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Good communication solves everything (almost!)

How good are you at communicating? I don’t mean chatting to your friends, but rather at communicating your feelings and needs. You might wonder why I think this is important, after all the people we’re closest to don’t need to be told how we’re feeling do they? They can read us and know exactly how to react, right? Unfortunately not.

Have you ever gotten home from an awful day, knowing that its plastered all over your face only to find that your partner doesn’t greet you with the hug you need but instead starts talking about their own day, or berating you for leaving the washing up that morning? You wonder why they’re deliberately trying to hurt you. You think they’re selfish and you lash out, after all they deserve it for treating you like that! But wait, you didn’t tell them you had a bad day, you just assumed that they would know. You didn’t tell them you needed a hug, you just assumed that after all these years together that they would know what you needed. But you didn’t tell them anything.

We naturally assume that other people think the same way we do, and that they will therefore be able to understand what we’re going through without us having to explain, (this is especially true to the people we feel closest to). The thing is that we’re wrong! – We’re all unique, and due to our personalities and previous experiences we will emotionally respond very differently to the exact same stimuli.

Take the example of Cinderella vs the step sisters. Cinderella has been treated poorly her whole life, and has learnt to be quiet and obedient or else she suffers the consequences. However her sisters have grown up in privilege, being told that they rule the world and can get away with almost anything. So if we imagine a scenario in which Cinderella taking a break at the kitchen table, if she hears someone approaching then she will be fearful – it’s likely someone will be coming to yell at her for not working. However if we imagine one of her step sisters sat at the same table hearing someone approach, the step sister won’t be fearful at all – for her everyone in the house is either friendly, or beneath her. There is no threat. Cinderella wouldn’t be able to comprehend not being afraid at someone’s approach, and her sisters wouldn’t be able to comprehend being afraid by that. It’s the same in our day to day world – we jump to conclusions and expect everyone else will have jumped to the same one. But because their experiences are different from ours, it’s much more likely that they will see the situation very, very differently. This is why effective communication is key.

Whilst we might consider ourselves to be good at reading people, this is generally only the case whilst we ourselves are in a good mental state. When we’re hurt, upset, angry (really any negative feeling) we lose all tact. All we see is the cause of our pain, and the person wilfully hurting us (it must be on purpose, because everyone thinks like us!) And because of this we tend to communicate our distress in an unhelpful way.

When we feel hurt, or under attack our communication can come across as quite harsh. If you’ve ever been on the end of this sort of thing you’ll know it does nothing to make you want to help the person accusing you! And it usually follows the same format, that of a judgement followed by a demand:


You never make time for me (judgement), pay attention to me! (demand)

You never clean up (judgement), do it now (demand)

You’re always on your phone (judgment), put it down (demand)

Judgements highlight an unmet need in the speaker. The demand tries to put that right, but due to the harsh language used (thanks to high emotions), these very rarely elicit a positive response. If we really want to be heard, (and so be more likely to have our needs met), we need to communicate in a way that the other person can hear and accept. We need OFNR.

What is OFNR?

OFNR is an acronym that stands for





It is a method of communication that can help us to explain ourselves and be heard that was developed by Marshall Rosenberg as part of his theory of Non Violent Communication in the 1960's, and it is the key to healthy communication.

The idea of OFNR is that we replace our basic judgement/ demand statements with more explanation OFNR equivalents.


You never make time for me (judgement), pay attention to me! (demand)


When you make plans with others instead of me (observation) it makes me feel unimportant to you (feeling), I need to feel valued (need), please can we make plans together as well? (request)

Here you can see that the same situation is in play, but by explaining our position we are setting the other person up to be more able to understand us, and so more likely (but not guaranteed) to meet our request.

Another example:

You never clean up (judgement), do it now (demand)


When I see the dishes haven’t been done (observation), I feel like you expect me to clean up after you (feeling), I need to feel respected (need), please can you do the dishes if you’re home (request)

Whilst it might initially feel a bit clunky to express yourself in this way, it will soon become much more natural to you. You can even make a game of it – teach it to the people around you and see who does it best! It will only benefit you further to be surrounded by people who communicate well.

Communication is key to so much in our lives and yet we’re so often not doing it effectively. By using OFNR you can take control and know that you have done as much as you can to make sure your needs are met. We can’t control other people, but we can give them enough information to be able to offer us the responses we need.

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