Needs in Nonviolent Communication

The 3rd and main component in the nonviolent (empathetical) communication curriculum is needs that are interconnected to behavior in the first session.

Herein, we express our current needs; for after observation and feelings come the needs.

This is not a strategy, a method, or a policy; this is a need. Our emotions and needs are what is alive within us, as Marshal Rosenberg coined them.

We can ask the following question: is it necessary to know and express my feelings? Answer: certainly!

Being conscious of your feelings provides an opportunity to better realize your needs, to ask for that which will meet these needs.

In a previous session, we spoke of the heavy toll holding feelings takes, and today, we will address the heavy price of inexpression of needs, which could lead to depression or misery, especially for women. Cultural norms imposed inexpression of needs, or seeking matters different from what goes through our minds or hearts. Hence, being conscious of feelings provides a good opportunity to know the needs interconnected to these feelings. Met needs derive feelings of joy, and vice versa for unmet needs; while the continuous suppression of expression of needs leads to depression, as mentioned before.

There are many ways to analyze needs: Manfred Max-Neif, which analyzed needs in economically and socially advanced societies; and Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the most thorough and comprehensive analysis for the time being; in addition to Mary Clark’s analysis and many others.

Different analyses help us become more aware of our needs and able to differentiate needs amongst other things in light of the following 2 points:

  1. Needs are global, all humans have similar needs.
  2. Needs have no reference, i.e. it cannot be said that a person is doing something for a reason…

When a person says “for a reason”, this person will be referring to a strategy, not a need.

The following are examples of strategies and needs:

Clothes are a strategy through which many needs are met: comfort, safety, appreciation, respect, belongingness, and love.

It can be said that a home or residence meets physiological needs, as well as safety, belongingness, love, appreciation, and respect. 

Work can be the answer to many needs at the same time, which helps differentiate strategies, methods, policies, and needs. 

For instance, a giraffe can say: “I felt cold when you opened the door”, while a wolf would mix strategies and needs, expressing the former, not the latter upon saying “I need you to close the door.”. “Needing to close the door” is not an expression of a need, but rather a strategy. A giraffe says “I need warmth and comfort, and wish you to close the door, if you please!”.

It is important in this 3rd component (needs) to express our needs, to bear the responsibility of our feelings without holding others accountable of them, as we are to speak of crossing emotional slavery towards emotional liberty.

Emotional slavery means one person answering another’s needs at the expense of myself for those who perceive love as neglecting their needs for the sake of others.

The second stage, an obnoxious one as called by Marshal Rosenberg, we are aware of our unmet needs, and presume a responsibility of the feelings of another whilst being courteous towards others.

The third stage, emotional liberty, where we meet our own needs, and help others meet their own out of emotional freedom between each other; i.e. I answer your needs out of my capability and willingness, and vice versa for you in a humane and comprehensive harmony that is void of imposing, compelling, forcing or even fatigue.