These past few weeks Eric and I have been assessing our community by ASKING others what they see happening that is good, where the needs are and what breaks their hearts for relationships. It’s a cold-call process that’s part of our doctoral study, and it’s been fascinating. But the most unexpected aspect is how it’s affected our relationship.
When you’re focused on learning something theoretically, often you’ll find yourself facing practical opportunities to practice with your new tools. Those opportunities were probably there before, but now you notice them. Now you can access them. This past week, Eric and I have had many moments of vulnerability as we open up to each other and ASK for what we need. Just like when we’re cold-calling folks to do these doctoral interviews, we have to put our request out there, without any guarantee what the response will be. It’s scary! The most vulnerable thing to ask for in life is connection– be it emotional, spiritual or physical. You have to put your heart on the line. And, unfortunately, when we put our heart out there like that, we are often faced with a response of defensiveness and criticism. That’s because when someone vulnerably asks for what they need, the silent implication is “You aren’t meeting this need.”
Have you ever exploded with a response of defensiveness when faced with a request? I know I have. Try doing what I did this week when I felt defensive: take some time. Give yourself space. And come back to the conversation when you’ve had a chance to really think about the needs of your partner’s heart. Put yourself in their shoes and with a gentle response, begin the conversation.
Asking for what you need is not always easy, but until we learn how to read minds, it is the only way to move forward healthfully.