The central insight of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is its focus on universal human needs. But what are basic needs? For those new to NVC, it’s often difficult to distinguish fundamental needs from emotions, judgments, and strategies. As a result, a list of needs can be particularly helpful in understanding and practicing NVC. If there’s one core NVC tool, this is it.
You can find many different versions of needs lists (also called inventories) on the Web. However, most are neither accessible nor mobile-friendly. So, if you’re like me, when on your phone looking at such pages, you end up frustrated — squinting, scrolling awkwardly, and pinching in and out. Or if you’re vision-impaired, there’s a fair chance you can’t see these lists at all.
To address this, I’ve created a reasonably comprehensive list using accessible, responsive Web design techniques. The list scales from one column for small mobiles to six columns for large desktop monitors, and scrolling on small mobiles is simple.
Background to Version 1
The list I personally used the most in the past was Bay NVC’s. Thus, in March, 2021, I began with their basic structure, adapting it to my Buddhist understanding of humanity. Then I went through other major NVC lists, adding terms that seemed not to be included in Bay NVC’s. (I say “seemed” because semantics played a role in this.) Finally, I added a few needs such as “Quiet” and “Focus/Traction” that, in this age of the “attention economy,” (when we are more bedeviled than ever before by distractions) seem particularly necessary.
As of May 2022, with the help of two long-time NVC facilitators, I’ve made a number of content updates to the original list (v.1). The majority of changes are the result of recently learning about Gregg Kendrick’s NVC Needs List. The most significant are:
- Following his lead, I replaced the “Meaning” category with “Vitality” and then expanded and reorganized some of the needs accordingly.
- I added “Generosity” as a need. In Buddhism, “dana” (which is usually translated as “generosity”) is the first of the all-important “Perfections” (“Paramitas“). So I’ve added “Generosity/Giving” to the list.
- Over the last year, some friends have asked about adding “Justice” to the needs list, but I’ve been uncomfortable with this. Then I saw “Justice (Restorative)” on Gregg Kendrick’s list. The one risk with adding this is people not knowing what “restorative justice” actually means. But fortunately Puddle Dancer Press has a clear definition of restorative justice. — contrasting it with “punitive justice.” The essence of this definition is: “Restorative justice… is about restoring relationships and repairing the damage that was done. Restorative justice is about healing, personal responsibility, and transformation.” While the remainder of the article is focused on criminal behaviors, the definition works more broadly, e.g., for sexual misconduct.