Feelings and Needs

The second aspect of our roadmap is that of our feelings and needs. Feelings and emotions arise when our needs are met, or not met. When they are met, we see this as a reward, and experience warm, positive feelings. When our needs are not met, we perceive this as a threat and experience negative feelings and emotions. Negative feelings can have a greater impact on us because we often react more strongly (negatively) to threats than rewards.

When conversations become difficult and result in argument and conflict it usually means we have reacted emotionally. Although the cause appears to be that we have different views to the other person, the real stimulus, that is, what we are reacting to, is that our needs are not being met.

When talking about feelings it helps if we have good vocabulary to express our feelings. The following list of feelings is taken from the Non-Violent Communication (NVC) website.

Feelings when our needs are satisfied

  • Affectionate
  • Engaged
  • Hopeful
  • Confident
  • Excited
  • Grateful
  • Inspired
  • Joyful
  • Exhilarated
  • Peaceful
  • Refreshed

Feelings when our needs are NOT satisfied

  • Afraid
  • Annoyed
  • Angry
  • Aversion
  • Confused
  • Disconnected
  • Disquiet
  • Embarrassed
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Sad
  • Tense
  • Vulnerable
  • Yearning

When talking about feelings and needs it is also useful to think of feelings as the symptom and needs as the cause. It is easy to focus on our feelings and not to take into consideration our underlying needs. While some of us may (or may not) be able to recognise our feelings, including those listed above, few of us have a ready grasp of our basic human needs. Thankfully, quite a bit of research work has been done in this area. The following table of needs is drawn from a number of studies into human needs. The list is divided into the main groupings of needs identified by Abraham Maslow. These are usually known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It was initially proposed by Maslow that needs lower down the hierarchy must be satisfied before individuals can attend to higher needs. He later changed his view, saying that needs at all levels of the hierarchy are attended to at the same time.

The needs that play a part in difficult conversations are usually in the groups of Relatedness, Esteem and Self Actualisation.

Self Actualisation - realisation of potential, meaning, achievement, purpose, creation, autonomy

Esteem - recognition, status, importance, respect from others, fairness, control, competence, privacy, identity

Relatedness - friendships, intimacy, family, community, participation, honesty, attention, understanding, emotional intimacy, affection

Safety - protection, personal security, financial security, health and well-being, play, leisure, peace

Physiological - subsistence, air, water, food, clothing, shelter

We have emphasised the importance of listening during dialogue. Being listened to helps fulfil our fundamental human need of requiring attention, thus producing a positive reaction and helping to build trust.