Needs vs. Strategies

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Nobody wants to be seen as needy – yet everyone has needs. The negative connotation of the word ‘needy’ blocks the view upon what’s important: If we didn’t have needs, there would hardly be a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Needs are the driving factor and cause of our actions. Each of our actions aims at meeting one or more needs of ours – which doesn’t mean that need fulfillment will necessarily happen in the end.

Needs as defined in Nonviolent Communication are universal. This means: Every person has every need there is, no matter how met or unmet, big or small they might be at a given moment. With this comes a great advantage: Whenever we communicate on the level of needs it quickly becomes apparent what we share as humans rather than what sets us apart.

A few examples for needs would be freedom, autonomy, community, support, cooperation, security, and appreciation

As opposed to needs the strategies we use to meet those needs are highly individual. Here we come across great sociocultural, regional or simply personal differences. An example: Everyone has the need for relaxation. But while one man finds relaxation while lying on the couch reading a book, his wife may find it while hiking. For his brother it may be totally relaxing when he can peacefully swim his laps in the pool.

Conflicts therefore don’t arise on the level of needs. They arise on the level of strategies. And this is where we linger a lot of the time without even knowing the difference. The favourite strategies of another person can get on our nerves, bewilder, or even frighten us. Therefore it helps to focus on the need behind those strategies in the case of conflict. It helps to see other people more clearly and more deeply, because we can always find their need within ourselves as well.

At the same time we can make it easier for people to support us in meeting our needs, when we clearly name them. By expressing why something is important to us we create connection with other people. And that is all that NVC is about really: honest and appreciative connection

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