It can often be difficult to express what you want in a way that the other person can hear your request. Very often, especially when we are upset, the person we are talking to hears our request as a criticism or a demand and they become defensive. Here are a few suggestions about how to communicate your needs in a way that might be better received.
First, practice what you want to say in advance, where and when you will say it. The more prepared you are for the conversation, the less likely it is that it will degenerate into an argument. Next, spend some time thinking about how you feel and take responsibility for your own feelings. Feelings are emotions–not accusations. “I feel sad” is different from “you disappoint me.” Identifying and stating your feeling can help the other person to empathize with you because we have all felt sad, afraid, or angry. Then, identify what you need. Needs are universal. All of us need food, water, air, and shelter, but we all also need connection, meaning, autonomy, and a sense of well-being. Again, if you can articulate your need, it is more likely the other person will relate to you, rather than rally against you. Finally, make your request.
Here’s an example. After practicing and deciding that right after work, while the children are out of the house and they won’t be interrupted, a wife approaches her husband. “I would like to talk for a minute, if now is a good time?” Getting agreement, they sit down at the table together. “I have been feeling irritable lately because I have a need for intimacy. I am wondering if you would be willing to schedule two nights or days each week with me that we could have time alone, without the children, to reconnect physically?” There is no guarantee that her request will be met, but it could begin an honest conversation that will help them both to clarifying more deeply what they each need from their relationship.
To learn more about these techniques, you might want to read Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. You can also contact a mediator who can help you facilitate an honest conversation that might feel to difficult to have on your own. Mediators offer support and help to manage strong emotions as they arise. For more information, email [email protected] or call 585-586-1830.