We all have needs. We recognize the most basic needs when we feel hungry, tired, or unsafe. These needs have simple solutions that we can accomplish independently. Emotional needs, however, become more complicated when we ask them to be met in a relationship.
You may not want to appear needy or worry about what the other person in the relationship may say. Nevertheless, your needs are valid and you deserve a chance to express them. It can be difficult to communicate your needs in an effective and thoughtful way. Knowing how to do this, however, is important in getting your needs heard and fulfilled.
Identify Your Need
Identifying your need may be the most difficult part about getting what you need. For example, thirst can often be mistaken for hunger. Identifying needs in a relationships starts with identifying the emotions you have. Do you feel uncomfortable? Unacknowledged? Unaccepted? Identify the emotions that occur for you, then name your need based on those emotions. In relationships, it is important to look past what you want the other person to do or not do and realize what their action or lack of action means to you.
Express Your Need
Once you have named your need, plan how you will make it known. For example, write a letter so that you can practice how to word it. Be specific about what occurred and what you want from the other person. Plan for what you will say, such as “I feel unacknowledged when…” or “I would feel more acknowledged if….” Pick a time and place that you can talk to this person when and where you both feel comfortable This makes it easier for each of you to speak openly.
Make It About You
When expressing your needs in a relationship, make it about you, not about what the other person is doing. The person to whom you are expressing your need will be less receptive if they feel attacked or confronted about not fulfilling your need. Say what you want rather than laying blame. Do this by making ‘I statements’ instead of ‘you statements.’ When you express a problem, always suggest a solution.
Convey Their Value
Even though you are asking for something from the other person, let them know you value their contributions to your relationship. When people feel valued, they will want to keep feeling that way by meeting your needs. If you let them know you value them, they will likely acknowledge that they value you. Do this by listening to what they have to say.
While the conversation is about your needs, it does not need to be one-sided. Let the other person talk so that they can share their feelings about what you have expressed to them. This ensures that you both can talk about solutions. This gives the other person a chance to validate your need and ask clarifying questions so that, together, you can come to an agreement.
Once you have expressed your need, the other person may share feelings about meeting that need. What is said may not be what you expect or want, but be open to suggestions on how to handle the need. It may be hard to take advice, especially when you have thoughtfully planned what to say. Nevertheless, ensure that you listen and hear what the other person has to say. You may not agree with the advice, but do not get defensive. If they validated you and your need, it is your turn to validate what they have to say.
If you have taken these steps and still need support, consider couple’s therapy to improve communication in a relationship. Couple’s therapy can be helpful even though no problems exist presently. Therapy is a great way to help couples learn more about each other and further strengthen their relationship.
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