Getting to Know Our Human Needs
Non-Violent Communication, created by Marshall Rosenberg, helps us get our truest needs met. The methodology offers a kind, helpful library of tools that can help us have better conversations, even when we’re talking about hard topics.
NVC gives us a viable path into peaceful, loving exchanges and clean clear requests of each other. Check out this list of universal human needs to get a feel for how needs are understood in this model:
The beauty of NVC lies in this: when we are aware of what we feel, what we want, and why we want that, we can communicate self-responsibly without adding extra pain to this world.
Empowerment to take charge of meeting our own needs is the most essential ingredient for moving out of victimized, helpless states into feelings of agency and possibility. Getting to know our true needs is the beginning of everything good!
Hm….What Need Is at Play?
NVC maintains that everything we do, we do because of our underlying human necessities. Lest we fear or reject these needs, NVC asserts that all needs are life-affirming and positive at their core.
NVC teaches us to ask:
What do I feel?
I feel how I feel because of a need I have. What unmet need is at the root of this feeling?
Is there anything I can think of, that I and/or another person could do, that would help this need be met, thus changing my feeling state to something more comfortable for me?
How might I make a clean, clear, non-demanding request of someone, to see whether they’re interested in helping me meet this need?
How Non-violent Communication Helps Us in Mental Health and Recovery
One big benefit of Non-Violent Communication is what Dr. Murray Bowen called psychological differentiation.
As we learn to identify and assume responsibility for what need of ours is at play, we define our separate, individuated self-hood.
Separate self-hood helps us feel good, strong, worthy, and capable in our lives. Also, getting the help we need from others is much easier when we hold onto the primary responsibility for our state of wellness, versus projecting our needs onto others and trying to control or manipulate people into helping us.
There’s a huge difference between a conscious ask and an unconscious demand. NVC preserves freedom, our own and other people’s. It allows people to say yes or no to our requests.
Freedom is very important, a key ingredient of psychological differentiation. Psychological differentiation, becoming an individual while staying in connection, is the cure for codependency, the relationship illness that underlies addiction and many mental health struggles.
Creative Needs-Meeting Exercise Using the Power of Pretend
The following creative journaling exercise can help you get to know your needs in a fun way.
- Start with writing a list of all the things you know you need. Set a timer for 5 minutes, and free write using the stem
- Now look at the NVC list of universal human needs for inspiration. If there is anything you missed in your list, that you recognize you also need, add it on!
I also need mutuality…
I also need self-respect…
I also need to be understood…
- From your list, choose some key zingers that seem especially important and potent today.
Today I especially need rest…
Today I especially need time alone…
Today I especially need self-expression…
- Now the fun part. Pick one need and use your powers of pretend to imagine this need in an over-the-top, ridiculous, fantastical way. Write it out in a paragraph:
Need: encouragement for my creativity
Pretend fantasy of my need getting filled:
I wake up one morning to hear the doorbell ringing. I go to the door & to my great surprise, the person standing outside my door is my musical hero Bob Dylan, as he used to look in the 1970s. I let him in, and he says, “I’m just here to tell you: you got it, kid. I love your songs. You gotta keep going.”
- Having written out a fun fantasy of a need being met, now draw a little picture, sketch, or cartoon, of you receiving this glorious, fun fantasy meeting of your need.
- Somewhere on the drawing, write down 3 words that capture the feeling you get from this fantasy:
- Take a moment to reflect on your ability to meet your own need through using your powers of pretend. What does this show you?
Thanks for reading, friend.