When talking about compassionate communication (or non-violent communication) you will always hear about the 4 steps

– Observation
– Emotion
– Needs
– Request

There’s another part, though, which I find really important to understand and it just crossed  my path again some days ago.

I was invited by a married couple, where I have had face-to-face communication with each of the partners before. I was presented the following situation:

The couple decided to reserve a free day together every once in a while since they both work a lot and don’t get to spend much quality time together. That day had been the day before I was invited to this mediation and it didn’t turn out the way they had wanted it to be. Eventually they both were very disappointed with the outcome of their shared day and were fighting about who was to blame.

I will spare you the details here on what I did (-> I will answer to questions, though, in the comments) but get to the point of this blog-entry.
After both partners realized that the other partner was just as disappointed as they were themselves we went to the unfulfilled needs and to their great surprise we worked out that acutally both were missing the same needs for that day – they both wished for togetherness and rest.
At this point they were not only surprised but confused because if they both were longing for the same needs – how could a day like that happen? And here’s my answer:

They simply have different known strategies to fulfill these needs. Those needs have a different meaning to them.
A simple example?
If I want to fulfill my need for calmness, rest, peacefulness I might jump into my old Mercedes and take a ride, windows and sunroof open, no radio playing, just cruising. If my wife wants to fulfill herself the same needs she might get outside into the garden, care for some flowers etc.
It would be a total desaster if we were to assume that however we fulfill ourselves our needs is the right way to help others fulfill their needs.

The key sentence in my conversation with that couple was: “But honey – what we did really meant togetherness and rest for me, but obviously not for you.”
Once that was clear, the path for future days together was much easier, they worked out a mutual request to plan the days together and make sure that both of their needs are met by the plans they were taking (the strategies they use to fulfill their needs).

Everyone might have the same needs globally – but we weigh them differently, we approach them differently and we might even understand them differently. It is important to understand that my strategies to fulfilling my needs are just that – my strategies.

Warm regards

André Wolff



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