My clients usually come to me because they’ve been working hard to take care of everyone else’s needs while neglecting their own.

In order to learn how to meet their needs, I’ve found that it’s incredibly helpful to get clear about what needs are in the first place.

So, what are needs?

I like the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) needs framework initially developed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s.

In the NVC framework, needs are the fundamental motivators for our actions, our deepest human longings.

Needs are why we do what we do. Needs are universal qualities that contribute to a sense of fulfillment and wholeness.

To get a better sense of what your needs might be, I invite you to read through this list from the Center for Nonviolent Communication.[1]

acceptance safety authenticity awareness
affection security integrity celebration of life
appreciation stability presence challenge
belonging support PLAY clarity
cooperation to know and be known joy competence
communication to see and be seen humor consciousness
closeness to understand and be understood PEACE contribution
community trust beauty creativity
companionship warmth communion discovery
compassion PHYSICAL WELL-BEING ease efficacy
consideration air equality effectiveness
consistency food harmony growth
empathy movement/exercise inspiration hope
inclusion rest/sleep order learning
intimacy sexual expression AUTONOMY mourning
love safety choice participation
mutuality shelter freedom purpose
nurturing touch independence self-expression
respect/self-respect water space stimulation
spontaneity to matter

My clients also find it helpful to distinguish between needs and strategies.

Whereas a need is a reason we engage in an activity, a strategy is an action we take to meet our needs.

For example, let’s say you have a need for greater physical wellbeing. You could choose many strategies to meet this need—practicing yoga, playing with your kids, or going to the gym.

To meet your needs for contribution, you might join organizing efforts in your local community, work at a nonprofit, or share your knowledge through a blog.

When you learn what you really need—and distinguish between needs and strategies—you identify ways to meet your needs that you may never have considered and you gather the information you need to create a work-life you love.

To learn more about Nonviolent Communication, I highly recommend two books:

Nonviolent Communication (A Language of Life), by Marshall Rosenberg and Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication, by Oren Jay Sofer. I frequently recommend these two books to my clients, and they transform their communication as a result.


[1] (c) 2005 by Center for Nonviolent Communication. Website: Email: Phone: +1.505-244-4041.


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