Name Your Need

In recent months, my wonderful friend (and mother-outlaw) has been intensely studying the philosophies and practices of one Marshall B Rosenberg.  Among other things, Marshall is most known for his work in the area of Non-Violent Communication and has won numerous ‘peace’ awards for his contributions.

I too have this book, and it is chock full of helpful principles and concepts. But, each time I pick it up to read it, I find I am not able to read it in order – and so have opted for a more “chunked down” approach.  I find this works as it enables me to experience it a bit at time.  Especially when the concepts are full on and pretty much every time that I test a new theory or idea a flood of like experiences rush in to prove/disprove the concept.  Lucky me.

So the ‘chunked down’ section I am digesting at present is on “Needs”. This is a key foundation principle and it’s goes something like this:   One of the key reasons people get angry/hurt/upset is because their needs are not getting met and/or acknowledged.

Needs can vary from Connection (belonging, closeness, empathy, warmth, trust), Physical Well-being (air, food, shelter, sleep), Honesty (integrity, authenticity), Play (joy, humour), Peace (beauty, harmony, inspiration), Autonomy (choice, freedom, space, spontaneity) and Meaning (awareness, challenge, growth, hope, effectiveness).  See here for full list.

What I also like about this is the connection and similarity to me ol’ mate Maslow and his famous Hierarchy of Needs.  Old school I know, but there’s so much of the good stuff in his theories (particularly the learning on Self Actualisation and Self Transcendence – be still my beating heart) .  Maslow basically points out that the higher needs are only achievable when the more fundamental, lower needs are met.  Here’s a visual for reference:

File:Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.svg

This all sounds pretty simple right? It’s not, it’s absolutely HUGE!  However, it totally makes sense and I’ve been taking it for a test drive to see what happens.  Since doing this, things have become both a hell of a lot clearer and a hell of a lot more confusing.

What’s for sure is how very vulnerable people are.  We rarely express our needs clearly and instead skate around the outside.  Typically, when the average Jo gets a bit worked up, she/he almost completely focusses on what they don’t want (for some reason this is easier) and the thinking is caught up in labeling the “wrongness of others” that are involved (aka blame, abdication of responsibility, guilt). We lose sight of what we really do want and need.  So true!

How much easier would it be if, before we  start conversations we take a moment to understand our own intentions and needs and then communicate them:  “My needs here are XYZ” and allowed for others to do the same?   Hell, I don’t even have those conversations with myself, let alone others. Maybe it’s time to start.

Also apparent is how hard it is to “unlearn” behaviours and thinking patterns.  It would be fabulous to read this kind of thing and lock it in and off you trot – the ‘New Improved You”.  Yeah right, I wish.

The messy bit for me at the moment is around compromise.  Especially when there are conflicting needs at play.   For example, one person may have a high need for family togetherness, while the other has a need for space and some alone time.  Working through this as there has to be a better way than My Way or the Highway.  There just has to be.

And, if all else fails, I’m defaulting to John Lennon’s Wisdom “All You Need is Love”  Right on brother.

And that’s where I’m at the moment.  As with everything, it’s a work in progress so please feel free to share your thoughts, learnings and reflections too.