People don’t know what they don’t know, which makes communicating your needs so important.
Whatever it is that you are not saying out loud, doesn’t go away just because you are not voicing it. It festers and grows and gains momentum. All of a sudden you are having an argument that doesn’t even have anything to do with the original thing that was bothering you. You end up saying ALL THE THINGS! Now the defences are really up and you are probably left feeling unsupported, unseen, unheard and resentful.
Communication our needs is key between my husband and I. We don’t always do it perfectly, and sometimes we catch ourselves being defensive, both wanting to be right, but we have a deal that even if one of us is going to be angry, we will always talk openly about how we are feeling and what we need.
One day, my husband was walking through the house, huffing and puffing, obviously pissed about something. This is rare for him as he is so annoyingly (even though I secretly admire it) laid back. I asked him what was wrong and he proceeded to get mad about my use of the internet, specifically my uploading of videos, which slooooooows everything down. I wanted to get defensive, but instead, I put myself in his shoes. He’s right, it would be annoying to watch that damn circle go round and round as it waits to load the page. Slow internet is no joking matter. Am I right?!
So instead of getting mad, I asked him, “what do you need?” He said, “I understand that you have to upload for work, but could you just tell me first so I can plan around it?” To which I responded, “absolutely.”
You see, I have worked from home, by myself, for 8 years. Now that he’s working from home, I needed this reminder that I’m sharing a space with someone. I haven’t worked in an office setting for awhile, but I know how to respect the boundaries of my coworkers, and that includes my husband, whom now works from home with me. Without him communicating his needs, I would never have remembered that.
People don’t know what they don’t know. Whether it be a coworker, friend, family member, spouse or partner, we (and you) are not mind readers. Communicating your needs, gives others the space to do so as well.
If you are not willing to speak the truth and listen to each other’s wants and needs and respect those wants and needs, it will cause cracks in your relationship foundation. Honest, open, non-defensive, and loving communication, even when (especially when) it is something difficult, creates a strong foundation, and keeps it nice and strong.
It is easy for stressors to become constant triggers when we don’t communicate in a healthy way. If the silence goes on for so long that it turns into resentment, that foundation begins to crack and weakens.
If you are worried about having the conversation, here are two things I recommend.
1. Be very clear about what you are actually asking for or needing to talk about. What is your ask? For example, “I need you to tell me when you are going to upload a video so that I can plan not to be on the internet during that time.”
Or, what is at the root of the trigger or stressor? For example, it might be that you are not feeling supported, heard or seen. Why? Have you communicated your needs and they are being ignored, or have you not voiced it yet? Those are two different conversations. One is around the disappointment you feel about having to have this conversation, again, feeling disrespected, and one is being clear about what support you need, or being honest so that you are seen and heard.
Don’t go into it as though you are giving them a history lesson, giving them every single example and timeline of when they did this thing. and that thing. The intention isn’t to prove you are right to feel the way you do. You don’t need that validation. You feel it, that is all the validation you need. The intention is to be heard.
You can even practice with a friend if you want. I know I have done this with my friends and have asked, “if this were you, and I said this to you in this way, would you take insult to it?” Sometimes our emotions create blinders and someone else can help you see it from a different perspective.
2. Talk about the small, medium and big things. If you are feeling like the trigger or stressor is too small to even voice, so you will leave it for just this one time, which has actually been 10 times, ask yourself this question: Will it be harder on me emotionally, mentally and attitudinally, to not communicate this? If the answer is yes, know that you will experience temporary discomfort while having the conversation, but it will feel like a weight has been lifted off of you once you do. Again, people don’t know what they don’t know.
If there is no resolution on the first try, don’t say everything is fine and then bring it up again 3 months later. Either keep talking about it, or say that it was a great start, but you may need more time to think of a solution. A killer of all open and honest communication is lying and saying, “I’m fine, or nothing is wrong, or you should just know.” People are not mind readers, so be honest about what you are truly feeling.
Communicating your needs isn’t always easy. Sometimes we want tell someone that they are triggering us, but we don’t want their defences to go up and end up in an argument. Sometimes we don’t want to voice it because we are afraid it will make us look petty or needy. And sometimes we think it is too small to voice, so we don’t bother saying anything. When you are feeling thing way, just remember that your feelings matter and their feelings matter too.
I was journalling about this one day when I wasn’t feeling seen or heard in a situation and I asked myself, how am I not seeing or hearing myself and how can I model the behaviour towards myself that I feel I’m not getting from the other person? The answer to that was to show myself appreciation, and give myself daily kudos. Stop asking for someone else to give me what I’m not even giving myself. Also, I saw that I needed to speak my truths when I’m feeling insecure or scared and that it was safe to do so.
What is something you feel you aren’t getting in a specific relationship?
How are you not giving that to them?
How are you not giving that to yourself?
The second questions reminds me of something I say in my Emotional Management Workshop. “Don’t ask for someone to give you something that you are not willing to give to them, or to yourself.”
The last question is important because we can’t know what it feels like to be supported (or whatever we desire) if we don’t support ourselves, or give ourselves what we want someone else to give us. And the same is true for all of our emotional needs.