Intimacy Matters: 6 Ways to Communicate Your Needs | Panda Anku

Intimate relationships offer great benefits, including increased health and well-being, and improve our chances of survival by 50 percent (Holt-Lunstad, 2010). “People are most likely to thrive when they feel closely connected to significant others” (Pietromonoco, 2017).

I recently published a post on how to build intimacy with others. The communication skills discussed mainly involve helping others to feel “understood, accepted and cared for” (Pietromonoco, 2017, Laurenceau, 1998, Reis, 1988), the basic skills needed for intimate relationships. But what if it’s your turn to share?

It’s difficult to communicate our needs if we don’t understand ourselves first. Indeed, self-awareness enhances our ability to manage ourselves and others, components of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2001; Silvia, 2004). It also offers many additional benefits, including healthy personal development (Sutton, 2016), better decision-making (Ridley, 1992), self-confidence, and improved workplace performance (Sutton, 2015).

You may feel that you have a sufficient understanding of your physical needs and preferences. Understanding our emotional world is more difficult because our feelings and reactions stem from a range of values, beliefs, personality traits, fears, cultural conditioning, and areas of ignorance that often lie outside of our conscious mind (also called our subconscious or shadow).

Like the proverbial iceberg, this vast and potentially treacherous terrain can erode the best of intentions and relationship chemistry if ignored. On the other hand, the shadow also contains rich ways to access inspiration, healing, and joy that are simultaneously blocked with our submerged beliefs and feelings.

Here’s how to increase your awareness and appreciation of your hidden needs and feelings, and how to share them with others.

practice mindfulness

There’s a reason so many self-help resources tout mindfulness and meditation as a practice: It works. You don’t have to sit like a yogi to practice mindfulness. Hundreds of techniques are available; With some experimentation, you can find one that works for you. As a beginner, I found moving meditations or active poses (like yoga) much more manageable and enjoyable than the seated exercises.

Mindfulness is the practice of being in the here and now. When we clear our mind and notice what arises in the stillness, we can perceive thoughts and feelings without attachment. For example, if I notice that I’m angry with my spouse, I can watch the thought and the emotion associated with it, and then watch it float away and subside. I feel calmer and can better see the next steps, if there are any.

Listen to your inner voice

As I meditate, I also notice that I am disconnected from my thoughts, which refutes the phrase “I think therefore I am”. My consciousness, which is the observer, is separate from the beliefs and feelings that pass by. This awareness can also speak to me, but from a deeper, quieter place. This inner voice is the source of great wisdom and authenticity and conveys inner truth.

I wasn’t always a meditator. But I’ve always instinctively known that sitting calmly and with a clear mind allows my inner truth to bubble through my confusion. I’ve learned over the years that I should never make an important decision without first connecting to my inner wisdom. My practice now is to consult my inner voice even when making small decisions and as a result I now have a much greater sense of alignment with my authentic self throughout my life.

reflect and process

A writing or journaling practice can be very helpful in recording, processing, and integrating thoughts, feelings, and inner wisdom. It can also be used to capture feedback from others, cause and effect (e.g. what was the result of speaking from inner truth or from fear?), goal setting and progress.

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A data dump in which you write down everything that comes to mind is also an effective strategy for clearing the mind and can make it easier to recognize your inner voice during meditation.

honor with clarity

Living each day from your place of inner truth provides a sense of clarity unavailable when you’re clinging to the confusing jumble of negative, fearful, and judgmental thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.

My personal truth is just that: mine. No one can tell me otherwise, although I try to be open-minded and own the right to change my mind as I incorporate new information, facts, and perspectives. Communicating and expecting others to respect my personal truth reflect good boundaries.

My personal truth is also nobody else’s. Because it’s my truth, it doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone else. I honor personal truth and the boundaries of others without judgement, even when I disagree with them. I also can’t tell if they’re speaking from an inauthentic mindset or from their deepest inner voice, because my journey is just speaking clearly from my own perspective.

Be willing to be vulnerable

You’ve done the hard work of getting to know yourself. You have clarity about who you are and what you want (or at least more so than before). You then decide what you want to share with others. The deeper you go while being careful not to share too much, the greater your chance of creating emotional intimacy with others.

The willingness to be vulnerable and risk being hurt offers both parties the opportunity to grow closer together in greater intimacy or “seeing-in-me.” The willingness to be vulnerable, to be deeply seen, accepted, and loved by ourselves and others is what Brene Brown describes as living wholeheartedly.

Learn and practice, practice, practice

There are no shortcuts to making vibrant and intimate connections with ourselves and others. Once we have educated ourselves, we can change our behavior and our lives by practicing and integrating these new skills at work and at home. Consider using step-by-step behavior change lessons in podcasts, blogs, books, or online learning resources such as those available from the Foundation for Family and Community Healing. Few soft skills have the power to transform your relationships and your life, so harness them.

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