Summer is quickly approaching and many of you are looking forward to spending more time in the sun, having adventures in the great outdoors, traveling, and spending quality time with your family and friends. Many people see summer as a clear marker for when you can take some time for yourself, spend time with friends, and enjoy activities that make you feel alive.
Having something to look forward to is great for your mental health. It gives you a sense of excitement, allows you to daydream about positive things to come, and can be a motivation to get through the harder days. But you don’t need to wait to build the balanced, fulfilling life that you want. You can work towards having more satisfaction and joy in your life by communicating your needs.
Communicating your needs sounds easy enough but, when it’s time to do it, doubts can start to creep into your mind. Feelings of shame, guilt, or unworthiness might come up. You might feel scared to speak up because you don’t know how someone will react or maybe being vulnerable makes you feel uncomfortable or weak. But it’s important to learn how to effectively communicate your needs because other people can’t read your mind. Sure, you can’t control how others will react, but in order to build and maintain respectful and meaningful relationships and to create a life that you enjoy you need to feel empowered to speak up and take a chance.
How To Communicate Your Needs
So, you’re ready to give it a try! Here are 3 steps to communicate your needs.
1) Clearly identify what you need and why it is important to you.
If you don’t know where to start, think about an area of your life that has been difficult or problematic. Ask yourself how things would be different if you got what you needed and how would you know.
Once you’ve identified a need, you can always explore a little deeper to determine whether your need is actually a need or a want. For instance, you might want to spend more time with your partner but your underlying need may be that you need to feel like a priority to them or that you need to feel more strongly connected to each other. Think about why this need is important to you so you’re expressing a desire as opposed to a demand.
2) Speak calmly and with intention. Avoid blaming or accusing the other person.
Conversations about needs, wants, and expectations can have the potential to become heated especially if it’s something new you’re trying out. Having a clear sense of what your needs are will help you communicate in a meaningful way. The person that you’re speaking to might be caught off guard so it might help to schedule a time to talk or to give a heads up that you’d like to talk about something more serious than usual. It might help to practice what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
Avoid blaming or accusing the other person and try using “I” statements instead so you can take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings. If the conversation becomes heated, take a break and try to have the conversation again when everyone is calm.
3) Provide action steps to take, if needed.
Once you’ve communicated your need, you can follow up with things that the other person can do to help meet your need. For instance, if your need is to experience more adventure and spontaneity in your life with your partner, you could suggest activities you’re interested in doing together. Sometimes it helps to express our needs and just be heard, seen, and understood. Other times, you might have action steps or ideas in mind that would be meaningful to you that the other person can take and that is worth talking about.
Who Can You Communicate Your Needs To?
You can communicate your needs to anyone you interact with if you need to! If you’re finding that there are areas of your life that are more problematic, focus on those areas first.
Making changes in these areas might bring more balance and relief than focusing on an area of your life that is already going well.
Conversations about your needs with your partner, co-parent, children, co-workers, family, and friends will probably look different because of the different roles you play in each situation. However, the bottom line is the same. Only you can determine what you need in order to have more balance in your life and if you need something from someone they may not know unless you tell them.
What To Do If Someone Doesn’t Respond The Way You Had Hoped
This is both simple and complicated. It is simple because, ultimately, you only have control over your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You can’t control how others will respond. It’s complicated because so many factors can influence how you want to move forward.
The other person may be unable or unwilling to meet your need or maybe they need time to process what you said. Maybe it was a tough conversation for you and you need time to reflect back to see whether you’d like to try to talk about it again. Maybe you accept the outcome and can find other ways to have your needs met.
Be gentle with yourself when communicating your needs even if you didn’t get the response you want. As with most things, the more you practice communicating your needs effectively, the easier and less intimidating it will become. Soon, you’ll find yourself engaged in more meaningful relationships and living a life that you enjoy!
How We Can Help
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Other Therapy Services Available at Catalyss Counseling:
Here at Catalyss Counseling, we want to meet all of your counseling needs in the Denver area. Our supportive therapists provide depression counseling, therapy for caregiver stress, grief and loss therapy, stress management counseling and more. We also have specialists in trauma and PTSD, women's issues, pregnancy and postpartum depression or anxiety, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, and birth trauma. For therapists, we can also provide clinical supervision! We look forward to connecting with you to help support your journey today.
Pansy Ayala is a licensed therapist with Catalyss Counseling and specializes in treating adults with anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and relationship issues. She uses a holistic, individualized approach to better understand who you are, what areas of your life you find problematic, and how you can reach your goals. She especially enjoys working with parents. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.