Every day life brings situations where people have to deliver messages that the recipient might not want to hear. It starts at home with simple clashes in needs like cleanliness, time together, peace and quiet. Maybe it is with a neighbor or co-worker. Rarely are we taught how to do it gracefully and without alienating the other. For that reason we often don´t communicate our needs at all, which harms the relationship nonetheless. While we can´t change the other person, whether they are willing to listen or want to hear about our needs, we can make sure that we do what is in our own power:
1. Be clear on what you want to communicate
It is easy to just blurt it out and expect the recipient to be in fact receiving. We forget that the story is in our head and not all essential parts might come out that explain how we got here. Take a moment by yourself first and go over the message. What is it you want to have the other know and what would you like them to do or not do anymore. Use I-statements to minimize defensiveness.
2. Choose a moment outside of the aggravation
Make an effort to have a relaxed and pleasant conversation and not just meet to vent and dump. Chances are better that way that the other can take it in and think about it.
3. Remind yourself of your own love and sympathy for the other
Stay strong in your message as well as your knowledge that just because you have a difficult subject does not mean you don´t love/like or care for the other person. Things have to be discussed in life. It does not mean that bridges need to be burnt.
4. Be aware of your own history of communicating your needs and be willing to practice
Think about former situations (as far back as you can remember) when you voiced your own needs. What was the typical outcome? Where you heard or shut down? Maybe even punished? The worse your experiences to date the harder it will be to not be nervous and expect a negative outcome. Acknowledge yourself for trying and make use of opportunities to practice as they present themselves, despite of wanting to just let it go.
5. Remember that even if the other gets defensive, it does not mean you are overly demanding or were not heard
While an encounter might end unpleasantly, remind yourself that you tried your best and that your best is not always the same. Renew your commitment to continue to practice and to communicate your needs with grace and love. You learn something from every situation. Sometimes others are just not interested in your needs, which can give you information for further contact and you might decide to change the nature of that relationship.
6. Remember that it is difficult for all of us and nobody likes to get defensive
Being defensive is an awful feeling and is just as unpleasant on the "defender" as it is on the "recipient". After the encounter, continue to think well of the defensive person and try to also see their side. We rarely know all the things another person is going through. It can be a lot or too much. It does not mean you can´t voice your needs, but even if you encounter defensiveness, don´t give up on the relationship and stay open for further communication. Be inviting, loving and caring. A good guiding image is to treat the other like you want to be treated.
It is often a process and is not done with with one talk only (no matter how hard we wish for that to be true). Stand behind your own needs, be considerate of the other side and stay positive.