“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou
Have you ever felt discouraged when trying to convey your message to a loved one who misunderstands your request? At the root of many power struggles are unmet needs. Our choice of words and tone of voice may actually push the listener away rather than increase connection. Perhaps we have waited so long to express our feelings that increase defensiveness by using words that evaluate, blame or criticize. Our frustration can push people away when we need connection. Here are some steps that can help you make you make a clear request of your need:
- Identify the need behind the feeling you are experiencing.
- Ask yourself if it is alright to need something from others.
- Expand your vocabulary of ‘feeling words’ that express your situation.
- You may want to practice with a close friend or family member through role-play. Using the phrase, “I feel__________ because I need___________.”
- Decide if the person(s) are able to meet the need and if the request is appropriate to the relationship.
- Connect the need with the feeling and do not be afraid to let your request be known without blame, accusation or guilt.
- Establish a good time for communicating the need.
- Use “I” messages to describe the root feeling and unmet need. For example saying “When you don’t call me, I feel hurt.” is different from “I feel angry when you don’t call me because I needed to have time with you.” The first statement evokes defensiveness the second statement is an honest communication of need.
- After expressing the feeling we can ask what the listener is thing and if they would be willing to take a particular action that would meet the need.
- Leaving the request with the listener allows for freedom in the relationship. It communicates that we each are responsible for our feelings and gives the listener an opportunity to choose.
Perhaps our unwillingness to give direct requests is a sign that we are fearful of vulnerability or that our needs will continue to be unmet. Be aware of your negative feelings as a sign of an unmet need and make requests that demonstrate value for yourself and the listener.
Beth Holloway, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and has more than 12 years’ experience in the mental health field. She has recently joined the Miller Counseling Services team and specializes in counseling individuals and couples who have experienced all types of losses including abuse, domestic strife, and trauma. She enjoys leading group therapy classes in the areas of Divorce Recovery, Spiritual Enrichment, Couples and Parent/Child Relationships, Grief Processing and Depression Recovery. Beth has had the privilege of traveling all over the United States and to more than 10 foreign countries and has been enriched by learning about people from diverse cultures and ethnic groups.