The 5-Minute Guide to Getting What You Want
Today's post is about authentic relationships. It's part of a new format on Becoming Who You Are: each week of the month, we look at a different aspect of authentic living on the blog and the podcast. Out of everything I've read/watched/listened to/experimented with/[insert other verbs here] over the past few years, Non-Violent Communication (NVC) has probably had the biggest impact on the way I see myself and the world around me.In a nutshell, Non-Violent Communication talks about how our emotions result from our needs and preferences, and whether these are being met, or are unmet (this is a highly simplified version of NVC and I recommend reading Marshall's book or listening to his free series on Spotify if you want to learn more).Like all theories, methods and systems that relate to the way we live, I believe it’s OK for us to cherry-pick what we do like and leave the bits we don't. Some parts of NVC, I don’t like and choose not to practise. The bits that I have chosen, however, have changed the way I view relationships and my communication.
Needs, Preferences and Requests
One of the biggest take-aways for me is NVC's focus on communicating in terms of needs, preferences and requests. I've found that when you start communicating using this framework, you're far more likely to get what you want, and to be able to help others get what they want too.When I'm aware of why I want to do or am doing something (in other words, what the underlying needs are), I'm in a much better position to meet those needs. Preferences are the diet coke of needs. They're not crucial, but we'd feel more fulfilled and happy if they were met too. Being able to differentiate between needs and preferences helps us clarify and communicate the things that are deal breakers for us, and the things that we would like, but could probably live without.When we're aware of our needs and preferences, we're better placed to make fair requests of other people in an attempt to get our needs met.
That brings us to another NVC perspective that changed my approach to relationships: I am 100% responsible for meeting my needs. No one is obligated or required to meet my needs. Equally, I'm not obligated or required to meet anyone else's needs. I can communicate my needs to other people, and make requests based on those needs, but it's up to them whether they fulfil those requests or not.I don't place responsibility for my needs on other people, and I don't accept responsibility for fulfilling other people's needs.For example, let's say I was getting tired of the bathroom always being dirty, and I said to my flatmate: “I have a need for you to clean the bathroom”.This is problematic, because if cleanliness is really an important need for me, then why don’t I just clean the bathroom myself? No one is obligated to fulfil my needs, so I'm not making a fair request.In addition, to say that I have a need for someone else to do something masks the actual need underneath. If I keep expressing myself in this way, I'm never going to be able to meet that root need; as long as I'm asking other people to meet my needs for me, the true need underneath will stay hidden.In the example above, the real needs might include a need for reciprocity, a need for order, a need for stability, and so on. A more productive way of phrasing the above might be: "I've noticed that I've cleaned the bathroom the last four weeks out of five, and I'm feeling frustrated (feeling). I have a need for reciprocity (need) and this situation isn't meeting that need. I would like to work out some sort of schedule or arrangement that is more balanced (request). Would you be willing to do that?"A fair, blame-free, ultimatum-free, dialogue.
Our needs are incredibly powerful. They come from deep inside us, and when we don’t feel our needs are being met, it's natural to have a powerful, emotional response. I sometimes find so-called “negative” emotions hard to process. For me, they can feel quite foggy, so thinking of them in terms of unmet needs helps me get clarity around what’s going on for me. Looking for the met or unmet needs behind my emotional responses helps me identify what is really important to me, and meet that need in the future.Thinking of myself as a being with needs and preferences also helps me communicate better with others. I’m able to give other people clear positive feedback when my needs are being met, and make requests when my needs aren’t being met. Equally, it's helpful for me when other people express themselves in terms of feelings and needs. For example, when someone sends me an email saying that something I have done meets their need for intellectual stimulation and learning, I know what they are feeling far more clearly than if they just say “It was great”.Communicating our feelings and needs feels vulnerable, because it is vulnerable. We're approaching our interactions with a level of openness and transparency that might feel alien and risky. But it is only when we do this that we can meet our needs, fulfil our preferences, and truly get what we want.What are you feeling and what are you needing? How can you share that today?Next Week: How to Create a Self-Care KitPhoto Credit: familymwr via Compfight cc