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COMMUNICATE!

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Communication. It seems so simple to express how you are feeling. Yet, we often end up feeling overburdened, underappreciated and locked into commitments or undesirable situations because we do not voice our own feelings and needs. You feel bad for telling a friend "No" when they asked you to do something for them (even at your own inconvenience), so instead of turning down the request, you seemingly welcome it with open arms. Sometimes, this might be OK. It is in our nature to want to help others in need. However, that does not mean that every situation or request should be so quickly accepted.

Boundaries are an important part of every relationship — familial, romantic, friendly and otherwise. Boundaries often need ongoing re-evaluation and support. Even if you were okay with doing something five years ago, you might not be okay with it today. And that is fine. We can establish a certain kind of understanding in our relationships if we can effectively communicate what our needs are. Maybe it bothers you when your mother-in-law shows up unannounced. Maybe it bugs you when your friend asks for your help endlessly, but never returns the favor. Maybe your husband is not being considerate enough and is often only seeing his side of the situation. In these instances, a conversation going over your needs, feelings and opinions can ward off continuous frustration, arguments or even the demise of a relationship. If we express our needs, we are holding up our end of being honest in the relationship. You cannot control the response or reaction you receive. In loving and caring relationships, though, the other party is hopefully capable of being understanding of your needs. And if they are not receptive of your communication, maybe you need a little (or even a major) break from them.

A good way to address your needs is in a non-accusatory manner. For example, instead of saying, "You always think about yourself. You are wrong. You should be considerate of me," try saying "I feel like sometimes I am a bit forgotten. I would greatly appreciate it if you could think of me in the situation and how that might make me feel." This starts the conversation in a positive way instead of coming into it with guns blazing. It also provokes a sense of trust and safety between both parties.

Another example, instead of saying, "You always ask me to do this and you never do this for me," you could try, "I do not mind helping you from time-to-time, but I would appreciate it if the favor could be returned."

If the kind, gentle approach does not work, sometimes you will need to express yourself in a more emphatic way. And if that does not work, it might mean putting a pause on the relationship until you and your concerns are heard. It is not always easy, but it is sometimes necessary.

Communication is one of the greatest strengths a relationship can have. It helps avoid confusion, misunderstandings, frustration, arguments and ultimately resentment. Not being able to communicate, and thus not being able to establish boundaries and express needs, can weigh on you mentally, physically and spiritually. You can quickly become drained or find that you are harboring negative energy towards another individual or yourself, which can lead to perpetual negative energy if never addressed. If you are having a hard time deciding what you want to do, how you want to react, what you want to express or figuring out what your needs are, find a quiet place to retreat and meditate or reflect on the situation. Instead of reacting or deciding on the spot how to respond, give it a day and allow your true thoughts and feelings to form first.

Communicating effectively is also a means of self-care. You can cleanse your mind of thoughts and feelings, lighten the “load” that holding your feelings inside brings and perpetuate a healthy means of interaction, whereas not communicating your needs can lead to overextending yourself, becoming burnt-out or experiencing irritation on a regular basis. This is far more harmful to you in the long run.

You are deserving of the same care and consideration that you extend to others. Your opinions and needs are just as important as the other person's. Keeping this in mind as much as possible can lead to better growth as an individual and in turn, within a relationship.

And next time someone asks too much of you or you are not being heard, make sure you COMMUNICATE! An expressed self is the best self.

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