Complaints & desires; communicating needs positively

black and white lace up shoes

The other day my boyfriend was washing the dishes and I quite almost literally kicked him away from the sink, taking his place, and complaining, “You wash dishes so slowly!” After the dishes were done, we were going to go rollerblading and I just wanted to get a move on and start enjoying something fun together (more fun than dishes, that is šŸ˜‰ ).

As it turns out–oddly enough–that complaint didn’t send the message that I couldn’t wait to do something fun with him. Instead it communicated to him that he wasn’t competent nor enough for my standards. …Oops.

A fantastic podcast I was listening to today claimed that whenever there is a complaint, there is a desire. For example, I complained about my boyfriend’s dish-washing speed because I desired to get out of the house and have fun with him. However, instead of communicating the desire, we so often slap the complaint onto the person we love… been there.

woman holding iPhone during daytime

I complain about you being on your phone all the time because I desire more genuine connection with you. I complain about you being too loud at night because I desire to fall asleep. I complain that you never help with housework because I desire support.

The advice from the podcast was, instead of complaining, to express the desire that you feel and come up with a suggestion to help meet that desire. For example, I could address my boyfriend, “I would love to get out of here quickly. Can I take a turn washing dishes to speed up that process?”

“I want be more intentional with our time together; would you mind setting aside your phone consistently for an hour or two?” “I need to get some sleep; could you watch that with earbuds in? Or else take the activity downstairs?” “I desire to feel supported in our relationship. Can you help me with dinner tonight?”

When it comes to needs, feelings, and boundaries, there are hundreds of ways to communicate

green leafed plant in glass jar

better… all of them worth studying. However, when it comes to real life, real time application, we have to start simple. The simple suggestion that I’m determined to make use of is finding the desire behind every complaint I make (or am tempted to make) and taking the courage to express it as such. Then, on my own or with the help of whoever I’m talking with, I plan to take the next step of making a suggestion for what might be done about it.

I have needs and desires. But I never want to make anyone feel inadequate as I work toward getting those met. My apologies to everyone I’ve complained to. Will you give me grace as I learn to express my desires? And will you challenge me to reiterate my thoughtless complaints as such? I’m working to figure out this crazy life and I make plenty of mistakes along the way.

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