Learning how to communicate your emotional needs – whether you’re in a relationship or not – is not an easy task, especially if you sometimes have people-pleasing tendencies.
To verbalize what we need in order to feel fulfilled and happy takes courage, vulnerability, and a lot of self-reflection. It can feel truly scary at times, but you’re on the path to having more awareness of your emotions and are moving closer to effective communication, and that’s a major step in the right direction.
The first step in communicating your needs is to get in touch with what you really want.
It’s not a simple task, as it can be so overwhelming when we’re constantly getting mixed signals – from society, social media, our parents – on how we should be feeling. What’s important is to spend some time thinking about what you really need in all of your relationships.
To help get you started, here are the nine emotional needs according to Maslow’s hierarchy:
- Emotional connection
- Connection to the wider community
- A sense of status
- A sense of achievement
To get you going on the path to uncovering your needs, try writing a few of the below prompts in a journal. This is a great way to move closer to what it is you really desire.
When we take a few moments to sit down and really think about what we want and then put pen to paper, that’s when we start to get a true sense of what needs aren’t being met. It’s crazy what awareness to emotions we begin to develop when we start letting it all out onto paper. Here are some helpful prompts to get you started on uncovering your needs:
- In a relationship, unconditional love looks like…
- In my life, people are not allowed to…
- What’s most important to you in a relationship?
- In my life, I have a right to…
- What do you love about life right now?
- To protect my time and energy, it’s okay for me to…
- It’s frustrating when people close to me…
- I’d like to be better at communicating…
- Write down the words you need to hear most
- I feel happiest when…
After you’ve selected a few of the prompts above, take those answers and understand how they play into Maslow’s nine emotional needs. When begin to identify your most desired needs.
After you’ve completed this, it’s time to create some more effective communication and learn how to set emotional boundaries through the words you are choosing. What I love so much about communication is that once there is an acknowledgment and awareness of emotions, we can then call on our tools to communicate effectively and with love.
We have the chance to respond instead of reacting because we’ve taken the time to really think through what’s important to us.
If you’re in a relationship and using these tips, think about it as learning how to love in a new way, but this time with a major focus on awareness of emotions and effective communication.
Tips for clear communication
1. Practice I instead of you
Try starting out sentences with I instead of You. When we begin with the word You, the words following immediately come off as blaming and leads to the other party becoming defensive.
I know it’s not always easy, but by constructing sentences with how you’re really feeling (I) will create for more constructive conversations that give you a chance to get in touch with how you’re truly feeling, not immediately placing the blame on the other person.
Here’s an example:
You really frustrate me when you don’t listen to what I’m saying.
I feel unheard/sad/lonely/frustrated when you choose to look at your phone instead of me when I’m talking about something that’s important to me.
2. Speak clearly and calmly
When we aren’t super clear on our needs, it’s easy to land into a pattern of indecisiveness, frustration, and resentment when trying to communicate with someone. In those moments, asking for what we want can become a frustrating, frazzled blur, and we find ourselves caught in the act of reacting instead of responding.
When you’re in this moment over overwhelm, try slowing down, taking a breath, and speaking clearly and calmly. Another tip is to avoid using too many filler words so that what you’re saying can be heard as clearly as possible.
3. Watch your sorry
Rambling off needless I’m sorry‘s instant tells your brain that the other person involved is more important than you. That’s not true. You are both equally as important, as are your needs. Instead of jumping to Sorry, take a moment to feel what’s really going on and choose your words in an empowering way.
Here’s a general example:
Sorry, I’m late!
Thanks for being so patient, I really appreciate it.
4. Stop over-explaining
When communicating your needs, it’s easy to ramble on and on and on in an attempt to justify our desires or to make the situation more comfortable. When you find yourself rambling needlessly, remind yourself to, as I mentioned above, keep your communication as short and sweet as possible.
After you’ve uncovered your needs and implemented a few new techniques into your communication, it’s really important to remain confident in your right to have needs. Having needs doesn’t make you a needy person, having needs that deserve to be met allows you to be the happy and fabulous human that you are.
Other helpful resources:
- Calm or Headspace meditation app: meditation is a great way to tap into how you’re feeling and what you’re needing, these apps can help you get started!
- Communication Miracles for Couples book: I think the name says it all here!
- Practice You by Elena Brower: a beautiful guided journal to help you start thinking about you and your needs.
- The Universe Has Your Back deck by Gabby Bernstein: this gorgeous deck is filled with simple and beautiful reminders to love yourself and nurture your needs.