Asking for What You Need Isn’t Offensive but Overreacting Can Be

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are two primary food items I want to talk about today, both arising from the same situation. In case you haven’t been a reader of mine for long, primary food, are things that nourish us that are not food (relationships, social life, spiritual life, physical activity, career etc). Secondary food is the actual food we eat.  Primary food is just as important as secondary food when it comes to being well. One of the tenets of health coaching is that if we support our areas of primary food properly, secondary food becomes easy (weight loss happens effortlessly, digestion is more regular etc). When primary food is neglected or out of balance, secondary food becomes an issue (think over or under eating, poor nutrient absorption etc.) In my personal as well as professional practice, I have found this to be so incredibly true. Nourishing primary food is a way to keep our hearts and souls well fed. Feeding your heart and soul is integral to living a well rounded vibrant and healthy life.

Today, I specifically want to talk about consciously and actively feeding our hearts and souls properly through two areas.  They are:

1. Asking for what you want or need (it’s not inherently offensive).
2. Being conscious of how much energy you give to intense reactions (namely overreacting to negative crap).

While these seem things don’t seem to be that connected, both can play a role in how or if our hearts and souls are fed and they came up for me in a situation this past week. I’m sure you’ll be able to relate and have experienced both in some way.

Part 1: Ask for what you want or need. 
This past week I got an email from someone that in an instant took me from the relaxed and calm state I was in to stressed and irritated. Their message, frustrated me. Instead of coming out and directly saying what she needed/wanted, the sender posed the situation in a passive aggressive way that made it difficult to say yes to what she was proposing, but also made saying no very awkward.  I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t.  I know the sender’s intentions weren’t malicious or intentionally aggravating – it’s just that this person is someone who sincerely does not want to offend! And they will try to be polite no matter what the situation.

This situation has come up several times in the past with this person and while by nature I am very direct and forthcoming but in some cases, with certain people, I have learned it’s best to temper my candidness. In this case, responding very honestly could hurt their feelings (and this is not someone whose feelings I want to hurt).

Being polite is important, as is not intentionally hurting feelings or purposely offending anyone – especially if it’s someone you care about or want to do business with etc.  But can we be clear about something? Asking for what you want or need (especially if done in a loving way) is not offensive.  It’s not impolite. It’s not wrong.  And women as a whole need to get better at doing it. You deserve to get your needs met. You deserve the chance to fulfill some of your wants too! Tip toeing around what you are trying to communicate means there is a big chance you won’t be understood and are less likely to get what it is you are after. If you leave it up to the person on the other end of the conversation to figure out what it is you want or need, you just might not ever get it.

Yes, there is a time and place that it is probably inappropriate to ask for what you want but I think most of us are intelligent and intuitive enough to know when those situations are occurring. Lady, give yourself some credit.

Determining if it’s appropriate to speak up
If I’m not sure if it’s the right time to be clear about my needs or wants, I ask myself a few questions like these:

  • Will getting this feed my heart or soul?
  • Will getting my need or want satisfied damage the person I’m asking it of in any way?
  • Is my truth being honored in this situation? If not, what would make that so?
  • Is my ego involved? If my ego wasn’t involved, what would be the best solution for all involved?
  • Would it be ok if this need or want was never satisfied?
  • Can this need or want be satisfied at another time or is this a one-time opportunity? What’s the risk of not going for it?
  • Where’s the harm in asking?

These answers can act like a compass and help you to know when you should ask confidently. To be honest, most of the time it is the right time to speak your truth. And odds are, if you are like the person who sent the email, you’ve spent much of your life being overly cautious about conveying your needs or wants when there are other people involved. Why are their needs more important than yours?  If you are clear about what you need and you say it in a way that is kind, open and honest without being hurtful (and this sometimes takes practice), usually both parties end up happier.  If you try asking for what you want in a veiled and passive aggressive way, not only are you probably not going to get what it is you are after but you’re probably going to strain the relationship with the other person because you’re putting the onus on them to decipher and decide on what’s best for both parties. And that’s not really fair to either of you!

Part 2: Be thoughtful about how much energy you give to your reactions.
A reaction is a reaction. There’s not much we can do about how we feel about something and it’s important to be in touch with our feelings. Feeling them, acknowledging them and riding them out can all be a healthy thing.  But that doesn’t mean we need to feed some of them. We don’t need to overreact by playing a situation over and over.  So what exactly am I talking about?

In the email situation I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was irritated, frustrated and annoyed.  In the past, when something like this, or anything else that majorly annoyed me – it would seriously set me off in a bad way. Setting ME off means I intensely react. I have to vent to friends, family, my journal – you name it.  I’m not one to keep things that aggravate me inside. The problem with this though is that each time I relay the situation and how much it upsets me actually adds more fuel to it, causing far more upset and frustration than the original situation warranted. My overreactions cause a lot of unnecessary stress.

I’m also an intense reactor when something positive is going on in my life. My face beams when I’m excited. My happiness is palpable. My laughter contagious. When I have had a good day or am in a good mood you can physically see and feel it’s presence. Again, I’m not good at keeping it inside. I’ll share whatever happiness I’m celebrating with anyone who will listen and each retelling of it increases the positive feelings that come from it.

In both cases retelling and rehashing the situation that brought on the feeling is feeding my heart and soul (and also feeds the energy of the people on the receiving end).  But one case is feeding my heart and soul bad feelings and the other is feeding it good feelings. Why would I want to repeatedly feed myself emotionally or otherwise something that is only going to make me feel rotten? It’s an offensive way to treat myself (and those that I share my energy with).

While we don’t really have a choice about how we feel and we can’t change the other person involved, we do have a choice in how we react to that feeling, how much stock we give to it and whether or not we indulge it.

Does any of this sound familiar? Are you an intense reactor? You don’t need to share your big feelings with other people to be an intense reactor. Some of us prefer to keep things to ourselves but still replay situations or stories to ourselves – keeping a negative (or positive) feeling in focus. What purpose is this serving?

The passive aggressive email I received normally would have meant I hastily sent off a complaining email to a friend or two and vented to John 5 times about it. And I probably would have raged about it at the next social gathering of my friends. And it would have had far more of a negative impact on me than it should.  It’s not an important enough situation that I need to stay irritated about it (really, how many situations are!?).  So instead, I replied quickly and to the point, expressed my annoyance once and calmly to my patient husband and then chose to let the situation go.  These last several months I’ve been practicing letting go of my need to hold onto crappy feelings (meditation has been really helpful!).  They do not serve me in anyway.  There’s no need for me to indulge them – so I won’t.  I will keep indulging those good ones though!

We feed our bodies by providing them with good food, sleep, water, quality supplements and more.  We feed our souls and hearts with self-care, hobbies and time with loved ones.  But we also should try to remember that communicating our needs and wants is a way to feed ourselves as well (and we shouldn’t feel ashamed or timid about doing it).  And knowing when to indulge and when to let go of intense reactions is an important part of a healthy life too.

Having a well nourished, well fed heart and soul will benefit you in many ways – for starters, getting your needs met can do wonders for where your life takes you. It gives you confidence and makes your brave. Well fed/supported people are more giving, more loving and have happier lives. People who can let go of emotionally draining baggage have less stress and are a joy to be around. People who don’t let negative feelings build up and fester and less angry and irritable. I’m not going to link to science to back me up today. This is something I just know, thanks to personal trial and error and also through the amazing work my clients allow me to be a part of.

Do you have trouble clearly communicating your needs or wants? Is being perceived as impolite a large concern for you? Have you ever experienced an intense reaction to a situation? Did it affect you positively or negatively?  Please share your thoughts in the comments – I love to hear them!

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