When you think about someone making a demand, you might think of some version of stomping, red faced, big voice behavior. Most demands are subtler than this (and more complex).
Let's start with a basic definition of a demand. When you hear no in response to asking someone to do something and you react by applying more pressure for a yes or by punishing him or her, you are in demand energy. Another way of saying this is that you are willing to meet your needs at the cost of another's needs.
Punishment has a broad definition here. It can be something as subtle as pulling your attention away from someone by not making eye contact or as obvious as telling them what a jerk they are not doing what you ask.
If you find yourself making demands, the first thing you need to do is give yourself some compassion. Most of us didn't have models for making true requests and negotiating ways in which everyone's needs can be met. In fact, compromise, in which both, you and the other, give up some needs, is often encouraged. Getting from making demands to making requests requires awareness of your needs and taking responsibility for meeting them in a variety of ways.
There are two kinds of thinking that are most likely to give rise to demands. One is thinking that there is just one way to meet a particular need of yours in the moment. When you've had a conflict with your partner, and are feeling hurt and scared wanting resolution and connection, you can slip into demand by thinking that talking with your partner is the only way to meet these needs. You might hear yourself saying, "We have to talk about this!"
Demand energy can also be more mundane. For example, this morning I couldn't get my printer to work. Various demanding expletives left my mouth letting my printer know what it had to do. After walking away for a few minutes I could remind myself that my needs for efficiency and support can met be met in other ways and at other times. My anger dissolved.
The second kind of thinking that gives rise to demands is that others have an obligation to meet your needs in a particular way. This usually happens when you relate to someone as playing a role in your life rather than just as another person. For example, you think your boss should meet your need for security by paying you on time, your partner should meet your need for love by touching you, your mom should meet your need for nurturing by knowing what you need.
I mention these common assumptions to emphasize that it's not about whether your expectations in a particular relationship are judged as reasonable or unreasonable. It's about remembering and honoring that the other person is always at choice. Coming from this consciousness, it is easier to open a dialogue with someone who is not meeting your needs.
This week as you ask others to do things notice your willingness to hear "no" as an invitation to dialogue or meet your need in another way. This is the consciousness of making requests.
Next week I will write about the subtleties of hearing demands
***click here for a list of feelings and universal needs