I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, I accomplished a lot in my life through force, “willpower,” punishments and rewards, and deadlines (emphasis on the “dead” part, which is how I often felt at the finish line of projects and degrees).
I’d been conditioned to think that coercion, from myself or others, was the only way anyone got anything done—that left to our own devices we’d squander our lives and do absolutely nothing to contribute to the world—so I dominated myself and allowed others to dominate me into doing the things I loved until I no longer remembered what it felt like to love them.
I stayed in jobs, in relationships, in places, in situations, as long as there was even a shred of enjoyment. I was praised for my “stick-to-it-tiveness”—my tenacity, loyalty, and dedication. And I was pretty chronically angry and depressed from sticking with strategies that didn’t actually touch my needs.
Nonviolent Communication offers a vision that we all share the same universal human needs, and that there are infinite strategies to meet each of those needs. Violence arises when we lock into one strategy (one approach, one person, one group of people) to meet our needs, even if that strategy overpowers other parts of ourselves, other needs we have, other people, or our environment.
What would life be like if, instead, we put all of our needs on the table and came up with a creative set of strategies that touched all those needs?
What if we took our needs more seriously than our strategies?