Sometimes asking in clear and specific ways for what you want can bring up difficult feelings like anxiety and self-doubt, many people struggle with a sense that their needs are not valid and that their pain or discomfort is of little importance. But all human beings have needs, feel, hurt, wish for things. You are entitled to your thoughts and feelings and you are entitled to be heard.

Your Rights (adapted from McKay et al 1983)
You have a right to feel and to express yourself
You have a right to your opinions
You have the right to be the final judge of your beliefs
You have a right to protest treatment or criticism
You have a right to your needs
You have a right to ask for help or support, though you may not get it
You have a right to choose to respond or not to any situation
You have a right to put yourself first sometimes
You have a right to make mistakes sometimes.

Self-awareness
Interpersonal effectiveness is very much dependent on self-awareness. To communicate effectively you need to be aware of what it is you feel and what it is you want. There are tools for exploring the nuances of how you feel but to begin you can start with asking yourself if the feeling you are experiencing is good or bad, is it painful or pleasant?

Examples of Good Emotions
Interest
Joy
Peace
Love
Excitement
Attraction
Satisfaction
Contentment

Examples of Bad Emotions
Fear (in the present)
Anxiety (for the future)
Hurt
Self-loathing
Disgust
Loneliness
Sadness
Anger

Once you can identify and articulate your emotions the next question to consider in relation to others might be, does this make me want to change something? Is there something about the behaviour of others that I wish was different? Do you want them to do more or less of something? Do you want something to stop?
Consider the behaviour in specific terms, how often would you like to see this change? What would the new, desired behaviour look like? How often, when, and where would you like to see this new behaviour?

Exercise: Knowing What You want

Describe your feelings:………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

What change would you like to see in the other person?
More: …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Less:…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Start Doing:…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Stop Doing:………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
How Often……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
When:…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………
Where:…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Formulate a sentence of two that encapsulates all this information:……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Communicating Appropriately – Modulating Intensity

Effective communication is very much dependent on context, how insistently or intensely you can ask for change will depend on various factors, two of which are Urgency of need, and vulnerability of the other person/relationship.
How urgently do I need the change?
Low Urgency 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 High Urgency

How vulnerable is the other person/the relationship?
Very Vulnerable 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Not Vulnerable
Assessing context is important, the higher the total number the more forceful it is appropriate to be. If the number is low, then you should adopt a gentle and moderate approach.

Try to recall some recent situations where you have desired change in another person, using the scale above as a prompt write a couple of sentences about how appropriate your communication was. Of course in the moment, during a conversation, you may not want to start considering a ten-point scale, but perhaps you could recall the questions…how urgent? And how vulnerable? As a quick way to inform how you could modulate the intensity of your communication.

Asking for Change

A Simple Request
A simple request is made up of four basic components, some of which are optional:
1. A brief explanation – explain what the situation/problem is in simple and brief terms. If you choose to include this element, keep it to the point and simple.
2. A softening statement – this is about being polite and non-demanding. Examples of softening statements are: ‘Would you mind….’ ‘It be very grateful if you could….’
3. A specific and direct question – be clear and unemotional in your request, be matter of fact rather than emotional, try not to over explain your point.
4. Be appreciative. Affirm the behaviour of the other person. “Thank you, this will be much appreciated” “This will make such a difference”
If you find making requests challenging you can try and practice the skill in everyday situations, asking for information or for directions, asking for a little bit of help at work, asking for a small change in schedule, for assistance in a shop or restaurant.

An Assertive Request
The ability to be assertive is paramount to maintaining healthy relationships and to keeping yourself safe. Assertiveness may seem like an elusive skill but it is eminently learnable, most easily through practicing a script.
There are three basic components to assertively asking for change and one optional one which depends on circumstance.
1. “I think” The first part of the process requires a statement that describes what it is that you understand about the situation. This should be non-judgemental and should contain no information about your interpretation of the other person’s intentions, motives, or character, stick to the facts of a situation.
2. “I feel” This component can be included where appropriate, with friends, family, or a partner but not perhaps with a colleague or someone you are doing business with. This is the much referred to ‘I statement’, again this should be free from any blaming or disapproving statement about the other person or their behaviour but should be simply a statement about how you feel, so not “you are hurting me” but “I feel hurt”
3. “I want” herein lies the assertive bit of the communication. It will be useful to bear these components in mind when assertively asking for change – ask for behavioural not emotional or attitudinal change – you cannot reasonably expect people to change their feelings but it is reasonable to ask for behavioural change. Be reasonable, do not ask for a whole ream of change in one sitting, think about what is a reasonable expectation. Ask for change that can be immediately actioned, asking for change months in advance won’t work because the request may well be long forgotten by then. Be specific, and describe the behaviour you would like to see – saying ‘Be nicer’ is too general.
4. “Self-care” As an optional add on you could describe to the other person the strategies that you will implement should they refuse your request This is to show that you are not helpless and that you do have a plan that is not dependent on them. Self-care is designed to take care of your own needs and is not remotely about punishing the other person.
Problem
I think: ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
I feel: ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
I want: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

How I’ll take care of myself: ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


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