ProConnect

How To Ask For What You Need

By

How To Ask For What You Need
Effective communication is neither being bossy nor being walked all over.

We all know people who always make sure their own ducks are in a row, regardless of the fallout for anyone else. The Germans have an expression for this kind of selfishness, roughly translatable as, "After I'm done, Armageddon can come." Ethical and relationship-minded people don't want to be like that. But what's the alternative? That is, how can we ask for what we need without jeopardizing our relationships?

Many of us learned a different way: Don't express your needs at all. That's the "polite" thing to do. The problems with this of course are legion– resentment, passive aggression. Some feel disappointment that others can't guess their needs. Others develop Spock-like detachment from even knowing what it is they need, let alone desire.

More from YourTango: The Benefits of Saying "Ouch"

The opposite of this is learning how to communicate what you need without being unreasonable. I call this being relationally assertive. This usually involves the following:

1. Describe the situation and the facts as you understand them, and without including judgments or assumptions of motives.

"It seems you've been late for the majority of our meetings."
"We haven't spent much time together lately, maybe two nights in the past two weeks."
"I will arrive late at the airport, around 11pm."

2. When dealing with friends or family, briefly describe how it makes you feel. Use statements that start with "I" as opposed to "you":

"I've been feeling sad about us."
"I feel disrespected when spoken to like that."
"I worry that I won't get this done."

3. Describe what you want to happen. Ask for a change on the behavioral level, and ask for one thing at a time that can be changed right now. Be specific.

"Could you make dinner tonight?"
"Would you make time to watch a movie with me tonight?"
"I would like to discuss our vacation plans this week."

4. This one is optional, but you may want to tell the other person what you'll do to take care of yourself if they cannot meet your request. This is neither intended as a threat nor a punishment, and it shouldn't be used that way.

"If you can't leave in time for the party, I'll take my own car."
"If you can't help with cleaning, I'll hire a maid, and we'll split the cost."
"If you don't get a chance to make dinner tonight, I can order a pizza."

Here are two examples of how I would put the four steps together:

"I've been working against a deadline and haven't had time to cook dinner (#1). I'm  worried I might not get this done in time (#2). Could you throw something together so I  can keep going (#3)? If that doesn't work for you, I can order a pizza (#4).

Or:

"We haven't been spending much time together this week (#1). I've been really missing  you (#2). Could we go out to dinner today or tomorrow (#3)? If not, let me know your  ideas of what we can do (or: If you really don't have time for me this week, I will  try  and go out with a friend, so I’m not sitting around moping) (#4).

This is easy enough to do and so much more effective than the way many of us tend to communicate our needs:

"What do you mean, 'what’s for dinner?' ! I'm working here, too, you know! How come I'm the only one always having to make dinner!"

Or even...

"How come you don't want to spend time with me anymore? When we were first  dating, you acted like you cared, but now you take me for granted... Are you seeing someone else?"

Play around with the principles and formulations so they feel natural to you, and try these out in situations where you find it difficult to express your needs and ask for things. The process of thinking through this itself can even help you to understand the "vague frustration" that can arise in certain situations, helping you to put a finger on your underlying feelings, and what it is you actually want. And once you know, asking for it is so much easier!

More from YourTango: Couples Problems: Can You Change Your Partner?

More relationship coach advice from YourTango:

Share this with someone you love (or even like a lot)!

Let's make it
FB official
Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Julia Flood

Counselor/Therapist

In my San Francisco practice I help couples in crisis break out of the vicious cycle of hurting and getting hurt. Call me at (415) 820-3210 or email me at julia@newstarttherapy.com. http://www.newstarttherapy.com

Location: San Francisco, CA
Credentials: LCSW
Specialties: Couples/Marital Issues
Other Articles/News by Julia Flood:

How To Get Your Partner Into Couples Therapy

By

When you realize that your marriage or committed relationship would benefit from relationship counseling, what follows is the challenge of "selling" this idea to your partner. Sometimes partners may initially refuse to participate in couples counseling because they feel blamed for all of the problems. So how can you communicate to your partner your ... Read more

Getting Your Money's Worth in Couples Therapy

By

Holidays often bring out the worst in family relationships, and a couple's relationship is no exception. Transitioning to a new year, many couples are considering marriage counseling, but want to make sure that their time and money is well spent. Consequently, they invest great care in selecting a couples therapist as an expert to provide direction, tools, ... Read more

The Benefits of Saying "Ouch"

By

Picture someone stepping on your toe. You wince and might say "ouch", and the guilty party will most likely turn around and apologize profusely. How strange would it be if they didn't, or even explained to you how it wasn't their fault, it wasn't meant that way, and you shouldn't be offended. Now you probably don't get hurt ... Read more

See More

Recent Expert Posts
Come Hither

Nuru Massage: A Slippery, Sexy Erotic Adventure

Nuru Massage is the hottest new erotic trend - here's how to do it at home without the mess!

Fighting

Put Your Relationship on a Diet Free of Blame and Criticism

Replace the blame and criticism in your relationship with heartfelt gratitude and appreciations.

Smooches

Why You'll Never Meet The Right Partner

Give up the search - and figure out how to actually create love instead.

Ask The Experts

Have a dating or relationship question?
Visit Ask YourTango and let our experts and community answer.

Resources
How to find the right pro for you
10 Reasons Mental Health Pros Should Join YourTango Experts

10 Reasons Mental Health Pros Should Join YourTango Experts

YourTango Experts can help your business go from good to great.

10 Steps To Improve Your Coaching Business

Take your coaching business from mediocre to great in no timeā€¦

Frequently Asked Questions About YourTango Experts

Thinking of joining? Here's all the facts you need to know to make the most of your membership.

Getting Your Guy To Join You In A Therapy Or Coaching Session

So how can your get your strong, self-reliant, superman to talk to an Expert with you?

Therapist/Counselors: Who We Are & What We Do

What exactly does a therapist/counselor do and can they really help?

See more resources>
HOT STUFF!
FROM OUR PARTNERS