Once a week, a group of people wanting to learn and practice a new way of communicating, gather in Cape Town. This new consciousness can be called Nonviolent Communication or Compassionate Communication and was developed by Marshall Rosenberg.
Occasionally someone will say: “I have no needs.”
Nonviolent Communication sees needs (you might prefer to think of them as longings or values) as the core life energy that animates us and sustains us. When people say: “I have no needs” what they probably mean is either that all their needs are met in the moment or that they are too ashamed, guilty or embarrassed to say what their needs are. Every living thing on the planet has needs. A plant needs sunlight, food and water and love. Mammals need food, water, love, movement. You get the picture.
Most of us have been conditioned to think that needs are a ‘bad’ thing because growing up, our needs were often perceived as a burden or an inconvenience. We all know that no one wants to be around a ‘needy’ kid, right? And people have asked me: surely this emphasis on feelings and needs is self-indulgent and self-absorbed?
Like Marshall, I believe the contrary is true: someone who is conscious of what she is feeling and needing and is aware that she alone is responsible for communicating her needs, is usually able to make a clear request to the people she thinks might be able to contribute to her. The person who is unaware of what needs underlie his unpleasant feelings, is much more likely to suppress, manipulate or create drama in a misguided attempt to get his needs met. He is much less likely to be able to move from seeing himself as a victim of circumstances to becoming a creator of his own solutions.
Here is an example of an exercise we have done in our practice group which has addressed needs or longings that have been unmet for a long time in the participants.
“I see and acknowledge how much you have contributed to our family. I know that you needed more support as a mother and I wish I could have given that to you.” said one of the men in the circle to Olivia. It felt nourishing to hear that, Olivia shared.
Then each one in the group took turns to say to Jess: “I trust that you are smart and capable enough to deal with any situation that arises! “ Jess said she felt calmer hearing that.
These were the words that Olivia and Jess had requested to hear from the group. Words that they had never heard coming from the hearts and mouths of the people they longed to hear them from. But the effect was that at least some of their longings for support and trust were met by hearing these words, even though they were from other people.
Breathe and take a moment to be curious about the needs present for you right now.
By Samantha Wittenberg