How to ask for what you need…and actually get it!

It shouldn’t be that complicated right? After all, you’re not asking for a lot–maybe just a little help from him with the kids. You want her to cut back a little on spending. By the reaction it might seem you were asking for their right arm! Why is it so hard getting my partner to meet my needs? That’s a loaded question. If you are a frequent reader of my blogs you’re learning that couples develop patterns. Earlier in the relationship getting needs met was fairly simple. You were eager to do things for each other. Somewhere along the way you two got away from “feeding the need meter”. I’ll explain what this means. You can actually get needs met in your relationship by developing these 5 habits.
Feed the need meter
Marriages are interdependent. Strength of a couple bond is determined in part by servicing needs. Let’s face it–men and women are needy, but not in a weak way. We seek basic needs from each other. Needs for attention, support, understanding, etc… Couples must regularly feed the need meter. How would you grade your meter feeding habit? Answer honestly. If you’re good at feeding the meter then it will be a lot easier to get your needs met. If you haven’t developed this habit you cannot expect much. You need to get moving and feed the meter now. To be clear, feeding the need meter is not doing what you think your mate needs. Guys, a dozen of roses are nice, but she may need you to help her with the kids. Ladies, he doesn’t need a new shirt, he needs a smaller Visa bill. So, before you think about how you can actually get your need met be sure you’re feeding the meter too.
Choose the right time to ask
Take a look at the infographic above. What do you notice? The couple are in a coffee shop, sipping cappuccinos, and holding hands. They are out of the home environment, away from distractions, focused on each other. I get the sense they are treating themselves to well-earned time together. If you want to increase the probability that your partner will hear and respond to your need, choose the right time to ask. Often we ask in frustration during the heat of battle. “Can I get a little help over here???” Communication gets distorted by our filters–how things are said and heard. Negative patterns form quickly when couples communicate on the run. To break this pattern you will need to choose a better time and place to have a conversation.
Choose the right tone to ask
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Have you heard this before? The tone we use in getting our needs met is a key factor in outcome. If the tone is critical or disrespectful then you will likely get resistance. If you get compliance it comes with resentment. I want you to understand the effect tone has in relationships. The tone of voice. The non-verbal tone of actions. The huff or rolling of eyes sets a negative tone. Sitting across a table holding hands sets a positive tone. It conveys a message–“We are here for each other.” Before you present a need to your spouse, rehearse your tone. I recommend you begin with a compliment, an acknowledgment of something positive about your partner. This sets a respectful tone. Follow-up with your request.
Answer the why question
Why is this important to me? You may know the answer, but your spouse may not. Consequently, it may seem as important therefore ignored or dismissed as trivial. Or your partner may draw wrong conclusions about the intent of your request. Answering the why question avoids misassumptions about your intention. Answering the why question about your request for help with the kids has to connect with your need. “Because you’re their father!” is a criticism at his parenthood. “Because it allow me to focus on getting dinner on the table without distraction” conveys how it helps you. Again, explaining this over a cup of coffee is more effective than during the heat of battle in the kitchen.
Explain how it will benefit both
“What’s in it for we?” Do you like the sound of it? I do. In The All About We Podcast, I help couples focus on how to think and act in terms of mutual benefit. If you can balance “me” with “we” in how you think about your relationship, you will do better at getting your needs met. When you plan to make your request, think about how it will benefit your partner too. This will increase the probability of buy-in followed by effort to deliver. Here are some examples of explaining how it will benefit both. “Helping with the kids de-stresses me and I have more energy in the tank for you later tonight.” “Paying attention to the monthly budget de-stresses me and I can put some money aside for a weekend getaway with you.” How to ask for what you need encompasses more than what is happening in the moment. Bad habits form when couples communicate on the run. I recommend you carve out time, get together for a latte, have some positive conversation, then make your request using this format. Make this a habit.

Now it’s your turn

What is your main takeaway? How will you take action? Leave your comment below.