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Gateway Three: Learning to Meet Our Needs and Negotiate Successfully
By Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein
There's nothing more demoralizing than a woman who does not know how to speak up for herself, who doesn't have a voice for herself. When we feel ignored or not understood, we can feel rage and anger building.
So often as women we find ourselves in a predicament where we don't know how to speak up. We simply don't know how to negotiate for what we want. While sometimes it's a cultural attitude that we've taken on, for instance that women should be demure, quiet, and modest, often it's due to a lack of understanding the appropriate skill-set necessary for negotiating effectively. All of these factors put a tremendous pressure on our true capacities. Our future happiness or fulfillment is restricted simply because we don't know the right road to get there.
Learning how to meet our needs and how to negotiate appropriately is a lot of work, but the satisfaction far outweighs the work. When you have been able to speak with integrity to a husband, mother-in-law or a boss, when you have been able to finish a level of training that moves you ahead professionally, you're really living your Enchanted Self. You feel as special as you deserve to feel. It's worth every moment of effort.
Deborah had been hiding the bookshelves under her side of the bed for so long, she couldn't remember how many years they had been there.
Why were they under the bed? Because when she had brought them home, pretty and ornate with fancy wrought iron underpinnings, her husband had belittled the purchase and belittled her. "Those were stupid purchases," he had said. "They're too ornate. They're flimsy. They'll fall off the wall. You don't even know how to put them up. And don't think I'll help you." Finishing his tirade, he had turned around and stormed out of the room.
Deborah felt devastated. Not only had she believed they were perfect for the family room, but they had reminded her of some lovely built-in mahogany shelving that her grandmother used to have. But apparently that was then and this was now. It obviously didn't fit into "now." Her husband had just told her so.
Back in therapy, Deborah confronted once again some of the pain and inertia she had been living with, as well as the pain that was a result of the negative interactions that had continued between her husband and herself. She was determined to move ahead emotionally and to finally gain some resiliency.
While she wasn't ready to leave her husband, she was ready to put up those shelves. One day she took them out from under her side of the bed, brought them into the hardware store and obtained the appropriate advice and necessary hardware.
Much to her satisfaction, when she put the shelves where she had wanted to so many years ago, not only were they securely placed, but they really pulled the family room together. The finishing touch to the room was putting things on the shelves that had actually come from her grandmother's beautiful apartment. The last item, a photograph of her grandmother as a young girl, made the shelves fully come to life.
She waited in slight trepidation for her husband to remark about her enterprise. She said nothing, and interestingly enough he said nothing either for many weeks, seeming not even to notice them. He finally did comment on them, saying, "Oh, those look nice."
While it still wasn't a perfect marriage, and the shelves had slept much too long under the bed, Deborah was much happier that she had finally begun to meet her needs.
A Positive Activity for You
Think about different situations that you're in where you may need to meet your needs or learn to negotiate for them more successfully. Pick a situation that you probably can handle more effectively than you now are, without having to make a great deal of change in your life.
Perhaps you would like to negotiate more successfully with your husband about which restaurant to go to the next time you go out. Think about some of the ways that you can make clear what your needs are, and what you are willing to give in return if there has to be some compromising or conceding. When it's timely, go ahead and practice being clearer about whatever the situation is that you have chosen to discuss. And don't get discouraged. Remember that learning to speak up clearly and directly on our own behalf takes practice.