Communicating Wants and Needs

Be Open, Honest, Direct, and Respectful.

The quality of your life is the quality of your communication.” – Tony Robbins

The last part of our Communications section has to do with being open, honest, direct, and respectful. When both partners communicate openly, honestly, directly, and respectfully, it removes the uncertainty about our partner’s needs, while also enabling us to clearly express our own desires.

Sometimes in relationships we hint at what we want (or don’t want) then get frustrated when our partners don’t anticipate our desires. Having clear and honest discussions is the best way to avoid these issues.

Below are some tips to keep in mind when communicating with our partners. 

We’ll use the example of asking a partner for something, in this case to come home earlier to help with putting children to sleep. Using the strategies noted below or combining them can help make our wants and needs much clearer. [1]

Instead of Saying:
Try Saying:
Be Positive: This means saying what we want, rather than what we don’t want.

Can you stop coming home this late? Our kids miss their mom at bedtime.

It would be really helpful to me if you could come home on time to help put the kids to bed. The kids would also really appreciate it, as they miss seeing you before bed.

Be Brief: Try to only make one request at a time.

You need to come home on time to spend more time with the kids and you can’t keep spending so much money on going out to dinner with coworkers after work.

I’d like it if you were home earlier so you could help with the kids more.

Be Specific: Our partners can’t read our minds!

You don’t care about me.

When you don’t come home on time, it makes me feel as if I don’t really matter to you.

Offer an Understanding Statement: We do this by trying to appreciate the issue from their perspective. This can help us build rapport and shared understanding.

You don’t come home on time because you just don’t care about us.

I know you like to have your time to wind down after work and socialize with colleagues, but maybe there’s a way you can do that after the kids are asleep.

Take Partial Responsibility: Again, conceding a little goes a long way. Expert debaters and politicians use this strategy frequently.

I literally do everything around here.

I know bringing up this issue might be confusing because I offered to pick up more slack with the kids since I work fewer hours, but I need to clarify that I did not mean I would do the vast majority of the work to get the kids ready for bed every evening.

Offer Help: See if there is anything you can do to help your partner achieve your request.

I don’t care that you’re stressed. I’m stressed too. Figure it out.

I can have tea ready for when you get home from work so you can relax for a little while before jumping in to help with the kids.

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