I. Start with “I” instead of “you”
Depending on how you phrase your needs, the message can be perceived in very different ways. Be smart and diplomatic about it to increase the chances of your needs being heard and understood.
Beginning sentences with "I" instead of "you" will sound more constructive and less accusatory. Saying “You make me angry when you don’t listen to what I’m saying” can feel aggressive and cause the other person to go into defense-mode immediately. Your points are more likely to be taken the wrong way now.
“I feel unheard and unimportant when you look at your phone instead of me when I’m talking about how I feel” creates room for an open and vulnerable conversation instead.
II. Take your needs into your own hands
Don’t wait for anyone else to give you permission for self-care or to do the work for you. If you’ve been complaining about needing a break or wanting to go on a hike for weeks, schedule a day off, book a massage, pick a trail. Then circle the date in your calendar and make it happen. If your partner, family or friends don't want to join, do it on your own! Plan and treat your self-care with the same responsibility as a work appointment.
III. Show don’t tell
If you want the people in your life to get on board with a new hobby, lifestyle change or habit of yours, don’t try to force it onto them. Instead, just do you. If a new routine makes you feel so much better, they will probably notice and be curious to find out more about it. And eventually will want to try it out for themselves. Lead change by example.
IV. Be upfront
We often think people can read our minds or that our needs are obvious. But remember that people are very different and that everyone has a lot going on in their own head. Sometimes we say something once and expect people to remember weeks later.
Do yourself a favor and be really clear and upfront about things that are important to you. That’s always better than being disappointed afterwards. Instead of testing if a person remembers and "really cares”, remind them. Instead of wanting them to anticipate or guess what you need, expect and want, let them know preemptively and nicely.
V. Appreciate small gestures
Reinforcing might seem like training a dog but it really works with anyone. We all want to be appreciated and feel like our acts of kindness and caring are being noticed. So be generous with your thank you’s.
VI. Don’t explain yourself endlessly
If you have reasonable needs, boundaries and standards, don’t apologize. You know what you need to feel good and it is okay to be your own self-care advocate. Don’t feel the need to justify endlessly why you’re tired, need alone-time, don’t want a TV in the bedroom, want to work out more or whatever the matter is. You don’t need an excuse to look after your own health and happiness. If you need to make a compromise, make sure it really is one. And don’t settle for an agreement that will make you unhappy long-term.