Have you ever felt that someone deserved the anger you felt toward them? Because they did something particularly annoying, inconsiderate, or self-absorbed? I know the feeling. But there’s more to the story.
Underneath all unpleasant emotions, we have needs that aren’t being met in that moment. It sounds too simple to be all-encompassingly true, but it is. The kicker is that underneath all pleasant emotions, we have needs that are being met in that moment. Simple and profound, like all of my favorite things.
We have an unfortunately popular term for people whose needs conflict with our own, especially when there has been a pattern of this conflict with a specific individual. We call those people “needy.” But is that a truly accurate assessment? What about us? We are the ones who are irritated because our own needs are not being met. Aren’t then we “needy” as well?
No. We are not needy, and the other people aren’t either. Or, said in another way, everyone is “needy,” meaning, we all have needs. What matters is how we go about getting them met, and how we behave in situations when they are not being met.
Irritation arises when a need is not met. Irritation continues when the need continues to not be met. When another person expresses a need, or takes action to meet their need that conflicts with our own, we project our irritation onto that individual. Perhaps we need space, ease, or effectiveness, and the other person needs communication, movement, or beauty. Just a case of conflicting needs – no need to diagnose anyone as “needy.”
What I’m putting out here is a game-changer for human relationships. If we can learn to identify our needs in any given moment, and help others do the same, we can enter new realms of conscious and effective relationship navigation, eliminating painful interactions and creating more fulfilling connection.
To put this awareness into practice, stop for a moment whenever you feel bothered – this will often be in the midst of an interaction with another human, but it can also occur when alone. Ask yourself, “Which basic need of mine is not being met right now?”
Here are the seven main categories of Universal Human Needs (according to the Center for Non-Violent Communication):
– Peace (Internal & External)
– Physcial Well-Being
There is a list of words underneath each of these headings that capture nuanced aspects of the universal human motivators. Just working with the seven listed here will be a great start. For the full list, contact me or go to cnvc.org.
After you have identified the need or two of yours that is not being met in a moment of irritation, it is time to decide what to do about it. It is beyond the scope of this post to train you in Non-Violent Communication, or what I call Responsible Sending, but work with this:
- Decide if you will take an action on your own without speaking to the other person(s) involved, or if you will say something.
- If you choose the former, do so swiftly and effectively without huffing, puffing, sighing, or otherwise leaking unclean energy.
- If you decide to speak, the same rules apply, and use “I” messages.
- “I” messages take ownership of your unmet need, do not contain any blaming or labeling, and usually include a very specific behavioral request.
Examples of “I” messages:
- “I need some quiet time right now to finish this email. Would you be willing to take your call in the other room?”
- Or, “I need to ease of entry in this room. Would you be willing to display the artwork on the other wall?”
- Or, “I need to get both items on my list accomplished this afternoon. Would you be willing to walk alone today?”
Get the drift?
There is more to Non-Violent Communication and how it contributes to the HeartMind Toolkit for effective and fulfilling relationships. I highly recommend reading Marshall Rosenberg’s seminal book, Non-Violent Communication, and checking out their website at cnvc.org.
In the meantime, I wish you clarity and celebration of met needs.
Amy Jay (Yaj)