Self-Empathy, Needs, & Requests
Self-empathy can be a slippery slope to wallowing and self-pity if you don't move from feelings to needs and requests.
In the last Gem, I emphasized the importance of allowing the time and attention necessary to fully experience a feeling or simply let it be present with you.
When you have allowed this and are ready to explore beyond a feeling, you begin to identify needs and requests. Moving to needs and requests can be difficult to do when neither is immediately clear to you.
It helps to slowly read through the needs list and notice what resonates for you. When you have accurately connected with and identified your need, you will feel some internal movement like a relaxing or opening of energy. If you don't experience something like this, then go through the needs list again. Take time to close your eyes and focus internally. Notice what internal experience you have as you connect with each need. After feeling a shift with a need or two, you can move to requests.
Often folks tell me how difficult it is to come up with a request. One key to requests is thinking in very small steps. Let's say, for example, you have a conflict with a dear friend. She told you that your choices about how much you work are "unfair to your family", and that, "You are being selfish". This stimulated pain, hurt, and worry for you. You need clarity, understanding, and consideration. In experiencing these needs you might jump to thinking about what you can request of your friend. Start small and start with yourself.
Here's what a progression of requests might look like:
- I ask myself to list three things I have done this week to take care of my family.
- I remind myself that this friendship has lasted seven years and I believe we have the trust and skill to make it through this conflict.
- I ask myself to take at least fifteen minutes tonight to reflect on the needs of my family and myself in relationship to the amount of time I work.
- I ask myself to reflect on what feelings and needs might have been up for my friend when she said that.
- I will set up a time to see my friend and express the feelings and needs alive for me and ask her to say them back. Then I will ask to hear her feelings and needs.
- I will ask my friend if in the future when she sees me doing something she is concerned about, if she would be willing to express her feelings and needs (i.e., what's important to her) and ask me how I see the situation.