The way we communicate with others and with ourselves
ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
– Anthony Robbins

Which one of these statements would you rather hear?

  • “I’ve asked you a thousand times to clean up after yourself. I’m not your mother.”
    OR
    “I would appreciate you remembering to put your dishes in the dishwasher.”
  • “All you do is yell and complain that I never do anything right. You are so critical.”
    OR
    “When you raise your voice and criticize me, it hurts my feelings.”
  • “You never share your day with me. It’s like you have another life.”
    OR
    “It would mean a lot to me to hear about your workday, so I feel like I’m a part of your everyday life.”
  • “I asked you to put the shelves up 6 months ago and you never follow through.”
    OR
    “When would be a good time to put up the book shelves?”

We often speak in anger when we are unhappy or dissatisfied with something our partner is doing or not doing that upsets us. While this may accomplish venting our frustration, it rarely gets the result we truly desire.

The statements above show two ways of communicating what you need: one in a negative, hostile way; the other in an assertive, honest and direct way.

In times of frustration or anger, the secret to effectively communicating your needs is to own what you need, ask for it directly, and do it in a way that shows respect for the other person’s feelings, needs and wants.

Owning your need means using “I” statements such as, “I need you to,” “I would appreciate it if,” “It would mean a lot to me if,” “It hurts me when you.”

The elements of being direct include stating your need factually without judgment, joking, or hinting; identifying the behavior you need specifically; and telling the other person the impact their behavior has on you.

Showing respect for the other person’s feelings, needs and wants means stating your request in a factual, behavioral way, without using guilt, judgment, criticism, sarcasm, contempt, or intimidation.

Here are some sentence starters you can use with examples:

  • I would appreciate it if you would…
    I would appreciate it if you would ask me before you invite your parents over for dinner.
  • It would mean a lot to me if you would…
    It would mean a lot to me if you would call or text me when you leave work, since I know you can’t predict what time you’ll get out.
  • Help me understand…
    Help me understand why it is so frustrating for you when I talk to my sister at 10pm.
  • When would be a good time to…
    When would be a good time to have this conversation since it looks like you are preoccupied now?
  • I’d like to know…
    I’d like to know your feelings about me going on the golf trip with my buddies.
  • I feel…when you…because…
    I feel frustrated when you get on your computer after dinner, because that’s the only time we have together, and I want to connect.
  • What can we do…
    What can we do to create more time for our marriage?
  • I can see you feel…
    I can see you feel disappointed when I am too tired for sex. Let’s figure out how we can work on creating more time when I’m not too tired.
  • I wish I could…but I can’t…
    I wish I could promise I’ll never raise my voice again, but I can’t since it’s such an automatic response. When you see that happening, would you give me a time out, so I can walk away and calm down, before we continue talking?
  • I understand you…but…
    I understand you don’t want to spend the money on a big trip, but I’m 60 and we never know if we’ll be able to travel like that when we are 65 or 70. My dad died at 63.
  • How much time will it take for you to…
    How much time will it take for you to finish working on your project, so I know what time to start preparing dinner?
  • I thought we agreed…What happened…
    I thought we agreed not to make purchases over $100 without consulting each other. What happened?
  • Next time would you…
    Next time would you tell me ahead so I can have some input on that decision.
  • What I’d like to see happen is…
    What I’d like to see happen is that we make a commitment to spend more “us” time together.
  • Would you please…
    Would you please let me know when you are going to be more than half an hour late, so I won’t worry?
  • When you…I feel…because…
    When you don’t respond to my texts, I feel anxious, because it triggers my fears about your past infidelity.
  • I need/want you to…because…
    I need you to keep your promises, because it is the only way we can build trust back after your affair. Even when you break small promises now, it hurts.

Learning to be assertive takes patience and practice since we all have automatic habits and responses. But the effort is worth it. It can improve your relationship immensely.


Are you ready to achieve a more genuine, intimate relationship with your partner? Relationship Experts, Bob and Lori Hollander, work in full partnership with individuals and couples to build and deepen connection, trust and intimacy.

Call us at 410-363-2825 or email us today, info@relationshipswork.com.


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