Expressing Needs & Feelings… Not Just Thoughts

One of the keys to speaking with empathy is a rich vocabulary that expresses needs rather than thoughts. Here’s the bottom line the more clear you are about what you want the more likely it is you’ll be able to get it. Maybe not exactly when where and how you like to, but you have a much better change of getting your needs meet.

“You just don’t love me any more” or “You have changed” is likely a better description about how you are evaluating your relationship, then your actually feel, which might be “I feel discounted, unseen, underappreciated.”

There are basic human needs that we all share.

  • Autonomy (choose ones dreams, values; choose a plan to fulfill ones goals, values, dreams; independence; space; freedom; spontaneity)
  • Integrity (authenticity, creativity, self-worth, meaning, honesty)
  • Connection (acceptance, love, belonging, community, closeness, emotional safety, love, reassurance, respect, trust, support, consideration, understanding, security, empathy, cooperation)
  • Play (laughter, fun, joy, humor, leisure)
  • Physical nurturance (air, food, water, shelter, rest, exercise/movement, touch, sexual expression, protection from danger)
  • Meaning (celebration of life, awareness, harmony, inspiration, peace, hope, knowledge, discovery, effectiveness, purpose, learning, clarity, self-expression, work, efficacy, growth, mourning, mattering)

Feeling Words for when needs ARE being meet… just the tip of the iceberg

Alive Excited Invigorated Secure
Amazed Fascinated Loving Serene
Astonished Free Mellow Thankful
Blissful Friendly Optimistic Thrilled
Buoyant Glowing Peaceful Touched
Calm Helpful Proud Tranquil
Composed Hopeful Pleased Upbeat
Dazzled Inspired Relaxed Warm
Encouraged Involved Relieved Wide-awake

Feeling Words for when needs are NOT being meet… just the tip of the iceberg

Afraid Cool Embarrassed Irate
Alarmed Dejected Exhausted Jealous
Aloof Detached Fatigued Jittery
Annoyed Despondent Fearful Lonely
Ashamed Discouraged Frustrated Mad
Beat Disenchanted Gloomy Miserable
Bitter Disgusted Guilty Numb
Bored Displeased Helpless Panicky
Brokenhearted Downhearted Hesitant Reluctant
Concerned Edgy Impatient Shaky
For more information see: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. or The Center for Nonviolent Communication

10 Tips for Getting What You Want by Speaking with Empathy

Since the 1960’s Marshall Rosenberg has championed a model of speaking with and from empathy, know as Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Undergirding NVC is the notion of a connection between personal feelings and universal needs, which generally dwell below the surface of our awareness and consequently our conversations and communications.  Empathy, a respectful understanding of another one’s experience, can help surfaces these need and feelings.  In other words, it is about getting what you want for reasons you will not regret later. NVC works as well for requesting understanding and agreement when needs are not being meet, as for celebration/acknowledgement when needs are being meet.

The magical and tricky part of NVC is a) honest expression of you needs and requests and b) receiving what someone has to say back with an ear tuned to empathic.

  1. Observe what is happening/impacting your well-being. “When I hear, see, notice…objective description
  2. Be specific about your feelings about what you observe, not your evaluation of the situation. “I feel excited, dread, inspired, dismayed, etc…”
  3. Have a rich vocabulary that expresses needs rather than thoughts. More on this tomorrow
  4. Get to know your needs and be specific about them “Because I need … insert universal need.”
  5. Make requests not demands of others, of concrete actions that enrich your lives. “I appreciate… or Would you be willing to…
  6. Pay attention to your tone, pacing and pitch. Sarcasm is not your friend here- as much as I adore a sharp wit at time, it’s not likely to get you closer to the finish line without regrets. The same goes for making moralistic judgments and comparisons.
  7. Listen for the other person’s needs behind what they communicate back to you
  8. Match your body language to your verbal language. Crossed arms and furrowed brow may not help you get where you want to go, but taking a full breath and keeping your arms loose and free just might help.
  9. Do actively assume responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and actions.
  10. Don’t assume responsibility for some else’s thoughts, feelings and actions.
For more information see: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. or The Center for Nonviolent Communication

Willpower don’t fail me now.

Willpower is a fickle friend, so strong and sure in under some circumstances, and well, just weak in others.  Generally we call on willpower we need some extra- stick-to-it-ness. When faced with a challenge: take off some weight, finish a writing project, or learning to do something new/differently. Seems to me the greater the challenge the easier it is for willpower to slip away. Of course that is not a hard and fast rule, some people seem to have innate endless easy flowing spring of will power and others have to dig through clay to find a trickle. And for most of us we can draw on our willpower more readily and with less effort in some aspects of life, say career and caring for the family, than say diet and exercise.

Hope,  has incredible willpower when it comes her work done. She’s a professor who puts developing her syllabus, grading papers and meeting with her students first and foremost.  But when it comes to taking care of her health and diet, not so much, and this bothered her, until she figured out how to make her willpower work for her as hard and well for her personal health as for her career.

8 Tips to boost your willpower

1. Focus on what you want, not what you don’t want. Paint a compelling vision of your desired future, self, job, relationship… It is a long hard haul to keep moving forward when you don’t have a clear, irresistible vision of when you want.  You want to lose 15 pounds, great, but that seems pretty abstract.  “I am strong, lean and 15 pounds lighter in body and spirit. I embrace the experience of life with its joys and challenges. I am happy with enough energy to function optimally at work, home and at play.” That is compelling and accentuates the positive.

2. Meet and get to know your Motivation. What are you saying yes to when you say no? In other words, why is losing weight, finishing that book or sticking with an exercise plan important to you… Really, personally important. For Rose, she did not want to go on high blood pressure medication and wants to be the best role model she can be for her nephew. Your motivation is a key factor in boosting your willpower. Motivation is a touch stone to return to over time.

3. Practice makes perfect. Trial and correction is key. Give your self time to develop a new habit, which when you get right down it is 9/10 what any of us is trying to do when we calling on our will power. Things not going smoothly is not a failure, nor does it equal “I’ll never be able to…” Give yourself a break. Give yourself time. As my dance family girlfriends say, “Put on your big girl dance pants, toss on your heels and if you fall on your @$$, you’ll know that move just might need a bit more practice.”

4. Be true blue to you. Reach down and deep into your values and use these to help move you forward.  Self-control is boosted when people conjure up powerful thought of the things they value in life. I can not emphasis this enough. When are confronted with situations that are unhealthy for you-get out.  I know that can be easier said that done, dig in dig deep drawn on your inner strength and values to make healthy decisions, especially when they are not the easy decisions.

5. Call in the Calvary. If you need some help, get it. Call on your support network of family, friends, professionals, whomever. Reach out- that’s why the buddy system can be such a useful approach for folks.

6. Power Up. Make sure you have the fuel you need. There is emerging evidence that that restoring glucose levels appears to replenish self-control. The findings make sense because it’s long been known that glucose fuels many brain functions. Having a bite to eat appears to help boost a person’s willpower. This may explain why smokers trying to quit or students trying to focus on studying often turn to food to sustain themselves. It goes without saying step away from the candy bars, Girl Scout cookies, and reach for some whole foods (a few nuts, a piece of fruit…).

7. Anticipate and plan for times of low self-control. We are human not super human, there are going to be ebbs in exercising you will power, you can do some anticipating and planning. Sometimes timing is everything. Don’t start a complex task, like starting your tax return after an irritating drive home. I don’t grocery shop when I am hungry, making it a whole lot easier to breeze by the ice cream.

8. Set the next finish line. When you reach the finish line of your vision. Set a new to help keep you moving forward. Once, Rose lost some weight and got her exercise routine set, finding that indeed she did not need to go on high blood pressure medicine, she decided to go on a hiking trip, that involve time in the Grand Canyon, which help her keep her willpower boosted.

How to be a Positive Person

I could not say it better than Leo Babauta, of Zen Habits, one of the keys to the person success is a positive and grounded approach life. Any of the success I’ve had in cultivating new habits and achieving things in the last few years has been underscored by applying what I have learned from positive psychology and cultivating positive change with my coaching clients to my own life.  Click here for Tips on Being a Positive Person.

It’s Spring, 6 fun ideas for Decluttering

“Clutter is the dark side of abundance” declared, Denise Sheehan, a friend of mine. As I laughed I realized just how true to that statement is for many people. Clutter is the things of should and ought. As in I should really keep that service for 75 that was Great Aunt So-and-So’s once removed by marriage because my 8 week old niece might want to use it for her wedding once day? Or I really ought to go through the stack of stake of magazines-books-news-paper-journal-articles, I have been meaning to read for the past 12-24-36-60 months?

It is true there are something items like keepsakes of rights of passage or a beloved cookbook splattered by meals, or a well made piece of furniture, that stand the test of time. “The Tyranny of the Heirloom”, is real too. We have an extraordinary ability to transfer our memories, hopes, wishes and pain to stuff. The objects that belong to us and those that have belonged to others and have now found their way in our domiciles, office, cubical, sheds and garages  can support, can  be touchstones, can use useful, but they can also be blocks, tripping us up.  Guess what- I bet we can still recall those memories, the good the bad, the ugly and the funny, with or without objects.

It’s March 20th the official start of Spring. Time for some “spring cleaning.” The act of clearing is freeing, even if it feels like a chore at times. When I was packing our house for a move, there was a lot of decluttering to be done. We are sentimental people by nature and were raised to hold on to things you might need in the future. Delcuttering is not a natural way for us- God love the folks for whom it is, there is something to admire in that way of being. Out went the paperbacks that had been friends to me since high school, moving on to be a friend to others. Making space for new book friends. My kitchen,  my love, oh to cook and share a meal, what a pleasure. But really did we need all that stuff? So away went the chestnut roaster, the 4 extra serving bowls of the same size as the 2 we really use, the tumblers that don’t get used enough because other drinkware has seduced our hands and lips. The dance dress I bought because I loved the color and womanliness of it, but just did not fit well enough, found a home with longer torsoed dancer. You get the picture. Suddenly what we were bringing with us to create a new home was more “right” and all the things we let go, found their ways to other right places. What started as  chore instead became a series of celebrations.

Here are 6 ideas to make decluttering less of a chore and more of a celebration.

  1. Swap and Shop. Hold a clothing swap with some other women. In my experience women seem to do this more than men, but Fellow’s have at it too.
  2. Start a book pass along group. This is something I started doing with my Mom and other folks I know who share similar tastes in reading.
  3. Share the Wealth. Are you a Knitter? Well if you are , I bet you have a good stash of yarn just waiting find itself project bound, just maybe not one of your projects.  Not a knitter, apply to your hobby/creative outlet of  choice.
  4. Create a Starter Kit. Too much kitchen stuff, well how about putting together a “starter kit” that could be given to a person starting out on their own, or even folks transitioning from temporary to permanent housing? The same could be done for linens in good shape, furniture etc.
  5. Play a rousing game of “HA! I already…!”. Reframe the act of sorting through the saved bills from 10 years ago as a celebration of  “HA! I already paid you!”. Stacks of college notebooks = “HA! I already graduated!” You get the idea.
  6. Get back that lovin’ feeling. My friend Susan Stone is a professional organizer.  She suggests falling in love with your space again. “Like any good relationship, the one you have with your personal space requires time, attention and the commitment to discovering the very best it can be.”   She suggests starting with one room, name it “something juicy and delicious,” then go about courting it, by seeing the good in it and letting go of what you don’t need.

Now That’s How To Say Thanks With Style!

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.- William Arthur Ward

Gratitude is a powerful part of being happy, deeply, profoundly happy, even… well especially when… there are few things to be “happy” about. I keep a gratitude journal and know a number of my clients, friends and colleagues who do to. But really I don’t know anyone who does this with as much wit, humor and genuineness as  Leah Dieterich on her blog Thx Thx Thx: A thank you note a day.  To paraphrase, there is always something to be thankful for, in my case  from important things like glueing thousand of rhinestones on dance dresses, to bird songs, family, friends and sunlight pushing through thunderclouds or my husband picking up dinner on Monday.