Every behaviour has a need behind it.
Our most fundamental needs in relationship are that we matter, that we are safe and stay connected.
We all have needs, there is no conflict. Needs are needs. The problem is the solutions we want others to live in order to get our needs met. There is a never a conflict of needs, only a conflict of solutions!
Within my family we have members who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated. This may sound familiar! Both worry about the other. The vaccinated want the unvaccinated to get vaccinated (solution) out of fear, worry and concern for their health and safety (need). The unvaccinated want the vaccinated not to take the booster or get vaccinated at all out of fear, concern and worry. The needs in this case are safety; physical safety, and autonomy. Each family member has the same need, yet the solutions cause conflict. The solution for the vaccinated is for the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. The unvaccinated are worried about the implications on their health so their solution is to not be vaccinated. We generate solutions as a way of trying to relieve our fears.
It makes for difficult conversations, as you may well have experienced in the last couple of years! For some exclusion has been the solution that was chosen for them.
Furthermore solutions are often embedded in bigger values differences which makes it even difficult to resolve.
What if we could find a different way of resolving conflict? What if we could enhance our relationships whilst resolving conflict? Remember there is only a conflict of solutions NOT needs.
Let’s take a look at needs and for a moment and expand Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Max Neef’s Theory of Needs. Needs can be grouped into a number of categories such as:
- Safety and Health
- Rest and Play
- Physical well being
Within each category there are more needs. For instance under:
- Safety and Health
Now come back to the example above. Let’s unpack a new way of negotiating that strengthens the relationship, the self esteem of each other and resolves conflict. Win – Win!
- Define the Needs – in the family example above the need for the unvaccinated is Physical Health and Safety. The need for the vaccinated is Physical Health and Safety, and freedom/autonomy. (see a needs chart below to help decipher the needs)
- Brainstorm Solutions – often we impose solutions onto the other, rather than thinking beyond our own ideas. Many couples consist of one person vaccinated and one unvaccinated, how did they do that? Discussion, talking, respect. So let’s simply generate as many crazy ideas as you can think of do not censor them. Get the butcher paper out, and write them down, as we usually can’t stay auditory very long, as our nervous systems get overwhelmed. Go visual and jot down all those random ideas. Remember the ideas are not up for discussion yet! Kids are great at this as they are creative and don’t censor ideas.
- Evaluate Solutions – keep in mind it has to met both parties needs. This is a no-lose approach. So the solution has to work for both. Evaluate, compare and analyse until they fit. You may have to come back to this if things get heated.
- Choose Solution(s) – There can be more than one solution that meets both needs.
- Implement Solution(s) – decide together when and how the solutions mutually chosen are going to be implemented, with a date to check in to see if the solutions are still working for both.
- Check Results – make a date to check in and how each other is going with the decisions that were made, is it still working for each and satisfying that need trying to get met?
Now your turn.
Find a conflict and take the time to discover the needs trying to be met. (see the Needs sheet below). If uncertain and feel as though you have come up with the solution, then ask yourself this question: What would that then give me? And then what would that then give me? Keep going until you find the need.
If the issue is with someone else you may like to try to listen for needs in the other and feed them back. ie Is it that you value…..safety, fairness? It sounds like physical health is really important to you?
An important first step is self empathy. How can I begin to give myself this need, rather than expecting the other to give me it?
I remember years ago, I had been a single mum for quite awhile as there was no shared care, due to my son’s dad working away. It was really hard. I worked interstate teaching, juggling being a mum, dealing with a toxic relationship and finding someone to care for my son when I was away, as I did not have any family where we lived. There was a point I really wanted my ex-partner to acknowledge what I had done, all the effort I had put into raising our son. Knowing our, at times difficult relationship, I decided I probably wasn’t going to get that from him. So I stopped and investigated what the need was that was trying to be met. In this case it was ‘acknowledgement’ I decided I would give that to myself, and really appreciated how much it had taken to be a single mum. That part of me that was yearning for acknowledgement was deeply met and delighted. Years later at our son’s high school graduation my ex-partner sided up to me and said “you’ve done an amazing job”. Bingo there it was. My internal acknowledgement reflected outwards. I still smile to this day as to the effect of first giving myself self empathy.
Can you give yourself what you are wanting the other to give you first?
Then can you offer empathy to the other, to discover what their needs are that are trying to be met? Developing the ability to stand back and negotiate based on needs is adulting, is promoting respect, mutuality, fairness, justice and sensitivity, elements within which relationships thrive within.