Effective communication is at the heart of strong relationships. Our parenting and teaching work with children is dependent on vital relationships and communications.
Effective communication is based on two essential skills:
- The ability to express honestly how we are, and
- The ability to understand from others how we are, all without giving or hearing blame or criticism.
Honest expression about who we are occurs when we connect our feelings with our needs and choices for our behavior. Understanding from others how they perceive us requires that we seek to discover what they are observing, feeling, needing and requesting from us.
What happens when needs are not met? Communication can come into conflict when needs are unfulfilled. Unmet needs can lead to feelings that we consider negative–anger, confusion, disappointment, frustration, hopelessness, irritation, sadness, loneliness and embarrassment, to name only a few.
We should use negative feelings as a wake-up call to understand that our needs are not being met.
Using the following phrase can help us connect feelings to needs, allowing us to move forward in a way that embraces life instead of being bogged down in life-alienating emotions:
I feel (negative emotion) because I need or want (spiritual or physical need).
Use these lists of feelings and emotions to answer your wake-up call.
For a list of feelings, positive and negative, see Marshall Rosenberg’s book, Nonviolent Communication, pages 44-45.
Spiritual and Physical Needs
- Emotional safety
- To choose dreams, goals and values
- Create self-worth
- Create meaning
- Create an authentic person
- Create personal integrity
- Protection from danger
- Sexual expression
Fully understanding what we need makes the next step in our communication easier–asking for what we need to enrich life.
Requesting what we need not only enriches our own life, but also adds value to all life on this planet.
In the big picture, requesting what we need is not a selfish act; our requests to improve our lives improve the world.