5 Strategies To Get What You Need from Your Friends and Family

Friends and Family
Love, Family

Use these 5 Strategies To Get What You Need from Your Friends and Family

How often have you spent time with a friend, relative or even your significant other and walked away feeling disappointed, empty or like that person totally didn’t listen to you or give you what you needed?  Or even worse were you told not to feel a certain way or the other person made the conversation about himself/herself?

I struggled and honestly obsessed over these questions for most of January and February.

 Is it reasonable to expect empathy from my friends and family?  Am I expecting too much?  Am I narcissistic?

After much soul-searching and research, I have some wonderful news.  We are not self-centered or narcissistic.  It IS reasonable to have expectations from our friends and family.  What is unreasonable IS to expect them to read our minds or to expect them to always be there for us when we need them.

Below are 5 strategies or questions to ask yourself to maximize what you receive from your personal relationships.  Hopefully, these points will also help you in turn give others what they need from you.

1.  What Am I Looking for or What Do I Need Right Now?

Getting clear on what you need is SO important.  When we reach out or feel disappointment, we may not even be aware of what we are seeking from our friends or family.   What were we looking for that we didn’t get?  Was it a shoulder to cry on?  A hug? 

Did we feel a need to connect with someone who cares about us?  Or, did we simply want to vent to someone and receive some empathy rather than some advice or a solution?  If we want empathy, do we know how to offer it to others?

As a life coach, I have discovered that being truly empathetic is a skill set that requires lots of practice, mindfulness and presence.  It is by no means a slam dunk. 

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and validate what they are feeling.  It’s about biting your tongue and not saying that things will get better since you really don’t know that they will.  And please refrain from telling the person that what he/she is feeling is not SO bad and as Brené Brown, the empathy wizard advises, do not begin a sentence with “at least”.   For example, when speaking to a friend who is going through a tough time in her marriage, do not say “at least you have a husband”.  To learn more about empathy, check out Brené Brown on Empathy -


2.   How is My Timing?

We all know the saying “timing is everything.”.  Well, timing can be critical in so many aspects of life and especially in our personal relationships.   In today’s environment - when people are so busy, so rushed and so consumed by FoMO, fear of missing out, we need to be aware of our timing when we are looking for support or attention from our friends or loved ones. 

  • When you start to vent to your friend or significant other or confide about an issue that really has you worried, do you think about your timing?  Is that person available physically as well as emotionally?  Do they have the time to get into this conversation with you?   Can you wait if  you sense your timing is off?
  • Do you know how much time you need?  It goes back to the old adage, "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You" - Respect the other person’s boundaries in the same way you expect your boundaries to be respected.   For example, how about asking “can you talk right now?” or “I have this issue that I would love to talk to you about, can we set aside some time this week?” If you know your friend or partner has a huge project to complete at work and is super stressed or had a really bad day at work, can you wait?  In Rising Strong, Brené Brown says "Compassionate people ask for what they need.  They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it.  They're compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment".

3.  Is it About Me or Them?  

As someone who is very reactive to other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions, I have learned that it’s not always about me but often is about the other person.  You may think that your friend doesn’t care about you or is annoyed at you or isn’t as invested in the relationship as you are but it may be that something is going on in your friend’s life and that it has nothing to do with you.  Brené Brown, researcher extraordinaire on shame, vulnerability and trust recommends extending the most generous interpretation to someone’s intentions.  

4. Can I Ask for What I Need? 

If during a conversation with your friend or significant other, you realize you are not getting what you need, can you ask for it?  Can you take a risk and do it in a non-dramatic way and articulate what you need instead of walking away disappointed, angry or resentful? 

Do you have the courage to be vulnerable and open up?  Shasta Nelson, a life coach and C.E.O. of GirlfriendCircles.com has come up with some excellent sample scripts to ask for what you need in relationships (www.huffingtonpost.com, “How to Ask for What You Need in Your Relationships”, 11/6/2013).  For example, Ms. Nelson  recommends the following language when one  needs empathy and not problem solving:  "I so appreciate you trying to solve my problem, and I may get to that point when I need that. But right now it's not so much that I don't know what to do as much as I just need someone to empathize with me and tell me they understand why I am frustrated with my boss!" 

5. Can I Be the Kind Of Friend or Partner I am Seeking? 

David Steele, Relationship Guru and Founder of RCI, Relationship Coaching Institute, advises singles to become the type of person they are looking for in a soul mate.   The same holds true for our friendships and our committed relationships.  Why not be the type of friend or partner you ideally want?  A role-model for your friends and loved ones.  Someone who can be empathetic and stays out of judgment.

Think about giving your friends and loved ones another chance and don't throw out the baby with the bathwater!