In my last post, I discussed how to avoid the Thanksgiving drama, sharing a personal anecdote about the tension between my mother and me. I cleared the air with her beforehand so that we could have a pleasant holiday experience. I should have done the same with my father because he had his own agenda from the minute he stepped into my house. When cooler heads finally prevailed, we had a very fruitful conversation–during which I conveyed what I needed from him–and I felt a million times better. My dad also had a chance to talk about where he was coming from, and there was much more of a mutual understanding.
J. Westenberg, entrepreneur and contributor to Medium puts it gracefully: “There is a long running tradition that we don’t tell people what we really want. Instead of walking up to the gatekeepers in our lives and saying that we would like them to give us the opportunities that we are seeking, we prefer to avoid the topic. To not put our hands up. To act like we don’t think we deserve or should have something. That’s not healthy.” Here are three reasons to tell loved ones what you need:
It Empowers you and Them
Be your best advocate. As Westenberg says, “There is something incredibly empowering about being able to say what you want out loud and articulate it clearly.” There’s no better way to self-advocate than telling people what you need. At the same time, you are providing them with the tools to better understand you, which is in itself empowering.
The Conversation Becomes Reciprocal
An open and honest dialogue gives loved ones the opportunity to tell you what they need as well. Relationships work best when they function as two-way streets, and in this context, it’s equally important to listen to the other person. It can be extremely enlightening to understand how you can fulfill your loved one’s needs. Meet people where they are, but don’t leave them there.
Your Confidence Will Grow
The more you communicate your needs, the easier it gets, resulting in greater confidence. As noted earlier, there can be an urge to keep it in for fear of seeming selfish or somehow injuring the other person. That’s a disservice to you both because you aren’t validating your feelings and you’re allowing tension to swell between you. Take it from me; a tremendous weight was lifted when I had my candid talk with my father, and I now feel more confident in my ability to apply this to future situations.
Relationships are complex, but communication is key. While there are no guarantees that these conversations will go smoothly, making the effort is a big step and will help your confidence in the long run.
How do you tell people what you need?