Radical Honesty


To ask for what you need, you have to admit you need something.

Notice an important distinction: What you need. Not what you want.

I want more money, a new title, a bigger house.

I need to be acknowledged, appreciated, loved.

These are very different conversations. Knowing what you need comes from an awareness of self, an awareness that forces us to face truths—sometimes unflattering—deep within our core.

For example, you may have to admit that, in truth, you aren’t Wonder Woman or Superman, and that you need support. Perhaps you have to acknowledge that your values do not align with your behavior or acknowledge to yourself that a relationship is not serving you well.

I call this radical honesty.

In our culture and with certain personality types, particularly pleasers, it’s hard to ask for what we need. It’s easier just to stay on autopilot, to keep doing, pleasing, avoiding, or ignoring the sensations and emotions that arise when our needs are not being met or our values are out of alignment.

I now recognize that living in a state of unmet need is toxic. It’s that space where you know you need something, but try as you might to hide or push it away, it continues to make its presence known. It’s like the world’s most annoying Jack-in-the-box. You close the lid and shove him back down, and he keeps popping back up, again and again.

It took me 20 years of working, striving, achieving, and learning to finally put a lock on the lid of that box— to create a space where I can listen, share my vulnerability, and ask for what I need.

Realistically, it’s totally possible that what you need is simply not available to you. If that’s the case, I say it’s better to know sooner than later, so you can be take your next step with full knowledge and complete honesty.

On the other side of the coin, what happens when people ask for what they need from you. How do you respond?

In my professional and personal life, several people have made a highly positive impact on me by doing just that. All were very candid about what they needed, but weren’t getting, from me as a leader, friend, or loved one.

I know from experience that sometimes when people ask us for what they need, they may not say if perfectly, or we may take it personally, as criticism, which triggers defensiveness, anger, or avoidance. But, if we can take a breath, pause, listen deeply and receive it as valuable information and a source of insight, we can use it to improve, change, or grow.

Whether you’re asking for what you need, or someone else is asking you, staying radically honest keeps all us keep closely connected to our authentic selves.

Mindfully yours,

Ashley Nelson