Not All Upsets are Created Equal

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Relationship Communication Skills

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An upset is anything that disturbs your peace of mind.  However, are all upsets created equal?  Is there a way for you to get ahead of your upset curve?  Can you laugh off some of your upsets when you see them coming?

Wants, Needs, and Requirements

According to Wikipedia, “Wants are often distinguished from needs. A need is something that is necessary for survival (such as food and shelter), whereas a want is simply something that a person would like to have.”

Wants are a lot like wishes or nice-to-haves; wants are at the low end of the upset totem pole!  For example, you may want your partner to be a good cook. Since wants are nice-to-haves, you have the opportunity to let them go with grace and ease, especially if you recognize them as wants. Should you really get upset if your partner is not a good cook, or spills the milk?

A need is something that is truly important to you, your well-being, and your peace of mind; needs often have a functional or emotional component.  If your needs are not met, your peace of mind is at risk.  When your peace of mind is at risk, your relationships (with yourself and others) are at risk.

In relationships, needs are often negotiable, although we are not always conscious of this opportunity.  If you have a need to cook to release and share your creativity, you have the opportunity to negotiate being the cook and your partner can do the dishes.

Requirements are deal breakers and they are not negotiable. Requirements usually relate to your deepest values and intentions- they run much deeper than needs.  If your partner sabotages your requirement to eat in a healthy way, you may need to release your relationship.

So What Can You Do?

The first thing is to remember is that you have choices.  In both personal and professional relationships, when you feel an upset coming  identify the potential upset as an unmet want, need, or requirement.  If it is a want, you can choose to let it go.  If it is a need, you can fulfill the need yourself or negotiate the fulfillment of the need if others are involved.  If it is a requirement, action that is more definitive is usually required on your part.

It is your responsibility to do your best to have your needs and requirements met which means to understand yourself, understand the needs and requirements of others, communicate in a mature way, compromise, and be flexible.

The End Game

The end game is to not be upset…ever.  In my experience, you can minimize your upsets when you realize that not all potential upsets are created equal and when you take responsibility for your upsets.  Or, rather, you take responsibility for your joys!

photo credit: kristin brenemen

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