Which sounds more painful - speaking up when your feelings are hurt or having root canal? If you chose a root canal over confrontation of any sort, you’re not alone. But it doesn’t have to feel so unpleasant, scary, or risky to express your hurt feelings. When you feel misunderstood or angry about something your partner said or did, it’s important to be able to discuss it. But it’s something that most people either avoid or do ineffectively.
I used to be disastrous at confrontation. I’d bottle up my feelings, playing the “nice girl” until I couldn’t take it anymore. When I finally had the courage to speak up, I exploded in anger. You can imagine the disastrous results that had on my relationships.
Over the past ten years, I’ve studied communication skills. I’ve learned how to effectively express my needs while staying open and connected. I now teach this skill to my dating coaching clients, and I'd love to share them with you. Compassionate communication will improve all of your relationships – at work, at home, and with your romantic partners.
8 Steps to Courageously Expressing Your Needs When Feelings Are Hurt
- Understand that both your needs and your partner’s needs are equally important. Needs are the core essence of who we are. If a need is pushed under the rug, it will resurface. It might come back as a passive/aggressive remark, withholding sex, or raging at your partner. So begin the conversation by understanding that your needs and your partner’s needs are equally important.
- If you’re scared, recall how courageous you’ve already been in other areas of your life. Did you ever stand up in defense of something that was important to you? Were you successful? Remember that success. Tapping into this courage will support you in your toughest conversations.
- Believe that a mutual solution that meets both your needs is possible. You both don’t have to agree for the conversation to be a success. You simply want your partner to understand that your feelings were hurt and come up with a solution for the future. People learn how to treat you based on how you advocate for your needs. Mind reading doesn’t work. The more you can take a stand for the things that are important to you, the better the chance that your needs will be validated and honored.
- Drop your assumptions and judgments about the other person and the situation. Please stop making things up and instead, get curious. Ask questions. The truth is usually so much better than any assumption.
- Don’t blame. Blame leads to defensiveness or shame. Your partner will most likely shut down or attack. Again, check things out by asking questions. Keep an open mind.
- Be prepared. Get clear on what the real issue is and how you’ll express it. The more clarity you have, the more confident you’ll be. You can journal and/or write out a rough draft. Reread it several times to make sure you’re not bringing judgments and assumptions to the conversation. Check with a friend to make sure it sounds right.
- Listen. This is not just about you saying your piece. This is a dialogue, not a monologue. If you want understanding from your partner, you must give him/her the same respect and listen carefully to his/her response.
- Breathe! This may seem obvious, but breathing helps you stay centered. Take a few deep breaths before you begin in order to be calm, cool, and collected throughout this tough conversation.
Here's a Sample Script
- Be clear about your objective: I’d like to talk with you about ____________.
- State your intention: I want to hear what you think and share my point of view so we can reach a better understanding.
- Check in and make sure you have his/her attention: Is this a good time to talk?
- Start with appreciation: Thanks for your time.
- State what happened and how you felt: When you said/did ___________ I felt ______________.
- What’s at stake: If this doesn’t change, I’m going to have to _________________.
- Listen to his/her response: I’d like to know what you think.
- Brainstorm for a solution together: What do you think we can do in the future so this doesn’t happen again?
- Appreciate: Thank you so much for talking with me. I feel much closer to you.
If you want to have authentic and honest relationships, you need to have difficult conversations. The best part? These "confrontations" get easier with practice. So practice, practice, practice…on everyone and anyone. You’ll soon become a pro at expressing your needs without feeling needy.
Please share a tough conversation that you’ve successfully navigated or a situation you’re struggling with now.
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