I talk a lot on Weightless about exploring and responding to our needs. This is a powerful way to cultivate self-compassion and a fulfilling life.
But I know it can get tricky when our needs involve other people — which is often.
Personally, I used to assume that others, if they truly loved one, would automatically know what I needed. That’s how it works, right?
Assuming that others can read our minds — i.e., do the impossible — can lead to a whole lot of hurt feelings, resentment, miscommunication and arguments. Because when those people inevitably don’t deliver, we blame them and ourselves and still remain hungry.
The key, I’ve realized, after interviewing many relationship experts, is simply to be clear. This may seem obvious, but I never thought about actually asking. Have you? Do you ask?
Instead, I’d give hints, I’d huff and puff, and be passive-aggressive. Which as you can imagine was not very effective.
Ask for what you need. Be direct. Be humble. Be polite.
I’m swamped with work this week. Do you mind making dinner the next few nights?
I had the worst day. I need a hug.
I’m working on appreciating my body exactly as it is. Can we focus our chat more on what we like, rather than what we don’t like about our bodies?
I’m really tired. This is an important topic, and I want to give you my full attention. Can we talk about it tomorrow, instead?
I really appreciate you wanting to support me in solving my problem. But what I really need right now is for you to listen.
Honestly, I’m scared about this. Can we brainstorm ways we can overcome this situation?
I’m working on finding physical activities that I actually like. And I’ve realized that going to the gym just isn’t one of them. I’d love for you to join me on a bike ride.
“I’d like to spend X amount of time doing Y for the sake of Z. Does that work for you?”
According to Madson, “You and those to whom you express your desires deserve to know what you’re after, and the best time to articulate that is before you engage, not once you’re in the middle or at the end of things.”
If you don’t know what you want, she suggests saying: “I’d like to spend X amount of time exploring Y to see what comes of it.”
Of course, you might not get a “yes,” but the key is to ask. Because when you don’t ask, you’re automatically taking “no” for an answer, anyway.
In addition to asking what you need, make it a point to ask others what they need.
How can I help? How can I support you? What do you need from me right now?
Asking others for what you need and asking them for what they need deepens your relationship and helps you feel supported as individuals.
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Last reviewed: 19 Jun 2014