Negotiating Needs From a Group Many of us live much of our lives engaged, in various ways, with all sorts of groups: families, work groups, organizations, churches and social settings. We need to develop skills for negotiating our needs in relation to such groups. Because we were never taught how to powerfully and non-violently assert and negotiate our needs in a group, many of us either become resentful, suppressed sheep, or raging bulls running roughshod over others. We either “bowl over” or “roll over” in relation to others. We “bowl over” others out of the fear that we will not otherwise get what we want. Or we “roll over” out of hopelessness, feeling that we will never be able to get what we need. It can be scary to ask for attention from a group because so often the group members are afraid to express their true feelings about your request. And most of us understand that when true negative feelings are withheld there will be some sort of consequence. In a group the consequence is frequently shunning. (In every case of school shootings of which I am aware, the perpetrator was being shunned by most of the other students.) Here are some tips to help you negotiate in groups: 1. Practice presenting your requests for attention from a group confidently, so others can sense you will not be crushed if there is an objection. 2. If you are scared when you are asking the group for something, be sure to say so. If you do not, it may be perceived as aggressive, because unexpressed fear often gets perceived as aggression. 3. Be sure to give others time and space to check within themselves how they really feel about your request. 4. Be ready to empathize with whatever the objection is. Don’t get hung up on the content of their response. Instead, hear the feelings and needs behind the content. For example: You: “I would like to share a story. Is that okay with everyone?” Group Member: “No.” You: “Is that because you would like reassurance that it would take less than five minutes?” Group Member: “No, it is because we have not made the decision yet about when our next meeting will be.” You: “Thanks for telling me. I would be happy to wait until after that decision is made. Would that work for everyone?” 5. As in the example, after empathizing with the group member’s response be prepared to check back within yourself to see if you have shifted. Have you changed your mind about what you requested? If not, either stay with the dialogue, or allow a solution to emerge that meets both your needs and the group’s needs. Notice that in the example, the solution suggested is synergistic and would meet both your need to tell the story and the group member’s need for the meeting time decision to be made. 6. Be careful not to give in or give up after empathizing with the other’s objection. If you do give “in” or “up” on what you want, you will resent the group for seeming to oppress you, and you will likely withdraw your participation. Or you will start gossiping about those that objected to your request and begin to build a splinter faction group that will weaken and sometimes even destroy the group. It is often the “nice” people who are so scared of conflict that do the gossiping that tears the group apart.