Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Issue Two: Needs in NVC Consciousness

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

The theme for this issue is NEEDS. In NVC we use the word "needs" to describe a set of intrinsic, universal energies that exist in every human being (e.g. sustenance, trust, understanding).



Moving Beyond Needs as Met or Unmet

by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

In a Level 1 workshop, we explore the Nonviolent Communication concept of needs. The universal nature of needs is the gem of the NVC process developed by Marshall Rosenberg. NVC presents the model that needs are common to of us regardless of age, gender, culture, religion, education, socio-economic status or where we live. This awareness gives me a way to conceptualize the inter-connectedness of humanity, and all of life.

I like to picture my needs as a symphony orchestra. There is an array of instruments, each representing one of my needs. All the instruments are on stage whether they are playing or not, just as my needs are always present inside me whether they are actively engaged in this moment, or not.

My needs are never in conflict with your needs - though our strategies for expressing our needs may conflict - just as the instruments in my internal orchestra are not in conflict with the instruments in your internal orchestra, though sometimes it may take some translation to enjoy the harmony our needs produce.

In many cultures, the word "need" often has a connotation of weakness, unpleasant vulnerability, and desperateness; acknowledging needs may even imply something is lacking within me.

In NVC, needs are understood as the vital energy that makes up our humanness, each human having the same set of universal needs. We come to see that our reactions to events arise out of those needs, not the event itself. For example, sometimes when I call a friend and get their voice mail I feel sad and frustrated because I am wanting connection and empathy and prefer to get it from that person. Sometimes when I call that same friend and get their voice mail I feel relieved because I am wanting ease in conveying a message and didn’t want to take much time. The event was the same, calling a friend and getting their voice mail, but my reaction is different depending on what needs of mine stimulated my calling

Most books based in NVC further explain that feelings we enjoy arise from needs that are "met," and feelings we find unpleasant arise when our needs are "unmet."

As I traveled along my NVC journey I found that thinking of needs as met or unmet did not assist me in creating the quality of connections I was longing for in my relationships. Many times when I followed a classical NVC dialogue form, (Observation, Feeling, Need, Request: OFNR) there was still an implication of wrong-doing. For instance: "When you didn’t call at the time you said you would, I felt frustrated and sad because my needs of connection and consideration were not met. Are you willing to tell me what comes up for you when you hear me say this?"

Though my intention was to use NVC to build connection with others, often they heard that I was blaming them and felt disconnected from me. Admittedly I had the belief that my needs "should" be met.

From this place I was not fully appreciating needs as the living energy inside me that created my humanness. I was holding needs as something that could be met or unmet by another person or situation, which left me un-empowered and frustrated. My experience is that others tend to resist a request made from that energy.

By adding into my process a new step - taking the time to connect to the living energy (the beauty) of a need before making a request - I have experienced a shift to an expansive fullness that others are drawn to and brings me the connection I wanted.
Here is an example of a strategy that works for me to reach this expansive fullness.

  1. Pick a need that seems to be calling for my attention.
  2. Close my eyes and think of a time that need was fully present in my life
  3. Think of where I was, what I could see, hear, smell and touch. Remember who was with me: people, animals, plants and all aspects of the setting.
  4. Make a ‘movie’ of those things within my mind. If I cannot think of a time when that need was fully present, I make one up.
  5. I shift my attention to how my body is doing. I anchor the feelings in my body by paying attention to all the sensations. When I have a clear and tangible experience of the need, I stop thinking of the movie and just feel my body with the need alive in my sensations, in my emotions, and in my mind.
  6. When I am in this space I have a sense of openness and expansiveness. I treasure having that need and naturally find myself wanting everyone else to be connected to that need inside of themselves as well. *

From this place of fullness I can make my OFNR statement and be truly open to however the other person reacts. Because the need is already fully present within me, I am not trying to get anyone else to meet it for me.

Now I can say: "Remembering that you didn’t call at the time you said you would, I feel afraid, sad, and curious because I value connection, consideration and understanding for us both. Are you willing to tell me what comes up for you when you hear me say this?"

I have noticed a major change in my internal energy as a result. I am open to both my authenticity and the other person’s. Instead of trying to find a nicer way to change someone’s behavior I have found a way to deeply connect to myself. This builds an energy that opens my heart to the other, generating the quality of inter-connection I’ve yearned for. I experience a calm centeredness inside of me, from which I can live life with more joy.

* The term "Beauty of Needs" and this exercise first came to me from the NVC Training Institute in their 7-day training "Living Energy Of Needs"; much appreciation to the trainers: Wes Taylor, Towe Widstrand, Susan Skye, and Robert Gonzales. The next U.S. East Coast offering of this training is May 28 – June 4, 2010. FMI

a group using the feelings and needs card decks

Suggestions for Practice:
Grow your experience of the living energy of needs

  • Keep regular appointments with your Empathy Buddy. Shifting the concept of needs met/unmet to needs as a living energy inside you is much easier when our empathy batteries are charged
    (see January 2010 Newsletter).

  • Use Feelings & Needs cards to clarify your inner journey. Pick a need from the deck and practice the exercise from the feature article.

  • Repeatedly practice the somatic exercise described in the feature article.

  • Before you speak, check inside to see if you truly feel curious about the other person’s situation. If not, practice the somatic exercise described in the feature article.

  • Participate in the 2010 NVC Integration Program in Maine. to receive effective support in shifting from the concept of needs met and unmet to the intrinsic beauty of needs.

  • Participate in (or create) an NVC Practice Group in your area. If there is no group in your area and you would like support or suggestions for starting one, please contact the Maine NVC Network.

  • Participate in the NVC Training Institute’s Living Energy Of Needs workshop

Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principle trainer with Open Communication

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clouds seen through an undefined opening, a window or door, with a hole in the clouds through which the blue sky is seen


The Guest House

Jelaluddin Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
For some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.

[ Note from Peggy: changing the last line to "As a guide from within" to me speaks of needs expressing themselves from an NVC perspective.]


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Dear Giraffe,

I understand that it is important to get in touch with my needs when I feel a negative emotion. Is the purpose of that activity (described in feature article) to fulfill the need within myself so that I become less needy and therefore feel better and more able to relate productively to others?
- Jeff from Philadelphia

Dear Jeff,
I would like to reframe a bit of what you wrote. You use the term "negative" emotion. To me all emotions are guides to my needs so they all are important and useful to me.
I’m imagining you are using the word negative to describe unpleasant emotions. If I understand your intent, I would reframe by using either pleasant or unpleasant emotions or perhaps enjoyable and painful emotions. Whether I enjoy the feelings I am having or not, they are positive to me if I use them to discover the needs flowing within me.
As we deepen our NVC journey we also come to reframe the words need and needy. We experience and celebrate ourselves and other humans as needful. We all have the symphony of needs within us. These are not a deficit, they are the energy of our humanness.
If you practice the exercise in the feature article on a regular basis, you may come to experience a shift in your relationship to your symphony of needs and in your relationships with others.
- Pendana ¹

Send your NVC questions to Dear Giraffe with "Dear Giraffe" in the subject line.

¹ Our Giraffe's name is Pendana, which is Swahili for "love one another"

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Celebrations Corner

The Celebrations Corner is a place to publish short accounts of how NVC has enriched your life. Sharing our celebrations with each other is a strategy for building inspiration, hope, and community. Please include your name with your submission, and email us, with "celebration" in the subject line.

"I’m finding working with an empathy buddy extremely helpful.  Before Thanksgiving I was resisting a possible family situation because I was afraid it would be the same as it always was.  My empathy buddy was able to hear what I couldn’t hear: that I was longing for a family gathering that would meet my yearning for connection and meaning. 
With that major insight I was able to participate in creating a gathering that fulfilled those needs fourfold AND surprisingly I was also able to accept the dynamics that were original concerns for me!  I am very grateful for the support that I receive from my empathy buddies."  - Linda Coté-Small, Damariscotta, ME
"What is meeting my needs for self-expression and acknowledgment is using the Feelings and Needs cards in this way:  my NVC partner and I sit at the table together with the cards.  I flip through the Feelings cards and put some down on the table, a bit like solitaire, until I have enough to work with, at the moment.  Then, I flip through the Needs cards and put some down on the Feelings cards, pairing each - or sometimes adding one or more on top of the pair, something like solitaire again.
After the cards are down, I say out loud something about one feeling shown and the need(s) that are attached to that feeling for me now.  It makes it comfortable to me to talk about feelings and needs casually.  Then my NVC partner takes a turn." - Carolyn Pressley, Belfast, ME


Crossword Puzzle

This is a fully interactive online puzzle; we will have a new one each month which relates to the issue's theme.

Upcoming NVC Events

March 10-11, Unity, ME
NVC Level 1

Learn the basics of NVC, empathy and the dialogue process with Peggy Smith, certified NVC trainer.
pdf icon details

March 13 (Snow date: March 14), Augusta, ME
16th Annual Gathering for Changing Maine:
Practicing Nonviolence in Our Daily Lives
and in the World

Presentations on "NVC Empathy for Activists"
& "NVC Restorative Justice Circles"
FMI:email or Larry Dansinger: 207-525-7776

April 20 – 21, Falmouth, ME
Introduction to NVC & Restorative Circles (RC)

This event will introduce participants to the powerful work developed by Dominic Barter in Brazil. Workshop taught by Gina Cenciose, CNVC certified trainer. RC will be the theme of the next issue of Phases Of The Moon newsletter. details

April 30 - May 2, South Tamworth, NH
NVC Level 1

Learn the basics of NVC, empathy and the dialogue process with Peggy Smith pdf icon details

June 5-6, Augusta area
Level 2 - Deepening Our Open Communication Resiliency

Explore the use of power in our communication. Practice staying heart connected when receiving a "No." Practice making clear requests which others can hear as choice. Deepen our connection using EMPATHY to create healing, self-connection and connections to others.
Taught by Peggy Smith, certified NVC trainer. FMI

July 7 thru August 4, Mon & Wed 5-9 pm, University of Maine, Hutchinson Center
PAX 495 Topics in Peace Studies: Sustainable Communication: The Theory And Practice of Nonviolent Communication

This is a 3 credit course, equivalent to a combined Level 1 & Level 2 workshop with Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainer
pdf icon details

Other East Coast Opportunities:

March 21 -28, Richmond, VA
Creating Workplaces Where People Thrive
Successfully Implementing Needs-Based System Change in Businesses and Nonprofits, with Gregg Kendrick

This NVC event with NVC Training Institute will be the only such East Coast offering in 2010.
"The intention within our work is to foster the fullness of needs-based consciousness—the living energy of needs—such that we not only impact the human relationships within the organization but we systemically transform the organizational processes, strategies and structures to be in harmony with this consciousness."

Looking for workshops throughout New England?


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Maine 2010 NVC Integration Program

People eager to integrate NVC into their lives will find this interactive and dynamic nine month program inspiring and effective. These seventeen days spread out over five sessions is unique in New England, and this year it has been located for easier access to participants driving from neighboring states.

The themes for the five sessions are:

Here's what a participant in a previous Integration Program had to say:

"When I started the yearlong NVC program, there was a part of me who had been long ignored yearning and longing for some presence and attention.  I knew that NVC was big for me, but that I was a baby giraffe, needing guidance and companions along the way.  After completing the program with an extra year added by popular request, I feel that I am so much more present and loving both to myself and to others in my life.  I feel so alive!" - Kristi Kirkham, Lincolnville, ME

details and registration

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