We often analyze one another’s ‘wrongness’, rather than acknowledging that another’s need or desire is just different from our own. Unfortunately, it happens so often that sometimes it seems like identifying ‘wrongness’ is the standard way to communicate with a partner.

Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, in a chapter of his famous book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life (Puddledancer Press, 1999), describes how we look for each other’s “wrongness”.

When he provides examples it makes perfect sense and it is easy to recognise how we make other people appear wrong simply for expressing their needs and wishes. He further explains that if for example, your partner needs more affection than you are prepared to give, you might call him “needy”; or if you need more affection from your partner and she doesn’t give it to you, you might call her “aloof”.

Rosenberg further states: “Analyses of others are actually expressions of our needs and values”. The main problem with such analyses is that they don’t get you what you want, and worse – they increase defensiveness in your partner. How likely is it that your partner will engage in an effective conversation with you if you call your partner: needy, aloof, controlling, disengaged, too fussy or not caring enough?

Stop making out that your partner is in the wrong simply for expressing their wishes or desires.

 

Think about it for a minute:

  1. If a partner asks you to keep the house clean and take the rubbish out they are not a ‘neat freak’, they are expressing their need to live in a clean environment or for you to contribute to the maintenance of the household.
  2. If your partner asks you for a hug, they are not clingy; they are expressing their need for physical affection.

 

In these examples, try to imagine the practical need behind your partner’s requests:

  1. If your partner asks you to communicate your plans, his/her need is for …
  2. If your partner asks you to help around the house, his/her need is …
  3. If your partner asks that you both spend more time together with his/her need is …
  4. If your partner asks you to let them know when you will be at home, his/her need is …
  5. You partner asks you to pay attention to him/her at a party, his/her need is …
  6. Your partner tells you that he/she would like to celebrate anniversaries, his/her need is …

Ask yourself: How do I put my partner in the wrong? Stop assuming your partner is wrong to want what they do. Instead, try to consider the need they are expressing.