One of the most powerful ways you can take charge of your life to communicate your needs and desires to others. I am amazed at how often people refuse to say, or simply don’t know how to say what they want. Whatever the reason, to experience a sense of control in your life you must communicate your needs in all areas of your life from how you like your food served, to what you want to do with a friend, to how you want to experience a relationship, to how you want to spend your money and time. Unless you learn to express your needs and desires, you can be sure that you will find yourself a victim in life, waiting for others to care enough about you to know what you want without you having to say. People who wait for others to be “enlightened” as to their needs rarely get their needs filled.
For some saying what they want can cause anxiety since is can be viewed as being selfish, confrontive, or pushy. It is a risk because there is always the possibility that the request will be rejected. People who have an exaggerated desire to please others may fear that somehow they will lose their standing in the relationship if they actually express a need or desire. The risk feels too great and the prospect of losing another’s acceptance too overwhelming, so they simply comply or remain silent.
Do you feel guilty if you are the target of someone’s unfair words or actions, even when you know you shouldn’t? If so, perhaps the reason is that you carry unresolved guilt from the past. Someone criticizing you may trigger your guilty feelings. Or perhaps you are not completely blameless and have in some way contributed to the problem. It may be appropriate for you to do some soul searching. Have you contributed? If so, in what way? Or are you an innocent bystander feeling inappropriate guilt? If so, about what do you really feel guilty?
Take full responsibility for filling your needs. When you do not, you risk feeling the resentment that comes when your needs are not filled. You may feel that you do not have control of your own life. And this would indeed be true. The danger here is the inappropriate and ineffectual expression of resentment. This can be the worst kind of communication. It almost never gets positive results. In fact, this kind of communication usually alienates people. It often guarantees that you will not get what you want. Do you ever find yourself saying, “You always get what you want.” “You didn’t ask me what I wanted.” “You always do such-and-such and never think of me.” Such bitter statements may reflect your own unwillingness to take responsibility for yourself. The “poor me” attitude is the attitude of a victim. Remember this, volunteer victims are more common than real victims. A volunteer victim is an individual who refuses to say what he wants and ends up not getting what he wants.
The volunteer victims feel like they are in a double bind. If they say what they want, they might be perceived as a “bad guy.” If they express themselves they feel sure that they will be rejected or punished in some way. Interestingly enough volunteer victims often couple with selfish, over demanding people. Often the volunteer victim is in a no win situation that they created themselves.
If this is in any way you, step out of the victim role. Rather than seeing yourself as a bad person, see yourself as worthy of having your needs filled. If you experience rejection see the rejection as just a part of life. The next time you may not be rejected. The wise part of you knows that there is a price to pay for living with integrity. Sometimes that price is losing popularity for a while with those you love. Sometimes it may mean the ending of a relationship. But remember, if there is love between you, it cannot be ended by you expressing your needs and desires. Though your friend or loved one may resist your assertiveness, it will only be temporary. Learn to negotiate win-win style. Truly loving relationships are built by honest expressions of needs and desires on both sides. Such relationships cannot be destroyed by communication that is clear and loving. Pro-active loving communication builds respect. Your courage and integrity do not go unnoticed. On the contrary. Such communication builds strong relationships.
Spend time reflecting on what you need and want in your life in all areas. What you need and want may change. Keep checking within yourself to stay updated. I find daily “reflective walks” to be wonderful for this. I can do all kinds of problem solving when I walk. I think walking in itself is pro-active by nature. You are “taking positive steps” forward. Think about how to express yourself. Keep in mind the other person’s needs. Come from a position of fairness, compassion, and a desire for all to win. Weigh the consequences of your communication. Ask yourself if you are willing to accept the consequences. Do not communicate anything without the willingness to accept the consequences. Sometimes you may need time to consider deeply before you communicate. Strive to be clear in your thinking. Remember if you don’t know what you want, you cannot communicate it. You automatically become a volunteer victim. Know what you want and communicate it with courage and love.