Communication is not the sexiest word a submissive can utter, but it’s one of the most necessary. An issue I hear brought up quite commonly is that it just doesn’t “feel submissive” to be talking about needs with a dominant. Still, there comes a time in every relationship when it feels like the relationship is hinging on the submissive doing just that.

No two relationships are entirely the same, and likewise, no two submissives are completely the same. But the fact is, most basically, submissives, at our core, are people—people with very human needs—just like anyone else. Whether we like it or not, it is squarely our responsibility to communicate those needs to the dominants who care for us.

You would not expect yourself to know how to operate every random, obscure feature of your car. That’s why cars come with owner’s manuals! But the human psyche is a lot more complicated than the average car, and submissives don’t come with owner’s manuals. So, how can we trust our dominants to know every facet of our minds and hearts? That’s what communication is for. We cannot trust our dominants to know us completely if we are not willing to communicate thoroughly.

Communicating completely might sound like a difficult feat. Communication is tricky in all relationships but can be even more so if you are involved in a power dynamic. Us s-types often have an idea of what submission is supposed to look like—an image we look up to or aspire to—and often, blatant, heartfelt, projectile word-vomit isn’t it. So, it’s understandable that communicating can seem impossible when you’re concerned about sounding (or feeling) pushy, ungrateful, or simply “not submissive.”

If you feel like communicating your needs doesn’t align with your concept of submissive behavior, it’s essential to consider that your dominant trusts you to look after the things he, she, or they hold dear. That includes you. By this perspective, perhaps keeping them abreast of your concerns regarding your needs and care is the most submissive thing you can do. But, if you’re still not convinced, there are some traits you can hone to communicate in a way that may more closely dovetail your concept of submission.

Humility

Humility, in essence, is the opposite of arrogance. Coming to communicate with your dominant in humility means coming to share your ideas without pride, rebellion, self-importance, defiance, or condemnation. There is no room for egotism there. It is a modest, humble offering of thoughts and feelings.

Politeness

Remember, in school, when we would hand in writing assignments, and the teacher would always say, “Neatness counts!”? Well, politeness is to speech what neatness is to writing. It makes a huge difference in how the ideas come across, and it makes the receiving experience a lot more pleasant.

Politeness follows humility in this list because using manners is a useful indicator that you respect the person you are speaking to, and are not too arrogant to show it. Words like “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” also naturally instill a feeling of submissiveness. This can help remind you that you aren’t out of line for offering pertinent information on your status to your dominant.

Diplomacy

Diplomacy sounds like a big, fancy word when, in reality, it just means handling a situation tactfully, without stepping on anyone’s toes. There is an art to diplomacy which tends to come naturally to people who are good with words or good with empathy. This is because using diplomacy often means anticipating the effect of your expression on the other party and modifying your words accordingly.

We do this so as not to cause emotional harm or incite hostility. It is vital that in considering ways to modify your expression, you do not compromise the integrity of the message you intend to send. This means only changing your words in ways non-essential to the meaning you are trying to convey.

Over-modification may water-down or down-play the importance the issue has to you. There is also the concern that over modifying may lead you to compromise on topics that you are not comfortable compromising on. The final danger of over changing your message to a dominant is that your attempt at “sugar-coating” or “easing into” the issue may actually obfuscate it, causing additional frustration.

The top priorities to keep in mind with diplomacy are the integrity of the message and the intent of doing no harm. Only after these two priorities are met can you concern yourself with appealing to the feelings of the other. Two nearly equal priorities may seem a bit awkward to juggle, but this is all part of why diplomacy is an art that requires practice and attention to detail.

Radical Honesty

It may seem strange to put “Radical Honesty” right behind “Diplomacy” on this list. However, it should serve as a reminder of just how imperative it is not to lose the core of your message to be diplomatic. The essence of your message is best protected by communicating with radical honesty.

Radical honesty means doing away with lies, omissions, and half-truths in favor of direct communication. It values open, full disclosure, and direct communication over your personal comfort. In case you’re wondering, you can be both direct and diplomatic.

The magic here often resides in the use of “I feel” statements. “I feel” statements recommend foregoing a brutal, direct hit with a comment. “You always make a mess of the house, yet require that I keep it neat for you!” in favor of something direct and diplomatic, like, “I feel a lack of respect toward my efforts to maintain a clean living space, in the manner that you like it.” This latter statement is still specific about the problem of messiness on the part of the dominant, yet is purposefully subjective, non-accusatory, and open to polite discussion. It still maintains radical honesty because it does not leave anything out, cover anything up, or employ falsehoods.

Trust

You have to come to communicate with your dominant in the spirit of trust. You have to trust that they do care about you and would want to know if something was bothering you or preventing you from performing your duties to the best of your ability. If you aren’t sure of your dominant’s feelings on that, radical honest would suggest that you ask.

Questions don’t always have to be a bad thing. A question like, “Would you want to know if something were preventing me from being the best I can be?” is not an affront to your dominant’s authority. It isn’t questioning their orders unnecessarily. It doesn’t signify rebellion.

Most times, with most of the dominants I’ve met, the answer would be a hearty “Of course!” If that’s not the type of response you receive, it may be time to reassess that relationship. Trust means knowing and having full faith in the fact that your dominant has your best interests at heart.

Service

Service is a fairly well-known concept in the area of power exchange. Service is why many submissives become submissives in the first place! It is not everyone’s motivation for being an s-type, but in D/s, there is a big enough emphasis on service that most submissives at least brush elbows with the concept.

Service in the context of communication means being of help, or of use, to your dominant in what you convey and how you express it. This means finding a way to organize your thoughts and deliver them in a manner that is purposeful, comprehensible, brief, meaningful, and assists your dominant in being your dominant. Supporting them may be as simple as helping them to understand your needs or allowing them to know you better.

If you bring an attitude of service to the conversation, you’ll be less likely to stir up your cognitive dissonance while discussing your needs. You’ll also be more likely to attend your dominant’s needs during the conversation simultaneously. This will help your dominant see that your communications are coming from the right place, your heart (just like your service if that is part of your dynamic)!

Communication doesn’t have to be a minefield of dodging frank and outspoken tendencies to be true to your submission. There is perfect submission in mindful, complete communication. The act of mindful, complete communication shows care, respect, and service towards your dominant. Communicating your needs in that way is compatible with the values many submissives have come to share as ideals. Hopefully, honing these six traits, should you decide to, will help you become more comfortable with voicing your needs from the submissive side of the relationship.

The intention of this article is not to prescribe a set expectation for how you should communicate with your dominant. How you interact mostly depends on the rules and specifications, you have both consented to in your dynamic. This article is meant to offer suggestions of skills you can develop that may help you to communicate more effectively while still honoring your submissive self, should you choose.