Clarifying Needs Helps Reduce Conflict

What do you need? How comfortable are you asking for it?

When a spouse or partner says, “you are always on your phone,” it usually stems from a desire to feel closer or experience more connection. Yet, upon hearing “you are always….” a partner may feel attacked. This may feel frustrating, particularly if you THINK you have asked. Statements or suggestions are not requests. Also, the person on the phone may simply want to meet their own need for peace and ease.  

Issues also arise when the request does not address the real concern. An employer might say, “Will you please put your phone away? This may be the boss’ way of saying, “please focus on your work.” While the request may seem clear, putting the phone away may not increase employee contribution or efficiency. Clarity here may sound like, “Please put your phone away and sweep the floor.”

Where does conflict arise? Unmet needs. Therefore, clarifying needs helps reduce conflict. Making clear requests matters.

While not always easy, clarifying needs proves important in every type of relationship. Take some time to consider your needs, and then make the ask. Here’s three tips for doing so:

  1. Name the Need. Are you clear about what you really need, or focused on your ideas about how to meet it?  Remember, actual needs have multiple ways of being met. Even if you have an idea how you would like the need met, make sure you discuss the underlying need. Click here for the Naming Needs list.  
  1. Make Clear Requests. Be sure you ask for what you really want. Will that request actually meet the need (I.e., someone being off their phone may still not create the connection you want). If you want to feel closer to someone, ask for some one-on-one quality conversation time with no technology, and offer ideas on what that looks like to you, (dinner, a walk, etc.).   
  1. Open Space for Discussion. What if there’s another option that meets everyone’s needs better? If the goal is to feel more connected, ask “when do you feel most connected?”, “what new activity would you like to do together?” or make a list of the ten activities you each most enjoy, and see which ones you both might be willing to do together.  

Remember, you have a privilege and responsibility to care for your needs. You choose how and where you spend your time. You may establish boundaries around whom you share your time and what behavior you accept in your presence.  

For help having better conversations at home, work, or in the community, call 320.808.3212 or visit 

Sherry Ann Bruckner

Sherry Ann Bruckner

Sherry Ann Bruckner, JD, enjoys helping you bridge the gap from where you are to where you wish to be. An attorney, mediator, coach, speaker, and trainer, she strongly believes in the transformational power of clarity, compassion, curiosity, and cribbage.

Sherry Ann invites and encourages you to consider your own level of peace. Inner peace creates outer peace and personal peace leads to world peace. You may find her enjoying a game or hiking a state park. Sherry Ann lives near Alexandria, Minnesota. Visit to learn more or give her a call at (320) 808-3212.
Sherry Ann Bruckner

Be gentle with you. Be gentle with all. Be the peace.