Developing a Vocabulary of Needs

In the process of learning Nonviolent Communication (NVC), I previously described my difficulties in articulating my feelings. Similarly, I also had difficulty articulating my needs, and even a great deal of confusion as to what they are. For example, I thought I had a need for money, but actually money is a strategy for getting needs met, such as security, shelter or sustenance. If I had assurances that these needs would be met, I would not have a need for that much money. So I have compiled the following chart of words to help me develop my vocabulary in describing specific needs. It is based on the work of Manfred Max-Neef, a Chilean economist, who worked for many years on the problem of development in Third world countries. He noticed that "conventional development" often led to increasing levels of poverty, debt and environmental degradation and urged a change towards "Human Scale Development" of local economies based on the satisfaction of nine fundamental human needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. He measured the success of a development plan by how well it satisfied these nine needs for the community in question. In my table, I have changed some of his labels to fit more into the language I might more comfortably use my own everyday speech, such as when I say:

"I am needing _________"

Table 4: Basic Needs


Maslow ; Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Marshall Rosenberg interview
CNVC Needs List
Radical Compassion:Needs Mandela (.pdf)
NVC Academy Needs List
Edwards Personal Preference Schedule
Manfred Max-Neef: Fundamental Human Needs
Tony Robbins-----(Video)
Developing a Vocabulary of Feelings
Basic Model of NVC
Roget's Online Thesaurus
The Five Freedoms
Needs vs. strategies

Notes: Everyone has the same needs! Everything I do or say is an attempt to get my own needs met. Everything anyone else does or says is also an attempt to get their needs met. Two people in conflict cannot get their needs met optimally if each does not know what the others needs are.

Last updated 2 September 2008

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