The Power of Asking For What You Need & Being Honest
I’m in a men’s group that has had a massive impact on my life in the past year. In one of our meetings, my friend Dylan dropped a bomb. “Life is relatively simple,” he said. “All you have to do is be 100% honest, and ask for what you need.”
(Dylan drops the mic and walks off the stage)
Be completely honest, and ask for what you need. Holy shitballs, this guy is like the illicit love child of the Dalai Lama and Oprah. I didn’t say simplicity is easy…but it is simple. So, let’s look at each aspect of Dylan’s statement one at a time and see how we can use them for our benefit.
Be Completely Honest – Life’s Too Short to Be Someone You’re Not
Honesty is hard as hell – in theory. It bumps us up against any insecurity we may have. It forces us to choose our own truth over the ways other people may judge us or the desires of our ego. Our egos are fragile and need constant validation for their own existence. Truth may be a direct assault on our inherent frailty.
But radical honesty isn’t that difficult if we swallow one key principle: be who you are unapologetically.
Being who you are means you never have to lie. You never have to bend the truth – even a wee bit. You are who you are, and the people who love and support you will continue to do so even if you make mistakes. If you make mistakes, the people who matter will trust that your intentions are good. If they don’t, they aren’t actually your friends and you are better off without them. Jerks.
Never in human history has there been a time where authenticity is more celebrated than today. Revel in that. Wallow in it like my dog Lucas when he finds a dead, rotting seal on the beach. Get your whole being smeared up in it. High school is over. Authenticity is cool again. I’m forty and still like ninjas, boobs, and putting salad dressing on my white rice. Think I’m weird? Oh well, I’ll find other Sho Kosugi, Dolly Parton, and Paul Newman fans to hang out with.
Once authenticity as a way of life is adopted, then life gets infinitely easier. You never have to check back in with which story you’ve told whom. Your energy gets streamlined and the tiny pieces of it that were once used to keep track of incongruities now get to be fully invested in you being you; in you kicking ass without worrying how it will effect anyone else, in you expressing yourself and your purpose in the precise ways that make you most come alive.
Here’s another great idea to hold in your head while deciding if telling the truth is for you: You are not responsible for anyone else’s feelings. People are going to love you and hate you and that is all about them. Unless you’re currently a serial killer or animal abuser, then what you do is your business and no one else’s. Just as their reaction to you is their circus and their monkeys – not yours.
Ask for What You Need
Imagine being able to tell your boss, husband, partner, and friends exactly what you needed from them:
“I’m having a tough day. I need a hug.”
“I’m having an amazing day and I need to celebrate my excitement with someone.”
“I have no idea what I’m doing right now and need some support.”
“I just need someone to listen to me without judgment.”
All of the above are game-changing sentences, yet so often they are the hardest to speak. Rather than delve into the underlying concepts of self-worth and where it may stem from, let’s bypass that and get right to benefits of asking for what we need.
Asking for what we need is a way to establish healthy boundaries, just in reverse. As opposed to saying, “I won’t stand for this in my life,” you are saying, “This is what I need. How you provide it in your own unique way is up to you.” The boundary is set, and the person you are speaking with is then free to respond as he or she will.
Without expressing our needs, we are left to using covert means to get them met. We may give with the expectation of getting in return. We may ask for something with sarcasm or poking instead of coming right out with our need, owning it, and asking for it.
“Covert contracts,” as they’re called, are a recipe for resentment, unfulfilled desires, and disaster in any relationship from friendship to marriage. If your partner is unwilling or unable to meet your needs, then that is a separate story – and is also on them. Having your needs go unmet without directly asking for them, though, is on you.
Speaking truth without fear of consequence and asking for what we need takes courage. My friend Dylan was correct in his assertion that these are two of the foundational basics upon which we can live an incredible life. A life rich with integrity, satisfaction, and happiness.
One Day Stronger Action Steps:
1. As a one-day experiment – commit to radical honesty. Tell the truth whenever asked regardless of consequence. Use it as spiritual journey and give the results up to a higher power. If asked, be honest. Be caring and compassionate in your answers, but be honest.
2. Figure out what you need right now. Examine a relationship where your needs are not fully being met. List the top three things you need from this relationship and write them down.
3. In a calm and nonjudgmental manner, let your partner know your needs. Let him or her know your needs are about you, and not about any way that he or she is at fault. You simply have needs that haven’t been met and this may be because you haven’t expressed them in a manner in which they’ve been heard. Own this part of the process to take any potential blame out of the conversation.