Expressing the Aliveness of a Need
When expressing an unmet need, your tone, energy, and manner reveal where your attention is. When your attention rests on the aliveness of the need itself, there is a greater aliveness in you and an increased possibility that your listener will be able to connect with you.
Let's take an example from a gem reader named Rob. Rob says he has difficulty sharing his feelings and needs. He longs to be seen and celebrated. He wants his partner Chris to ask him more questions about his experiences each day and to initiate conversations about their relationship as often as he does.
Coming from the hurt of his unmet need around being seen, Rob communicates to Chris:
"I need as much attention as I give you. I feel left out and unattended and uncared for. I need you to take as much interest in my life as I take in yours. I feel like I am not important to you."
Rob has attempted to communicate his feelings and needs. Tragically he has likely inspired guilt, defensiveness, and disconnect. He has told Chris what he thinks Chris is doing or not doing rather than actually sharing his feelings and needs. Following the structure of Nonviolent Communication, Rob might have said the same thing this way:
"When I notice that at dinner last night we talked about your day for 30 minutes and my day for 10, I feel sad and disappointed because I long to be seen and cared for. Would you be willing to take more time to hear about my day tonight at dinner?"
This expression will increase the chances of Rob being heard and still there is something missing and Rob's heart is not fully expressed. The felt sense or quality of the needs is missing.
To express the aliveness of your need, you can begin by asking yourself to slow down and take a few minutes to experience the need that is alive for you. Allow your total attention to be in the experience of the need. Drop the other person and the circumstance for the moment. Bringing up a memory of when the need was met can help. For example, to do this Rob can ask himself, "What is the experience of being seen and heard fully? What does it feel like in my heart and body?" Rob then takes a few minutes to experience the feelings and sensations that come up.
Creating this level of connection with your own needs, the other person gets to experience the aliveness of your need rather than what's lacking. From this place of connection to the aliveness of your needs a natural giving from the heart arises.
Having connected more fully to his needs, Rob might express himself like this:
"I feel sad because I long to be seen for all of who I am and at the same I feel excitement when I think about sharing more of who I am with you. I have so much that I want to share – what I'm excited about, what's hard for me, what I am learning. Chris can you tell me what you are hearing me say?"
Shifting to sharing your needs from the aliveness of the need makes it easier to let go of judgments about how the other person is wrong or neglectful. Your needs are you own, to honor and enjoy, and to meet in a way that has you thriving with aliveness.
This week practice connecting to the aliveness of your need by expressing a celebration of a need met each day.