Thursday, January 31, 2013

The What and the Why in Human Needs

by Miki Kashtan

Anyone who becomes acquainted with Nonviolent Communication (NVC) quickly learns about the critical role that human needs play in this approach. In my own mind, placing human needs front and center is the core insight around which everything in NVC revolves. This is the aspect of NVC that challenges prevalent theories of human nature; the entry point through which collaboration becomes possible in groups; the engine of the kind of healing that happens through engaging with an empathic presence; the mechanism through which conflict mediation proceeds; and the path to personal liberation. Because of their centrality to my thinking, spiritual practice, and work, I almost invariably refer to human needs in my blog pieces and when I speak.

So I wasn’t surprised that a friend who is not trained in NVC wrote to me with the following question that emerged from his own efforts to write a document relating to human needs.

“I want to include emotional needs on my list. The NVC list that I have seen is long, and I want to know what the mention of ‘basic needs’ means. If we consider, for the moment, that the most basic emotional needs are on the same level as the most basic physical needs (shelter, food, fire, water, air) and that all other needs are ‘useful and beneficial extras,’ what would you consider to be the most basic emotional needs?”

I don’t quite know why it is that this particular question finally got me to realize that with all the writing I’ve been doing about human needs, I’ve never written a piece dedicated to the topic. What an oversight!