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.
The intention of this article is not to prescribe a set expectation for how you should communicate with your dominant. How you interact primarily depends on the rules and specifications you have consented to in your dynamic. This article offers suggestions of skills you can develop that may help you to communicate more effectively while still honoring your submissive self, should you choose.
No two relationships are identical; likewise, no two submissives are 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, we must 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 much 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 entirely if we are unwilling 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. Submissives 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. 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 submission, consider that your dominant trusts you to look after the things they hold dear. That includes you. From 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 with your concept of submission.
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.
Remember, when we handed in writing assignments in school, the teacher would always say, “Neatness counts!”? Well, politeness is to speech what neatness is to writing. It makes a massive difference in how the ideas come across and makes the receiving experience much more pleasant.
Politeness follows humility in this list because using manners is a helpful indicator that you respect the person you speak to and are not too arrogant to show. 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 sounds like a 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 comments accordingly.
In considering ways to modify your expression, you must maintain 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. We do this so as not to cause emotional harm or incite hostility.
Over-modification may water down or downplay the importance the issue has to you. There is also the concern that over-modifying may lead you to compromise on topics you are not comfortable with. The final danger of over-changing your message to a dominant is that your attempt at “sugar-coating” or “easing into” the issue may 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.
It may seem strange to put “Radical Honesty” right behind “Diplomacy” on this list. However, it should serve as a reminder of 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 contact over your comfort. In case you’re wondering, you can be both direct and diplomatic.
The magic here often resides in using “I feel” statements. “I feel” statements skip a brutal, direct hit with a comment. For example, “I feel a lack of respect toward my efforts to maintain a clean living space, in the manner that you like it.” instead of, “You always make a mess of the house, yet require that I keep it neat for you!” 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 maintains radical honesty because it does not leave anything out, cover anything up, or employ falsehoods.
You have to communicate with your dominant in the spirit of trust. You have to trust that they care about you and would want to know if something was bothering you. If you aren’t sure of your dominant’s feelings on that, radical honesty 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 response, it may be time to reassess that relationship. Trust means knowing and having complete faith that your dominant has your best interests at heart.
Service is a 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 to be 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 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 purposeful, comprehensible, brief, meaningful manner, and assists your dominant in being your dominant. Supporting them may be as simple as helping them understand your needs or letting them know you better.
Bring an attitude of service to the conversation. 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)! You’re less likely to stir up your cognitive dissonance while discussing your needs. You’ll also be more likely to simultaneously attend to your dominant’s needs during the conversation.
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, thorough 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.