Finding strategies

A frequent sticking point for people is, “OK, so I know my need, now how do I meet it?!”

The first answer to that is always that you need to get to know the need first. We’ve spent a lifetime running about trying to (unknowingly) get our needs met, very often with strategies that just don’t work. So we’re not very clear on exactly what it would look like to have that need met, for US. The book “The 5 Love Languages” describes the 5 most common strategies people tend to use, to meet their needs for love. If you’ve read that, you’ll know that what works to make one person feel loved (eg “gift giving”) does absolutely nothing for another person if their love language is, say, “words of affirmation”. I hypothesize that it’s like that with all the other needs, too.

So, your first port of call with a need is to spend time meditating on, what exactly does that need mean to me? What would it take for me to feel that that need is really, really met?

I first ran into this issue with the need for mattering. At first I had no idea what it even meant to me, just that I wanted it desperately! It took a while of just sitting with it on the back-burner of my mind to realise that it meant, for me, that my feelings and needs were taken into account. And so the first thing that had to happen was for me to know what my feelings and needs were! Thus, the practice of NVC itself, of regularly checking in with my feelings and needs (using the lists to increase my familiarity and scope), and then learning how to ask for those needs to be met, became how I met my need for mattering. Now if someone had tried to tell me prior to that, that my need for mattering would be met by me knowing my needs, that would have made no sense to me at all – I’d have thought I needed other people to tell me I mattered. It turned out that that’s not how it lived in me.

So that’s what I recommend you do. Start with the “beauty of the needs” meditation, to begin to get to know your need, and be willing to spend the time just sitting with it, until it becomes clear how it lives in you, how it longs to be expressed.

Once the need becomes really, really clear in you, then, as Marshall Rosenberg said, “the strategies find us”. I believe what he meant by that is that once we really understand the need, it becomes quite clear how to move forward.

Sometimes you might need to intentionally experiment to work it out – try doing (or asking for) something, and see if it genuinely meets that need in you.

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