Express and negotiate your needs OR have bamboo shoots stuck under your nails? Given the choice, many people would choose the latter; as painful as physical torture might be, the discomfort of communicating what you want seems even worse.
Bob and Sue are both good at their jobs. Their work brings them into contact with many different kinds of people, and every day they clearly describe what they need and negotiate solutions with co-workers. Neither have been people to back off from any challenge…that is, until it came to their relationship. Sue says, “I’ve been so afraid of offending Bob or making his life difficult in any way, that on some issues I haven’t spoken up about what really matters to me.” Her observation is echoed by Bob, “I’ve not had the courage to express my needs or negotiate ways of resolving concerns because I didn’t want to hurt Sue’s feelings.”
What keeps us from courageously expressing our needs? What gets in our way of negotiating a conflict, issue, or task?
Often we become paralyzed by our fear of not being liked or approved of, not wanting to look too aggressive or demanding, or of creating discord of any kind. We worry we’re being too selfish, that we’ll be accused of being egocentric, not a ‘true partner.’ We choose to shut down or ‘go away nice’ because we get scared we’ll lose the other person.
Another factor is lack of confidence or over-confidence. A study by the Washington Quality Group (WQG) found women tend to under-assess their communication skills while men tend to over-assess theirs. This disparity in self-perceptions can be a significant barrier holding us back from effective communication. Poor self-image means that we may unworthy of getting what we want so we don’t ask for it. Lack of confidence gets in our way of believing we have any skills at all. The other side, over-confidence, may make us impatient with or judgmental about the other person, or it causes us to be flippant when seriousness is called for.
Lastly, when it comes to communication the old saw, “It takes two to tango,” has stood the test of time. If one partner is willing to express their needs and is committed to negotiating solutions and yet, the other partner isn’t, it’s nearly impossible to have successful communication. Therefore, a barrier to courageously expressing our needs can also be our partner’s repeated patterns of dismissing and devaluing what we say.
What’s the benefit to a relationship when we express and negotiate our needs?
We all have needs. It’s simply a part of being a living, breathing human being. Armed with that knowledge, we can bring a commitment to our relationship to honor not only our own needs but the needs of our partner. All relationships are richer when the individuals involved are able to speak their truth openly and honestly. For both partners to thrive, and therefore, the partnership to thrive, each person must have space, safety and freedom to be and express who they are fully. Yet, we don’t operate in a vacuum. We have the right to express what we want and need, and we have the responsibility to understand the impact of our actions on others. That’s where negotiation comes in.
Negotiating from a place of appreciating that each person has needs, and that many possible solutions exist that can meet both individual’s needs, allows the partnership to flourish.
It takes courage…
It takes courage to tackle a conflict or issue directly, and face another’s potential dissatisfaction or anger. To know and express what we need and want, then listen to what the other person needs and wants. It takes courage to move past our jitters and shaking knees to jointly craft a mutual solution.
Sue finally decided her voice was as important as Bob’s. She realized if she was committed to building a partnership, she had to be willing to always tell the truth about what mattered to her. Bob chose to let Sue know what his needs were and to trust she was capable of hearing the truth. Together they developed a way of negotiating so each was invested in the final outcome. “We finally both trust our relationship will be successful because we have found the strength and courage to be upfront about what we care about as individuals and to respect the other person’s needs,” says the couple.
8 ways to Courageously Express and Negotiate Your Needs:
1. Decide that your needs and your partner’s needs are equally important; both have validity.
2. Remember how courageous you have already been in many areas of your life. Tap into this courage; let it support you throughout your conversations.
3. Believe a mutual solution that meets individual needs is possible. Entering the conversation with an attitude of ‘positive expectancy’ gives you a far greater chance of success.
4. Drop your assumptions and judgments about the other person and situation.
5. Avoid the blame game. It has no place in a healthy relationship.
6. Communication is a dance, and preparation can help or hinder it from the very beginning. Be clear on what you need.
7. Listen! Seek to truly understand what your partner needs.
Megan Raphael is an Advice Blogger for mylifecompass.com, a personal development company for women. Known as The Courage Coach, Megan is the award-winning author of The Courage Code, an inspiring book for any woman looking for courage and wanting to live from a place of authenticity. She is a certified life coach and public speaker. Megan is also an enthusiastic Compass coach. Megan is Founder of Courage Project, an initiative helping women find THEIR courage to dive into life. She has over 30 years of experience working as a leader, consultant and trainer in business and industry. She served as Health Director for one of Michigan’s largest Indian Tribes. She is the developer of “Beachcoaching”, an innovative personal development program for women. Megan is living a life of her dreams along the shores of Grand Traverse Bay in Northern Michigan with her husband of 35 years, and 2 young adult children.