Needs are the motivation for every single thing we do. They are the “life energy” that drives us.

Needs are therefore key to understanding ourselves and other better, and to finding happiness in life.

Most of the problems we have in life are because the things we’re doing (the “strategies” we’re using) aren’t actually meeting our needs – often because we’re not aware of precisely what needs are actually in play at the time. We’re shooting in the dark. Once we know what the needs are, we can be much more effective in finding ways to fulfill them.

There are countless strategies to meet any need – it’s never tied to just one person, place or thing! We may have preferred strategies, but there are always others. That is, we can always fill our “needs tanks” in many ways. Don’t let them get bone dry just because your preferred strategy isn’t available right now!

Any time we’re feeling stuck, it’s usually because we have a fixed idea of what we think we want (i.e. a particular strategy), and we think that’s the ONLY way we’re going to get our needs met. When we become clear on the actual need, it becomes clear that there are potentially millions of ways to meet any need. It’s no-one’s “job” to meet your needs – our needs exist in US, and can be met by many people. You may have a preferred strategy/person, but there are always more options if we’re willing to look.

Needs-awareness improves communication

Because these needs are universal (common to ALL people), we can usually connect with someone (and ourselves) much better if we can understand the needs underneath their (and our own) behaviours. That is, awareness of needs is inherently connecting.

We are much more likely to be heard (and therefore, to get our needs met, if we can communicate at the level of needs, rather than strategies. That is, tell the other person what need we’re trying to meet, and how we’d most like it met, and how that will feel for us, rather than just telling them what we want them to do differently. This leads to so much more willingness from the other person!

Why is to so hard to embrace the concept of needs?

People sometimes want to reject the idea that they have needs, thinking it will make them “needy”. It’s actually not possible to not have needs – they exist within us as a fundamental part of who we are. So what happens is that they just try to ignore the needs. And, it turns out that what we mean by “needy” is more about being demanding, and insisting on a particular person/strategy – it’s nothing to do with the needs themselves. In fact, awareness of our needs means that we can find more and better strategies for meeting them, therefore reducing our “neediness” greatly!

People also ask, but isn’t it selfish to meet my needs? Hell no! It’s only selfish when I’m wanting to meet my needs at other people’s expense. And when we do that, it never truly meets our need anyway. NVC teaches us to find ways to meet (or at least, consider) all needs, thereby negating the entire concept of selfishness.

Helpful notes

If finding a need brings anger, there’s probably a deeper need!! (explained here)

Rather than compromise, we want to look for an actual shift in willingness. Being aware of needs can cause this shift. For example, if my partner wants me to do the dishes, and I see that as an attempt to control me, or think that they’re trying to to make me do more than my fair share, then I’ll be annoyed and resistant. However, if my partner helps me to understand the needs underneath their desire for me to do the dishes – they’re wanting support and a sense of teamwork, and when they get those, they feel really happy – then I might be genuinely motivated to contribute to their well being.