Written by Suzi Jacobson, Stepping Stones advocate and 12-step bookstore manager

My husband is quite fond of repeating a bit of wisdom given to him by a brilliant therapist a very long time ago: “It is never wrong to ask for what you need.” It’s remarkable how often that little phrase comes up in conversation between us. It’s uttered for things as mundane as “I truly need to see the dirty dishes put into the dishwasher”; or as important as “I need to know that the heater will be fixed very soon because it is 30˚ outside and 50˚ inside right now.”

What do you need and how good are you at speaking up about it? On a scale of 1-10, where 1 is pathetically unable to voice one single need and 10 is magnificently outspoken about your every need, where are you?
Most people who find it difficult to express their needs have a misguided idea that they are not important – neither themselves as persons, nor their needs in particular. The world could be a better, brighter place if people regularly and simply expressed their needs.

How about hearing from your coworker, “I need a new pencil sharpener” instead of a string of expletives every time the present sharpener malfunctions, breaks a lead or just plain destroys a pencil. A new sharpener has got to cost less than the time wasted, broken pencils and mangled words written with bunged up lead.

Or how about your neighbor… “Would you please keep your dog inside when you’re out so that she doesn’t bark to get inside during the whole time you’re gone?” Why do you feel like you can’t or shouldn’t speak up? Maybe you’re concerned that your coworker or your neighbor will be offended or just plain dislike you. Perhaps, but it’s also possible that your coworker hadn’t actually noticed the degree of the problem with the pencil sharpener and your neighbor may not have been aware that her dog was making so much noise.

In any case, you spoke up and that’s a good thing because now there is potential for change rather than grinding away in misery. The Twelve Step programs remind us via the “Serenity Prayer” to have the courage to change what we can… so do it! Speak up about what you need!

Peace to you, SJ