Getting Your Needs Met Part 4: How to Communicate Your Needs

We’ve been pondering needs for a few weeks now. We’ve looked at what needs are as well as the value of knowing who you are in determining your own needs. Now we have arrived at the conclusion: the art of communicating your needs in a way that increases the likelihood of getting your needs met. There are no guarantees this will happen. The reality is we can do everything right and still end up with an unmet need. There are ways we can communicate our needs that will pretty much guarantee the need will not get met. Speaking your need at a time when the listener is otherwise occupied, exhausted, or unavailable as well as bombarding the potential “need meeter” with eight different requests all at once will not result in a met need.
As discussed in Part 1, the needs I am highlighting are linked to enhanced relational connection. In a way, having your needs met increases your level of bonding in the relationship. I like to think of expressed needs as giving the other person in the relationship a way he can “win” with you. We typically want to be good to the people we are in relationship with; speaking your needs helps him know specifics which you consider good. Another note, the needs we are talking about are not literal life and death needs. You may think of them as wants or desires. That’s fine. The point is without these elements being met, the connection in the relationship is compromised. It may be minor and not a big deal to you or it may be a major compromise in which you begin to question the health of the relationship. If you need your friend to keep what you say in confidence and he shares your information with others, it’s best not to invest too much of yourself in the relationship. If your wife doesn’t want to work out a budget with you, your relationship is likely to be hurt but you won’t divorce her over it.
Remember, speaking a need is not demanding something of the other person. It is giving her an opportunity to connect with you. If she chooses not to, you are responsible for how you deal with the disappointment. Not getting things we want or need is part of life. You may choose to meet your need yourself or find a friend who can help.  Getting nasty or demanding about your needs is not acceptable, healthy, adult behavior; nor is seeking to fill a legitimate need illegitimately. For instance, if your husband is not connecting with you at an emotional level, it is not ok to have an affair to get the need met. Put the rejected need through a filter. Is this need something that you must have in order to feel safe or connected? Then evaluate the relationship. Suggest joint counseling to the person if the relationship is legally bound or important to you. Give the person time to learn how important this need is to you. If the person still refuses to meet your need, you may need to draw a boundary around this, clearly stating what you are ok with and what it means for the health and future of the relationship if the person refuses to change.
Here are a few examples of how to speak a need:
I am feeling sad. I need a hug. Will you give me a hug?
We have been so busy lately and I am feeling less connection between us. I would really like to spend time with you; can we set something up that will work for both of our schedules?
I need to feel your touch. Would you be willing to hold me or sit close to me?
I’m confused about where our money is going. I need clarity regarding our finances. Would you work out a budget with me?
We have been so focused on finishing this project. I would like to spend time just hanging out. Would you be up for having a work-free lunch?
I need down time. Would you be ok if I just veg in front of the TV for a half an hour?
These are just a few examples. Notice I put a question in each of those phrases, an opportunity for the other person to say no. Be prepared for the rejection! I know I said this once already, but the best way to get a need met is if we are adult about it. Maybe a bit after the “no” the other person will realize she is being a schmuck and will come back with a “yes.” If you’re in a healthy adult state (as opposed to the child-like pouty state) you are much more likely to welcome the delayed yes. This will set the stage for continued growth and more needs being met. Another point, those who are willing to meet the healthy, legitimate needs of others are more likely to have their own needs met. 🙂

Getting Your Needs Met Part 3: What Are Your Needs?

Moving right along from the last post related to understanding what needs are, let’s shift into understanding your own needs. I introduced the idea of contemplating your needs in the last post but I am not going to assume you came up with any. Not because I don’t think you can come up with your own needs. It’s because I don’t want to assume the task was easy for you. I get frustrated sometimes when I am introduced to a new concept but not guided down the path slowly through each point so that I can fully understand and incorporate the concept into my life. If you are already aware of your needs then feel free to skip this post and wait for Part 4 🙂
So we begin the journey of figuring out our needs in relationships. It begins with knowing yourself. Some of us are so closed down to who we really are and what we really need that this task may seem like a chore or perhaps a “why bother?” Here’s my belief: we all have likes and dislikes. You may think you are so easy going that you don’t need anything in particular and take pride in going with the flow. I will challenge you to determine if you are a chameleon who is actually afraid of rejection if you show your true colors. Many of us are. I believe you were wired to be aware of your likes and dislikes. It’s part of understanding who you are, the aspects of your being that separate you from everyone else. We were not meant to be what we think others want us to be (oh what a hamster-wheel-life that is!). We were designed to walk through our lives allowing each circumstance to be an opportunity to find out who we are, what we think, and how we feel. No one else can answer those questions for you. That part of your journey must be forged on your own. You can seek the counsel of others in determining the answers, but those whom you seek cannot do the answering. This topic relates to our boundaries. I wrote a post on this, it might be worth reading if this is a new concept for you. May I also suggest the book, Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
To begin understanding your own needs, ask yourself about things you are doing, eating, saying, hearing…pretty much anything. Ask the question, “Do I like this?” You might not have an answer or you might answer quickly, “Yes!” If you say yes, ask yourself why. What do you like about it? If you say no, ask why. What is it about this thing that you don’t like it? If you don’t have an answer, explore that. Why don’t you have an answer? Are you too tired to think about it? Then get some rest and commit to asking yourself when you are in a better state to give it more time and effort. Maybe you’re not tired; you simply don’t like spending time thinking about these sorts of things. “It’s a waste of time,” you might say. Really? I suppose part of living your own life is deciding the things you want to spend time on, but how do you know what those things really are if you don’t take time to know who you are and the things that matter to you? I don’t believe we are shallow by nature. We get shallow when we shut ourselves off from knowing who we really are.
You may have shut yourself off from your needs to protect yourself somewhere along the way in your development. This is not unusual. Perhaps you had an alcoholic or abusive parent or caregiver and there was no space for your needs. Maybe your parents or caregivers were so preoccupied with something other than you that your needs were not heard or didn’t matter. These scenarios are quite common. Most of us put our needs aside in order to survive. You are an adult now and you get to decide if you and your needs have value. The fact that you are breathing tells me you have value. That part is a given, inherent in human life. It’s up to you to begin to believe that. Get around people who genuinely care about and support you in your growth. That is the ideal place to find healing. You may also enlist the help of a trained therapist/counselor/coach to guide you toward healing and wholeness.
Another reason I believe it’s important to know what we like and don’t like: it’s the one thing no one can take from us. It’s our essence, our choice to be who we are. Viktor Frankl survived a concentration camp during World War II. The thing that got him through the horrific experience of having all his rights taken away was that he never let the Nazi’s have his essence, who he is and his ability to choose how to respond to his circumstances. We live in relatively pleasant times, but you never know when that might change. The reality of today is often painful enough and you will face heartache. It is then that you will need to rely on your essence for survival. You’ll have a better time dealing with life’s challenges when you’ve figured out who you are.
Become a student of yourself. This quest will help you identify your needs. Play with this a bit. Practice asking yourself what you need in this moment. Do you need a break from reading? Step away from the computer for a bit. Are you looking out your window wishing you could feel the sun on your face? Step outside. What does that feel like? Are you hungry? Get something to eat. What do you notice about how you feel now that you have eaten? Are you lonely and want to hear a friendly voice? Call someone. Find out what you need then meet the need and notice what happens within you. Warning: needs in this context and in all posts from me must fall into a realm of legal and healthy. You may think you need Meth, but you really don’t. You may think you need to eat the entire chocolate cake or to scream at the annoying driver in front of you. You don’t need either. Check in with what you need, ask yourself if what you came up with is legal and healthy, then do what you can to meet your need.
Once you understand your needs, move on to the next step: communicating them, but you’ll have to wait until I post it 🙂

Getting Your Needs Met Part 2: What Are Needs?

OK, I know it’s been a few weeks since my last post…I’m one of those people who has big dreams, limited follow through and poor organization…but that’s for another post. Back to needs!
I think the best place to start with the topic of needs would be: What are they? Some may say all we need is air, water, food and shelter. If we are merely talking about physical survival that is true. It starts to get a bit more complicated as we look at the deeper layers of what it means to be human. Research has shown that emotional and physical connection with others are as important to surviving and thriving as the basic life sustaining ingredients of air, water, food and shelter. So now the list of needs may read: air, water, food, shelter, emotional connection and physical connection with other human beings. The additions raise some questions. What kind of emotional and physical connection with human beings is necessary for survival? Prisoners in concentration camps had physical and emotional connections with human beings which resulted in death. No, those don’t count. We need certain kinds of connection with others. Connections that breathe life, hope, and healing into us. What does that look like for you?  Just as each of us is unique, so are our needs.  There may be some similarities from person to person, but there is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to needs.  What works for one person may not work for another.
I want to create a bridge here between needs based on mere survival to needs that enhance the quality of our lives and relationships.  The latter are the type of needs we will focus on for the remainder of this series of blogs on needs.  First we’ve established basic needs for survival.  Now we will look at how those needs manifest themselves in our relationships.  Although we can survive without some of our relational needs being met, we are not truly thriving or reaching our full potential.  I can live without touch in my marriage, but the quality of my connection with my husband plummets when a hug, handhold or some sort of body to body contact are non-existent.  There is something about this type of non-sexual physical connection through touch that increases the intimacy in our relationship.  On the opposite side, one of my daughters does not enjoy very much physical contact.  Hugs are seldom given or received.  She needs me to sit and connect with her verbally.  She wants me to listen to her, to interact with her through conversation.  That is how she experiences an increase in intimacy with people.
Mmmm…I’m hearing something about my use of intimacy.  I’m not using it with any sexual reference.  Intimacy in this case refers to deeply knowing and connecting with another person.  It’s the space in relationships where we let our guard down.  I feel safe with the other person and allow her in to the secret, well protected parts of my heart.  Because she is safe, I allow myself to be fully exposed in the relationship.  Typically this type of connection is two-way.
Now to you.  What are your needs in relationships?  What elements are necessary for you to connect and feel connected to another person?  Is it touch, verbal connection, spending time together?  There are many needs, not just the few I’ve pointed out.  Each of us also has more than one need in relationships. We’ll delve into our individual needs more in the next part but for now, begin to simmer in understanding what your needs are.

Getting Your Needs Met Part 1

When my husband and I were dating, we corresponded online before we actually met face to face.  While I don’t remember the details of the particular conversation I am writing about, I distinctly remember “or IWGMNM”.  My husband had run out of room and condensed the last part of the conversation into initials.  I had no idea what those letters stood for.  Later I learned they stood for “I won’t get my needs met.”  My husband was responding to a question I had asked related to being aware of my needs.  There are no guarantees that if we are meeting the needs of our partner ours will get met, but the odds of that happening to you rise dramatically if you are meeting your partner’s needs.
Maybe you have no idea what your needs are.  Perhaps you are thinking you shouldn’t have needs.  You could be one of those people out there who believes every need, want, and desire of yours better get met or there will be hell to pay.  We all have different ideas about needs and their place in our lives and our relationships.  I’m going to use the next few blog posts to delve into the topic of needs.
This is going to be a series of blog posts dedicated to the value of needs in relationships, identifying our needs and communicating them in a way that increases the likelihood of them getting met.  Stay tuned for Part 2 🙂