Updated: Aug 13
In the book Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg discusses identifying personal needs and how to ask for them of ourselves and of others.
Rosenberg says that there are seven core human needs and that "all judgments are tragic expressions of a need." When we expect things of others, we are expressing our needs, but maybe not directly. Often expectations are stated in a way that hides the need, such as when we invite a friend to go with us to a family function that we are nervous about. We may be needing companionship, but if not expressed directly, the friend might not hear the need.
In a conflict between two people, if one person does not have their need met, both people lose. Rosenberg advocates that all needs can be met, but we often choose not to create space for them or we give up. Rosenberg goes on to say that a "no" is a poor expression of a need. That goes for the phrases "I can't," "I don't want to," "I don't have time," and "It's not possible," as well. Instead of saying "no," Rosenberg suggests we instead say the need that keeps us from saying "yes."
The seven core needs are (a full list is available in the below activity):
When we understand the needs behind our judgments, we can get to the core of what's important to us and work to resolve the need in question, rather than the surface conflict. This will lead to more fulfilling solutions and improved personal well-being.
Here's an activity that Rosenberg offers to help us inventory our needs.
Try This: Three Lists Want to listen and journal? Use this audio track.
List 1: Self-Judgments Make a list of how you talk to yourself when you are less than perfect. For each judgment, what is the stimulus? When I call myself stupid, what need is not being met? HINT: Look at this list of needs if you need help. Follow your gut.
List 2: Judgments of Others Make a second list of the limiting beliefs that occur when you are angry and judging others. When I blame him for his carelessness, what need of mine is not being met?
List 3: Judgments by Others List those things that when others say them to you, you respond defensively or aggressively. This may not be things others have actually said, but rather things that you are worried they might say to you. When I am told my project failed, what might I have done to stimulate this response? When I am told this or when I fear being told this, what need of mine is in question?
Deepen Your Reflection What was a time when you honored a need by creating it for yourself? Perhaps you were lonely and decided to take a break to connect with a friend you haven't spoken to in awhile. What was a time when you asked for a need to be met by someone else (if never, what might that look like)? Perhaps you were feeling overworked and asked for help on a project from a team member or manager.
If you're a person who tends to worry a lot, try this activity from The Worry Trick. When a new worry comes up, grab your notebook and write down all of the "what if" questions that come up for you. Get them all out! Now try this for the next worry that comes up. Over time, you may realize that the same "what if's" come up for you again and again. See if you can name the need behind that "what if." Now, reframe the situation. Focus on "what is" instead of "what if."
This week, notice a need that you have and ask for it of yourself or from someone else.
Ways to ask others for our needs:
Start with Curiosity When we feel the need to advocate or defend, instead, ask for more information to clarify what may be happening for the other person. I perceive that you [name the behavior you see or perception of their feeling], could you clarify what's happening or what's important to you?
Use an "I Statement." When you [their specific behavior], I feel [your feeling that results] because the story or perception I take away is [your perception]. What I need is [your need]. What if we try [proposed solution]?
I Want/I Don't Want (from the book Crucial Conversations) I want you to know that I value you thinking of me when it comes to this new project. I don't want to diminish the importance of supporting this work. I have a need for time balance and want to be sure that my current projects have what they need before turning my attention here. What are your thoughts?
STATE (from the book Crucial Conversations) Share Your Facts (and only the facts) Susan, yesterday you sent an email discussing feedback about my project to my manager Joe. I was not included on this email. Tell Your Story (your interpretation and feelings that resulted) When that happened, I felt that you (Susan) did not trust me enough to give me the feedback directly, and I was worried about disciplinary action from my manager. Ask for Others' Paths Could you tell me what was going on for you? I have a need for trust and transparency, and I'd like to create conditions that enable both of us to share feedback openly and directly. ---------- Talk Tentatively (assume noble intent from the other person) Encourage Testing (if you can't agree, continue to offer options)
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