Have you ever thought about the difference between “requesting” something from someone and “demanding” it?
When we make a request, with the words like “would you be willing”, you are giving the other person a choice – they can agree to carry out the action or they can say “no”. As it is a request, to guilt the other person, or shame or judge them is not an option. By requesting we have given them the choice.
Giving someone a choice means that if the person agrees to the request they will generally do so with more willingness and more enthusiasm. It is not something they have to do, or must do, it is something that they choose to do.
If they say “no” to our request they are in fact saying yes to something else. Since all behaviour has a reason and the reason is to meet a need, they are saying yes to another need they have.
There have been times that I have used a request when it was really a hidden demand. I remember, for example, asking my grandson to help clean up the kitchen after supper. When he said a reluctant “no” I found it quite difficult to accept without making a face and feeling annoyed. Of course this didn’t go well and we had an uncomfortable few moments. When I verbalized the needs, and expressed how important they were to me I found that he accepted my request. He understood that I needed the family to work together, to collaborate and contribute so our life together was peaceful and relatively easy for all of us.
If we don’t verbalize the needs the request is easier to turn down and it is often due to lack of understanding. He was not aware of the needs behind my request, he just heard the choice.
Everything we do, we do to meet a universal need. At first I was sceptical about this statement. But as I started to analyse what I was doing I realised I that it was true- everything I did was to meet a universal need.
Let me explain, I have started to meditate each morning before my breakfast and coffee. Why am I doing this? What need is it meeting? It meets my need for self-care, which includes focus and grounding, breathing deeply and pondering on my day. It allows me to have a quiet 10 minutes relaxation before I join the family for breakfast (during Covid there has been 7 of us in the house).
Later in the morning I will read a book (meeting my need for learning) or paint (meeting my need for creativity) or help my daughter by taking care of my grandchildren (meeting my need for contribution). I might help my daughter make lunch which meets a few of my needs, for example ( collaboration, connection and co-operation).
Looking at life through the lens of universal needs brings a certain clarity of intention to whatever we are doing. When we are aware of what needs we want to meet we can choose what strategies to use. Sometimes we do things we do not find enjoyable but if we look at them through the lens of needs we see there is a reason for our choice, they are needs we value. I wanted my daughter to have a good education so I enrolled her in a school I was working at. We had to get up early in the morning and drive for an hour to the school, but the expense and time was worth it to me as I valued education and learning.
Be careful using the self-talk “I have to”, or “I must” or “I should”. Remember to choose with care what needs you want to meet and then choose the strategy. Don’t “should” yourself. Choosing instead of using the ‘ “have to” self talk gives you power in your world and a greater sense of joy. Ultimately you take more responsibility for your actions and usually have more enthusiasm for the task.
So many of us muddle our thoughts with our feelings. It is very common to hear and read expressions like “I feel like I need a break” or “I feel she doesn’t listen to me” or I feel as if I am eating too much”. When we use I feel with “like” or “as if” or with a name, we are in our head and in our thoughts and not sensing into our feelings.
When we are triggered by something we see or hear or a thought we have, our body will often go into a flight, fight or freeze state. When we can identify the way this resonates in our body, we can name it using feeling words, for example “I am noticing that my chest feels tight and I am having trouble breathing, a part of me is feeling sad and a part of me is feeling stressed”. We can then identify a need and find a strategy to meet that need.
It is important that we distinguish the difference between a feeling and a thought. Awareness of what resonates in our body and naming the feeling helps us to take action and calm ourselves. We are then more present and better able to handle the tricky situation at hand.
I will give an example, yesterday I was nervous about a zoom presentation I was giving to eight people. I was not sure I could handle the technology. Forty five minutes before the allotted time I noticed that my heart was beating faster, my stomach was churning and my throat was dry. I named this as anxiety and nervousness. I knew I needed to relax and ground myself. I looked for some strategies and tried some breathing techniques but I found going into my studio and looking at the progress of one of my paintings was more useful. It helped me turn my thoughts to other things and brought me back to the present moment. Thirty minutes later I went into the call and I was calmer and more confident.
I have found regularly checking in to see what is alive in me (what feelings are alive) helps me to be more aware and conscious of myself and those around me.