Nonviolent Communication: What are needs in NVC?

In the NVC sense, “needs” are those human longings we all have, and all humans have always had. There isn’t a definitive list of needs and it’s often the subject if conversation among NVC people. There are the pretty obvious physical needs like food, water, air and shelter. Then there are more tenuous ones like connection, kindness, love and being heard. We can survive without having all our needs met, and life will be more wonderful the more our needs are satisfied.

Having needs leads us to strategies to satisfy those needs. We can find ourselves focusing on strategies without being aware of the needs we are trying to fulfill. Awareness of needs may lead us to alternative strategies that have a better chance of fulfilling the need.

Sometimes, we can confuse strategies and needs and find ourselves holding tight to a strategy. I might say “I need a car”. Now having a car is clearly not a need — not all humans need a car, so having a car is a strategy. What need might I be wanting to satisfy by owning a car? I might say “I need to get to work”. Again, work isn’t a need it’s a strategy as not all humans have a need for work. If I keep unwrapping the strategy I’ll probably go through the strategy of money and end up with the needs of food & shelter and other needs having money allow me to fulfil.

Here’s a  list of needs from the Centre for Nonviolent Communication.

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