Learn how to communicate your needs more effectively to avoid conflict.
Are you self-isolating with others right now? Or perhaps you’re isolating solo? Either way, communication is key now more than ever. In this episode, I share some top tips on managing your relationships in isolation, and, specifically, how to navigate communicating your needs with people to avoid conflict and not drive each other totally mad.
- Where we learnt how to communicate
- The best ways to communicate your needs effectively
- Questions to ask yourself and others
- Assessing your expectations in communication
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Welcome to episode 7 of The Sensuality Academy podcast! Today we’re going to be talking all about managing your relationships in isolation, and, specifically, how to navigate communicating your needs with people to avoid conflict and not drive each other totally mad.
Now, again, this episode isn’t specifically about “the c-word” — but I believe it’s really important for us to acknowledge what is going on in the world right now and speak to that in some way.
So, I had actually intended to do a number of episodes throughout The Sensuality Academy podcast on topics around improving communication in relationships — but now, I think it’s more relevant than ever. I’ve got a few coming on a variety of techniques, to break it up for you.
You, like me (and the majority of the world right now), are likely in some level of self-isolation, practicing physical distancing. #stayhome, right?
So, regardless of your situation right now, you’re probably experiencing a bit of tension around this.
Many of us are going to be spending a lot more time than usual in very close quarters with others, and it can be a pretty rude awakening when you’re forced to do this. It can cause conflict and tension between families, between lovers, housemates and even just within yourself.
Let’s face it: No matter how truly, madly, deeply in love we may be with our partner, we’re just not built to co-exist with someone — or multiple people — 24/7. We NEED alone time, it’s imperative.
And maybe you’re like me and you’re on the opposite spectrum — you live alone and suddenly you’re entirely with yourself. Again, we aren’t built for this either; we are communal creatures by nature and we need a healthy balance of social interaction and community support along with time to ourselves.
But, we all know that the perfect balance isn’t available to us right now. (I don’t really know if perfect balance is ever really available, but especially right now it’s a little bit trickier.)
So, we must make lemonade.
I want to share with you some tangible techniques to help you communicate your needs more effectively with the people that you are cohabitating with right now. A lot of these will also apply if you’re living solo and want to reach out to friends and family, and communicate your needs in that way.
Firstly, I want to ask you to reflect on something: Where did you learn how to communicate? It’s really something that we’re not often taught specifically — how to communicate effectively, and the best strategies and techniques.
Poor communication can often lead to misunderstandings, arguments, resentment, and (in relationships) a total lack of passion.
Whereas really great communication, and intentional communication, can lead to feelings of really deep understanding and respect, to fun, joy, enhanced intimacy and a much deeper connection.
Most of us weren’t really taught very good communication skills, and most of us likely inherited them from our parents or our primary caregivers — so maybe take a moment to consider how those people in your life communicate, and how you may have inherited some of those traits OR perhaps gone completely opposite as a way of rebelling or acting completely differently because somehow (on some level) you noticed that that wasn’t effective.
A common theme that my clients often bring up with me is this frustration with their partners (or anyone in their life, for that matter), that they don’t seem to do or say what they expect that they should do or say. And maybe you’ve experienced this too? I know that I have. (Absolutely guilty, holding up my hand over here!)
Essentially it’s an (entirely unrealistic) expectation for a partner to simply ‘know’ what you’re thinking, how you feel, what you want and why you might be mad. Basically an assumption that they’re a mindreader — or that they think exactly the same way you do.
Sometimes when this happens, we can justify it — we think, “They should have known!”, “Of course that would frustrate me!”, “Gosh, they’re so selfish!”, “I would never do that, I can’t believe they did!” And what we’re doing here is projecting our values and assumptions onto another person … but without them knowing or giving permission for you to project that onto them.
And, in my opinion, I think that’s totally totally unfair. Imagine if someone did that to you — I’m sure that you can imagine, it’s probably happened multiple times where someone has projected something onto you and you’re like “Woah! I didn’t realize that you wanted x, y, and z — I had no idea, how would I have known you? You never told me!”
To illustrate this with an example: A couple years ago, I was in Colombia and I was dating this beautiful man — we’d met in Cartagena (on the coast) and then we both travelled around Colombia separately until we met up again in Medellin. Anyway, while we were there, me and a friend were staying at an Air BnB. (This is a long story, but I’m gonna cut it short.) We were staying at this Air BnB until we found a hidden webcam — I’m serious, this really happened, it was awful! Suffice to say, we were significantly freaked out and we started bundling up our stuff as soon as possible to try and get out of there. (I’ll go into that story another day, maybe.)
But, regardless, while we were frantically packing I was messaging … let’s call him Ezra. We were telling him what was happening, and he said, “Are you okay?”, and I just responded “Yeah yeah, we’re okay, but we’re just trying to pack up all of our stuff, and we’re doing it all by ourselves, and I’m just worried that the host is gonna come back and he’s gonna catch us trying to leave.” I was very much playing up woe-is-me, victim-mode here.
Anyway, I remember at the time I was SO frustrated with Ezra because he wasn’t immediately offering to come to the apartment and help us quickly pack up and find somewhere else for us to stay. Eventually, yes he did come and help, but by that point I was already feeling super resentful.
All this to say that months later, when I had left Colombia (and him), I somehow felt compelled to look back at our message exchange from that day — and that’s really odd for me, I’ve never been one to go back and read messages between me and an ex. But, that day, I felt compelled to, and I read back and I noticed something: At NO POINT did I specifically ask him to come over and help me. But at the time I thought it was blindingly obvious that I wanted his help, because OF COURSE — I’ve explained the situation, surely anyone would gather that I needed you to come and help me because I wanted to get out of there before the creepy Air BnB dude came back. That was logical in my mind, because that’s how I would’ve acted. But I didn’t effectively communicate my needs to him. And because I had placed an expectation on him that he should simply “know” what I wanted and needed in that moment, I had essentially set him up for failure.
This kind of shit happens ALL THE TIME. Tell me (please tell me) that it’s not just me. I am certain that all of us have been in situations like this where it seems obvious to us, but it doesn’t seem obvious to the other person and we resent people for that.
So someone doesn’t act or respond in the way you expect, and BOOM — conflict, judgement, resentment.
This is something that I want to invite you to reflect on — right now, and over the coming days, weeks, months (however long this whole thing lasts) in quarantine/isolation … well, even beyond that actually, to be honest. It’s something that I continue to use and come back to, and notice in my own life.
I want you to ask yourself, “How can I communicate my needs more clearly?” and also, “What are my needs in the first place?” — because people are NOT mind readers, and if you’re not expressing your needs, people aren’t going to provide them; they’re not going to show you and treat you in the way you require because you haven’t told them how to. (People need a map, it’s important to communicate this kind of stuff.)
I had a conversation with one of my clients just last week about how she was adjusting to the new normal. She’s at home with a husband and two college-aged kids. The kids had been out of the house for awhile, he husband was often away at work, and so it was already starting to feel a little bit tense. So, I guided her to open up a conversation with her family to ascertain a few things.
- What does everybody need to feel safe? (examples: not having the tv on the news constantly talking about the bad news) — feeling like they can be heard and that they can express themselves
- How much social time and how much alone time does everybody need?
- How will we indicate that we need space? And how will that request be honoured and respected (without getting mad or triggered, in some way?
Questions like this — asking ourselves, first and foremost, but also sharing with those that you’re spending a lot of time with right now — are absolutely integral to cultivating a safe and conflict-free environment.
This goes too for you if you’re solo right now – have these conversations with the friends and family in your life. Ensure that you’re checking in with others, and they’re checking in on you. We may be isolating and physically distancing ourselves right now – but that doesn’t mean we just be totally isolated. Please reach out. Now is the time to move past any vulnerability blocks that we may have to asking for help, and asking for a chap. It’s a time to get past any blocs of, “Oh, I don’t wanna disturb them.”, “What if they’re busy?”, “They don’t have time for me — all those kind of stories that might come up.
So, your homework today — yes, I’m going to give you a homework task in a podcast! It’s just the coach in me, I can’t help myself! Any of my clients listening will know how much I love giving you journal prompts and things to reflect on. So, you, my dear listener … I want you to take some time first to consider what your needs are, especially right now given the current climate. Ask yourself:
- What is currently causing me to feel isolated, stressed, anxious, unsettled, uncertain?
[List these out. It’s really important to get all of these feelings out of you. Think of it like releasing these energies from your body and mind, and you could even rip up this piece of paper or burn it afterwards, as a symbol of releasing and letting go of those emotions.]
- What things make me feel soothed, calm, content, relaxed, happy, joyous, and deeply connected (to myself and others)?
[Again, list these out. These will act as a really beautiful resource for you to come back to when you’re feeling any of those less-than-peachy emtoons, those shadow emotions, the darker ones that we listed before.]
Next, I want you to consider what your needs are when it comes to relating to others — be that people inside or outside your household.
- How much alone time do you need?
- How much social time do you need?
[You might be an introvert and you’re totally cool only having some chats, phone calls, things like that, and you don’t need constant stimulus. Maybe you’re an extrovert and you’re like “Ahh! I need less to-do activities and fun things to make this bearable and I need to be talking to my friends very often. Recognize where you’re at on that scale and how you can nourish yourself in this way.]
- Are there certain activities or topics that kind of stir up anxiety in you? How could you communicate this to someone else and request that it not be brought up too often?
[Maybe you’ve got a mother-in-law who’s constantly putting the fear of G-d in you and saying, “OMG, this has happened and this has happened” and “Have you heard about this?” and all the deaths, and blah blah blah. Maybe you need to gently request that they don’t come to you with that information because you’re not interested in holding it; you’re trying to protect your energy right now. And ask that they respect that.]
- How often would you like to catch up for zoom calls and chats with friends? What’s the sweet spot between really nourishing connections and kind of overwhelming so many people texting and calling constantly?
[Really important to communicate this with others as well, because as soon as you set your boundaries then it makes it easier for you to kind of flourish. I’ll do an episode all about boundaries as well, and in my program, The Sensuality Academy — it’s called the same name as the podcast — I actually go very deep into boundaries in our workshops as well.]
Now, your task is to sit down with those in your life … so after you’ve done this work yourself, and you recognize what your needs are, I want you to sit down with those in your life (especially that ones that you’re-self-isolating with right now — and communicate your needs. Then, enquire about theirs — it’s a two way street, after all. So make sure that you’re all clear on what you all need to feel safe and comforted and as happy and connected as possible during this time.
Okay … I’m going to leave it at that for today, and if you do this, please do reach out to me and share how it went. I’d love love love to hear, and I loved all of you who did the 10 Pleasurable Practices (from last week’s episode) and shared them with me (So thank you so much, it’s beautiful to see you really taking something from these episodes.).
Now, if you’ve enjoyed this episode, keep an eye out for more relationship and communication tips coming up soon. And if you want to dive even deeper, as I mentioned my 12-week online program, which is also called The Sensuality Academy … that’s actually opening up for enrollments again very soon. And we’ve got an entire module ALL about relationships and communication, and we dive in nice and deep. Send me a DM if you want to get on the waitlist, and I’m going to share a lot more details soon.
Okay! Until next time, stay home and stay sensual!
Let me know your thoughts!