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Asking for Responsiveness

You have just shared about an experience with your partner.  Your partner looks at you, not saying anything.  "Well, what do you think?" you ask.  Your partner answers, "I don't know.  What do you want me to say?"

You respond in exasperation, "Can't you just talk to me!  All I want is a little conversation. Is that so hard?!"

The truth is that it is hard for many. Even more difficult is responding in the specific way that meets your need for connection and being heard in a given moment.

Part of creating supportive relationships in your life is taking responsibility for asking for the kind of responsiveness you want.  This means being conscious of what you want back when you express something.  When it is a tender topic and/or you are looking for a particular level of responsiveness, let your listener know what you are wanting back before you share or ask them for a particular kind of response right after you share.  Below are some ways to ask for a particular kind of responsiveness to meet a particular need:


  • I want to share something that happened today and I am just looking for empathy.   
  • Are you up for listening?
  • Can you tell me what you're understanding from what I said?
  • What are you hearing me say?
  • For my own clarity, could you say back what you are getting?
  • I am having trouble identifying my feelings and needs.  Could you make some guesses?


  • I have a celebration.  Want to hear it?
  • Are you up for hearing some good news!
  • I want to share something I am happy about.
  • High five?

Relatedness / Shared Humanity

  • Have you experienced something like this before? 
  • Is this a common experience?
  • Can you understand how this would happen for me?
  • What feelings and needs come up for you hearing that?
  • Can you tell me how this makes sense to you?


  • How do you see this fitting in the context of other things in my life? 
  • What else do you think might be influencing me or the situation?
  • Do you have any sense of where this other person was coming from when they did that?
  • What do you see about the situation?
  • How do you see all this fitting together?

Reality check

  • Does my thinking make sense?
  • Am I missing something? 
  • Do you understand the reasons this bothers me?
  • Do you see how that person's behavior could be unsafe?

Information / Advice

  • Can you share three ideas you have about what to do?
  • Is there information I am missing?
  • What do you think would be most skillful?
  • What would you do in my shoes?

Knowing your intention in sharing something and asking clearly for what you want back, not only increases the chances for your needs being met, it also helps the listener meet their need for contribution in a clear way.

Start this practice now by reflecting on a conversation that wasn't as connecting as you had hoped it would be.  Take a moment to look through the needs list and identify the need you had hoped to meet.  Then identify what you might have asked for that would have helped the other person respond.

click here for a list of feelings and universal needs and an empathy guide.

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1 Response

  1. Dec 13, 2017
    Pam in Minnesota

    Nice one, LaShelle - I will refer back to these. Thank you!

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