Working with needs

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Behind every human action and interaction is a need. An impulse. An urge.

And underneath any conflict, confusion or difficulty is a need that's not being met.

If we can identify our needs, and tune into the needs of others, we create the conditions for understanding, empathy and clarity. 

And this allows us to invest our time and energy in the things that will make life better for ourselves and each other.

In our businesses and communities, people with great intentions are trying to do great work. But often without understanding the need they are trying to meet, or the needs of those around them, they find themselves stuck in recurring patterns, unhealthy conflict and heading towards burnout.

In 15 years of working in organisations, large and small, I've realised that the solution to nearly every problem we face starts with a reconnection to needs. 

These needs cards are one tool for helping individuals and groups identify what really matters, creating instant connection and clarity.

What are needs?

Needs are the universal building blocks of wellbeing.

They drive our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. They are the impulses and urges that drive us to act in the world - whenever we say or do anything, we're expressing an unmet need.

Put simply, if your need is for warmth you may look for a blanket. If your need is for comfort, you might ask a friend if they have time to talk.

There are many different ways to get our needs met (we call these strategies). For warmth you can put on another jumper or turn on the heating, or for comfort you could eat chocolate or hide under your duvet.

Needs are deeply personal and come from within. When you become detached from your needs you experience blame, conflict and confusion.

Blame arises when you look outside of you for the source of a difficult feeling, instead of connecting to the need that's not being met.

Conflict arises when that blame is received as judgement, or when we argue with each other over a strategy, when we're not aware that we have different needs.

Confusion and anxiety arise when we're searching for the right strategy but we've become disconnected from the need we're trying to meet. 

Sadly, blame, conflict and confusion are a common part of most people's lives. This is because we have become used to the idea that the solutions to (and cause of) all our problems lie outside of us. 

They don't. They are the result of our unmet needs.

These Needs Cards are a tool for cutting through blame, conflict and confusion, to get quickly to connection, understanding and clarity.

The models and ideas that inspire the work here are those of Marshall Rosenberg, creator of Nonviolent Communication

The cards on this website were originally inspired by the Grok the World NVC games and materials, available here