t even tell you how many of my clients (predominantly my female clients) never felt as if they had a voice to ask the people in their lives to show up or to meet their needs. Once we feel as if we have permission to just outright and unapologetically ask for what we need, everything begins to change in our relationships. My 7 tips and suggestions for beginning to ask for your needs to be met include, but are not limited to:
1. Practice: As silly as this sounds, practice saying your needs out loud. I don’t care if you say your needs while you are driving around town, vacuuming your house, or just say it in the mirror. The more we say things out loud and become comfortable with them, the more likely we are to share them with the people who love us.
2. Explore What You Need: We all have wants, desires, preferences, etc. When my husband is driving (specifically out of town) at night, I worry that something bad will happen to him. What I need is to know that he is safe. Therefore, when he’s going out of town I will typically say, “I worry about something happening to you because I love you. Can you please text me when you get there so I know you are safe?” When I phrase things in an open and transparent manner people are more likely to be able to meet my needs.
3. Let Go of The Hurt: I have been guilty of using that birthday debacle against my husband for years! Literally years…. It’s not something I am proud of, but I did so because I was afraid if I let it go, he would keep messing up my birthday. My bonus daughter used to say that when I was mad, I would bring up everything including the kitchen sink. But in honesty, that’s only because I didn’t have a resolution for those issues.
4. Recognize Your Part: We all have a part in every experience we have. My part in the birthday debacle was that I didn’t provide my husband with a list of what I would like as gifts. I didn’t remind him my birthday was coming. As a single focused human being, he doesn’t necessarily have the ability to pay attention to the small details. When I clearly communicate my needs to the people in my life, that gives them a choice. They can choose to meet my needs or not, but not communicating with them sets them up for failure.
5. Communicate Clearly: When I am communicating my needs to the people in my life, I tend to be very direct and as specific as possible. I don’t talk in theory or hint or beat around the bush. I work to communicate as clearly as possible because then there’s little room left to make assumptions. I want to bridge all the gaps so that my needs are met.
6. Be Receptive To Other’s Needs: I realized a while ago that if I wanted people to meet my needs, I needed to honor and respect theirs. Typically, when someone in my life is explaining a need that they have, I will focus all of my attention on them. I want to give them my undivided attention and honor the fact that they are communicating something so sacred to me.
7. Set Others Up For Success: The best way that I can set my husband, friends, children, family, and pets up for success is to communicate very openly and transparently what my needs, wants, desires, and preferences are. To do anything less than that creates a dis-service to me and those I love and have relationships with. I’m a firm believer that typically we are either setting people around us up for success or we are allowing them to fail. If I have a desire or preference, I typically communicate that to people I value in my life.
I would love to hear from you on where you are on the continuum of communicating your needs, wants, desires, and preferences to people in your life. What are your experiences in this area?
Shame Busting Coach, Jenn Bovee, works with people all over the world to show them that Shame has no place in your life today. Learn more about Jenn at: www.JennBovee.com