When it comes to negotiating needs in our relationships, sometimes we can struggle to know just how to do so that will bring about the best possible outcomes. Each of us is simply trying to satisfy a fear or a desire – or both – and yet it can become so unhealthy and contentious in a matter of moments if we aren’t careful. When I am working with highly defensive couples, I have often suggested the following to bring down the anxiety and build a better connection that makes problem-solving possible:
Using the word for the phrase I just. “I just need to tell you how hurt I am.” Or “I just need to know that I can count on you. I just need some time to work through this. I just need your partnership.” The messaging is about the speaker only, so it is their subjective truth, and pretty vulnerable, as it reveals what is really going on underneath their behavior. I think this why it is less likely to elicit a defensive response from the listener.
Another great phrase to use which gives them your bottom line and gives them room to choose is as long as. It sends the message that maybe they can have what they want while still being able to honor what matters most to you. You can say “Hey I’m good as long as long as we don’t drain the checking account. As long as you can get that taken care of by Friday, I’m fine with it.” It’s practicing healthy boundaries by telling them what our bottom line is and not commenting on their process. It also has a more positive vibe to it, which helps lower anxiety. I’ve written about this before and talked about it on the podcast a lot because I think it’s so important. Let them figure out their process of what they choose, figure out, muddle through, bump up against, and work through.
Their process is not our business, even though we love to insert ourselves in it from time to time. When we can let them know with our bottom line is the ball goes back to them and they can decide whether they can accommodate that or not. They get to stay in a place of choice and hopefully, they’re doing the same thing with us. They’re letting us know what’s negotiable what isn’t, and what matters most to them. Oftentimes this can lead to solutions that yes sometimes are compromises but are not win-lose situations.
These are just two phrases you can use that relate to the other what your vulnerable truth is, and your attached positive need. I’m sure you can think of and practice others that feel authentic for you. “As long as” you focus on healthy boundaries, and tell them about you, then they are more likely to hear you and want to work with you to find a solution.