NVC & Emotional Freedom: Needs Vs. Strategies

Needs Vs. Strategies

First Step to Emotional Freedom: take 100% responsibility for your feelings.

Needs & Their Relationship to Thoughts/Emotions

One core assumption of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is that basic needs exist that are universal to all human beings.

Needs are universal values that drive all of our actions as human beings. They include anything that a person needs to sustain life no matter their race, religious preference, financial status, location or culture.

Needs then are the basic things all people need to support life. We often think of needs as food, air, and water. Those are certainly needed for our survival, and we also need so much more to thrive and be fully alive.

Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of NVC, identified 7 primary needs. We can then locate a seemingly infinite amount of secondary needs using the major 7 as the launching pad.

The principal needs are:

  1. Connection
  2. Physical Well-Being
  3. Honesty
  4. Play
  5. Peace
  6. Autonomy
  7. Meaning.

You may have heard William Glasser, another diehard needs connoisseur, who developed Reality Therapy and its framework, Choice Theory. All of which was created upon the assumption that EVERY human being is on a never ending quest to satisfy fundamental needs.

Glasser’s list of needs are similar to Rosenbergs, inasmuch as they identify the fundamentals that could be subdivided significantly.

Power: A sense of winning, achieving, or a sense of self-worth.
Love and belonging: To family, to a community, or to other loved ones.
Freedom: To be independent, maintain personal space, autonomy.
Fun: To achieve satisfaction, enjoyment, and a sense of pleasure.
Survival: Basic needs of shelter, survival, food, sexual fulfillment.

Glasser’s famous admonishment was that a healthy personality can identify precisely what they want in reference to their personal needs and the world in which they live.

I’m sure you’ve heard the statement that an emotionally healthy individual can separate their needs from their wants.

That’s Glasserian terminology!

My point is that this needs-centric therapy isn’t exclusive to NVC, but the consciousness or ethos of the method is what makes it extraordinarily unique.

All “wants” point to “needs,” there are just some wants that are less resourceful in fulfilling those needs.

Wants Vs. Needs

Yet, rather than sifting through various wants and separating them from contextual needs, in NVC we separate the needs from the strategies.

The easiest way to make the distinction is that needs are not specific to time, place, or person.

Saying, “I need you to clean your room,” does not fit the needs criteria.

Rather, that’s a strategy to meet a need.

The person hearing the request can easily translate that as “I want you to clean your room,” and they’ll hardly recognize the need.

The recipient will probably perceive the request as a demand, this will in turn threaten their need for autonomy, so it’s unlikely the request will be satisfied.

The need may be for order, structure, and/or cleanliness in the house.

A request more aligned with NVC would be, “I need you to clean your room because when the house is messy I feel an overwhelming amount of discomfort, agitation, and anxiety because my need for organization is not being satisfied. Can you repeat back to me what you heard me say?”

Note that the request is backed by the vulnerability of speaker, who unveils the unmet need that is creating the unpleasant feelings.

They are not saying that anyone or anything is the cause of the feelings, but the cause is solely an unmet need. This is a monumental paradigm shift!

Additionally, the speaker is requesting feedback to ensure the request has been fully understood.

Keynote: In NVC the focus is on the contribution to life, not the outcome.

Therefore, the speaker may not get the outcome desired.

NVC isn’t a method of persuasion. It’s not a toolkit of cheap tricks and dark psychology.

Rather it’s a consciousness that supports life-giving compassion, collaboration, courage, and authenticity.

When the speaker honors the hearer’s needs, the listener is subsequently provided the opportunity to respond autonomously using the information given.

In the spirit it’s more likely both speaker and listener’s needs will be satisfied.


NVC Tip: everything someone does or says is an attempt to meet their needs. Therefore, all action is an attempt to sustain life in some way.


The inventory below is from the Center for Nonviolent Communication list of needs.

As you observe the following words you’ll notice they all come fully loaded with resourcefulness, accompanied by what Health Realization refers to as a “high mood.”

The sole act of reading the needs feels good, which demonstrates how critical they are to sound emotional health.

On the other end of the spectrum, the longer the distance between your thoughts and needs, the lower your mood descends.

What’s a Low Mood?

A low mood can be identified as follows:

Our mental activity—or thinking velocity—increases.

Our thinking gravitates to problems and dissatisfactions.

We experience a heightened but distorted sense of immediacy. For example, we think we must do something right away about our circumstances.

We feel self-conscious. It seems we are the center of everybody’s attention.

We have a pessimistic outlook. We notice limitations and are blind to possibilities.

We entertain many negative thoughts, emotions and concerns. (Cited from The Relationship Handbook by George Pransky).

Emotions always correlate to the distance between your thoughts and your needs.

Along these lines, resourcefulness is a helpful metric to measuring the mental distance of thoughts from your basic needs.

The more resourceful you feel, the closer you are to satisfying a need.

What’s a High Mood?

A higher mood stands in stark contrast to a low mood.

Our mental activity—or thinking velocity—decreases.

If you’re driving 100 mph your reaction time is significantly strained. If something darts out in front of the vehicle, you’re largely at the mercy of knee jerk reactions and chance. You cannot be very calculated and creative at that speed.

However, at lower speeds your reaction time improves exponentially, your thinking can be more creative, more calculated, and anchored in the present moment, thus easily observing and admiring the world around you.

Our thinking gravitates to creative solutions, innovations, and activities that create emotional fulfillment.

We experience an increased understanding of long-term rewards and strategizing. For example, we easily wade the discomfort of delaying gratification for much larger and enduring profits down the road.

We feel other-conscious. Our understanding extends to the needs and motivations of others, which leads to interdependence and emotional fulfillment.

We have an optimistic outlook. We see limitations and failures as feedback and are propelled by a growth mindset (as opposed to a fixed mindset).

We entertain only thoughts that serve us and construct resourceful states of mind (see cognitive distortions)


So, review this list again and again to anchor your thoughts to your needs.

A Inventory of Needs

CONNECTION
acceptance
affection
appreciation
belonging
cooperation
communication
closeness
community
companionship
compassion
consideration
consistency
empathy
inclusion
intimacy
love
mutuality
nurturing
respect/self-respect
safety
security
stability
support
to know and be known
to see and be seen
to understand and
be understood
trust
warmth

PHYSICAL WELL-BEING
air
food
movement/exercise
rest/sleep
sexual expression
safety
shelter
touch
water

HONESTY
authenticity
integrity
presence

PLAY
joy
humor

PEACE
beauty
communion
ease
equality
harmony
inspiration
order

AUTONOMY
choice
freedom
independence
space
spontaneity

MEANING
awareness
celebration of life
challenge
clarity
competence
consciousness
contribution
creativity
discovery
efficacy
effectiveness
growth
hope
learning
mourning
participation
purpose
self-expression
stimulation
to matter
understanding


Identifying Strategies

Strategies involve the actions to meet the needs. It’s pretty straight forward.

Expression of a need: “I have a need for order.”

Expression of a strategy: “I need you to pick up your room.”

If the desire is to provide empathy to another person, you need to avoid
strategies and giving advice at all costs.

You need to fully hear the person speaking and identify their needs. This won’t be easy!

Society has conditioned us to identify what is right or wrong and to patch up whatever appears faulty. By default we go into a “fix it” mode in an attempt to help.

The problem is that people don’t like to be fixed. No one likes to think something is wrong with them. Any type of diagnosis, analysis, or criticism will usually be met with defensiveness or outright hostility.

How to Take Responsibility for Feelings

Express Needs Clearly

Distinguishing between needs and strategies.

Strategies vs. Needs

Strategy: I need you to show me some respect.
Need: I would like some respect

Strategy: I have a need for you to help.
Need: I need support

Strategy: I want my son to listen. Need: I am needing to be heard.

Taking Responsibility for our Feelings.

Denial vs. Acceptance

Denial: You make me mad when you don’t show respect.
Acceptance: I feel annoyed when you don’t address me as Sir, because I am wanting respect.

Denial: I feel glad that you got the promotion.
Acceptance: When you got the promotion I was glad because I was hoping you would be recognized for all that you had done.

Denial: I feel sad when you don’t understand me.
Acceptance: When you look at me like that, I feel disappointment and I am guessing you are not getting what I am saying. Need: to be understood.

Using Emotions to Help Identify Needs.

Feelings vs. Needs

Feelings: I feel he’ll never finish his project. (concern)
Needs: efficiency, competence, awareness, effectiveness, purpose, compassion

Feelings: I feel inadequate as a parent.(shame)
Needs: appreciation, acceptance, empathy, competence, understanding

Feelings: I feel rejected. (lonely)
Needs: closeness, acceptance, love, belonging, companionship, trust, harmony

Emotional Freedom

My earnest wish is that you shift the principles that govern your consciousness.

If you begin to think in terms of needs instead of blame shifting, moralistic judgements, critical analysis, and diagnosis you’ll begin to view an entirely different world.

If you begin to speak a needs literate language composed of cooperation, contribution, and compassion, you’ll find the world you live in to be adventurous and satisfying.

This is my prayer for you.

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