Asking For What You Need
I commonly find myself hoping that others will be able to read my mind.
You know what I’m talking about. That feeling when you are ready to leave a social gathering and you’re hoping that your friend will say first “we should leave now, I’m ready to go home”. Or when you’ve been having a bad day and you would be so relieved if your partner would sense your mood and take care of dinner tonight.
You might say things like “I’m hungry, I wonder what we’re going to eat tonight”, or if you start to get irritated you may say “why do I always have to cook dinner? I do everything around here!”
What is keeping you from just saying to your partner “I had a rough day, will you please cook dinner tonight?”
There are two main hindrances that get in the way of you clearly stating your needs. They are:
1) not wanting to appear weak
2) truly not knowing what you need
1) If you are typically a do-it-yourself type of person then it can feel really uncomfortable to ask for help. Some might even label themselves as "weak" or “too needy”. But ignoring or shaming your needs gets you nowhere. Thinking that you need too much sleep is not going to make you feel any less tired when you don’t get the right amount. It’s ok to need a nap sometimes.
2) Another hindrance is not having any idea that you even needed something in the first place. If you aren’t used to checking in with yourself, this concept can feel somewhat foreign. But when you feel an emotion or notice something feels off with yourself, try asking yourself: what do I need?
Here are some examples of how you might answer:
“I need time to rest” “I just need to know that you’re there” “I need advice” “I need to cry” “I need to laugh and get my mind off of this” “I need a break” “I need a hug”
The next time you talk to your partner or a friend when you are upset, think about what you need from them beforehand. And then practice asking for what you need: “hey, I really need someone to just listen right now. Is that ok?”
Another problem with mind reading is that when we don’t ask for what we need, then we start assuming that other people won’t either. This can lead to some very confusing back and forth attempts at mind reading. It’s ok to assume that other people will tell you what they need, and if they chose not to, then you can’t be responsible for their needs. Even if you tried your hardest, mind reading doesn’t work most of the time anyway and we end up getting it wrong!
So, the next time you find yourself hoping someone will read your mind; clarify what you need for yourself and then share it assertively. Your example can encourage others to do the same.