The Power of I Feel and I Need: Effective Communication Strategies for Better Relationships
Effective communication is the cornerstone of healthy relationships, romantic, friend, familial, or professional. While we may all recognise the importance of clear and open dialogue, putting this into practice can be challenging. However, there are two simple yet powerful phrases that can transform the way we communicate: “I feel” and “I need.”
I first became aware of communicating with “I feel” and “I need” statements when I learned about Nonviolent Communication (NVC). NVC is a communication framework and philosophy developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, a psychologist and mediator, in the 1960s. Rosenberg designed NVC to improve the quality of communication, promote empathy, and resolve conflicts in a nonviolent and constructive manner. This approach has been widely adopted in various contexts, including personal relationships, workplaces, and conflict resolution settings. These days, I regularly use the feelings and needs cards from the NVC shop in my work with clients to help them work out what they feel and need.
Key components of Nonviolent Communication include:
Observation: NVC emphasises the importance of making clear, factual observations without judgment or evaluation. Instead of labelling or criticising, you describe the specific behaviour or action that affects you.
Feelings: NVC encourages people to express their feelings honestly and authentically. This involves recognising and articulating your emotions. rather than suppressing or denying them. Feelings are natural responses to your needs and events around you.
Needs: NVC highlights that behind every feeling, there are underlying human needs or values. These needs include physical needs (e.g., food, safety), emotional needs (e.g., love, respect, empathy), and psychological needs (e.g., autonomy, connection). Identifying and acknowledging these needs is crucial for understanding your own and others’ motivations.
Requests: Instead of making demands or using manipulative language, NVC encourages clear, specific, and actionable requests. Base these requests on your needs, with the intention to express what you would like from others to meet those needs.
The NVC process typically follows this structure:
- Observation: Start by describing the situation or behaviour that triggers your feelings and needs. Use non-judgmental, factual language.
- Feeling: Express how you feel in response to the observation. Be honest and vulnerable about your emotions.
- Need: Identify the underlying need or value connected to your feelings. What unmet need contributes to your emotional response?
- Request: Clearly and respectfully communicate what you would like from others to address your needs or improve the situation. Make sure your request is specific, actionable, and open to negotiation.
By using NVC, you can create a more empathetic and open dialogue with others, leading to better understanding and resolution of conflicts. NVC encourages you to move away from blame and criticism, towards a shared understanding of needs and solutions. Various fields apply this approach, including conflict resolution, mediation, parenting, education, and leadership, to promote healthier, more compassionate interactions and relationships.
“I feel” and “I need” are the beginnings of NVC. Continue reading to explore how you can use these phrases as effective communication tools to foster understanding, empathy, and ultimately, better relationships.
Understanding the Power of “I Feel”
“I feel” is a phrase that encourages self-expression and vulnerability. It is a way to communicate your emotions and thoughts without placing blame on others. By starting a sentence with “I feel,” you take ownership of your feelings, making it easier for others to empathise with you.
Expressing emotions: When you say, “I feel happy,” “I feel frustrated,” or “I feel hurt,” you share your emotional state with others. This vulnerability allows you to connect deeply and for them to respond compassionately.
Avoiding blame: “I feel” statements shift the focus away from blaming others. Instead of saying, “You make me angry,” you can say, “I feel angry when this happens.” This subtle shift helps prevent defensiveness and promotes understanding.
Encourage empathy: When you express your feelings using “I feel,” you invite others to empathise with you. They are more likely to respond with care and support, creating a positive atmosphere for communication.
Utilising “I Need” for Effective Communication
“I need” is a phrase that helps you communicate your desires, expectations, and boundaries clearly. It empowers you to express what you require from others in a constructive and non-confrontational manner.
Clarifying expectations: By saying, “I need your help with this project by Friday,” you set clear expectations. This reduces the chances of misunderstandings and disappointments.
Establishing boundaries: “I need some alone time to recharge” communicates a need for personal space without making others feel rejected. It promotes respect for individual boundaries.
Requesting support: When you express your needs using “I need,” you are more likely to receive the help and support you require. It enables others to understand what you are going through and how they can assist you.
The Synergy of “I Feel” and “I Need” in Communication
To achieve effective communication, you can combine “I feel” and “I need” in your conversations:
Instead of saying, “You never listen to me,” try, “I feel unheard when I share my thoughts. I need your attention and support.”
Rather than saying, “You always prioritise work over our relationship,” say, “I feel neglected when we spend too much time apart. I need us to make more quality time for each other.”
Instead of accusing a colleague by saying, “You never contribute to the team,” say, “I feel overwhelmed with the workload. I need everyone’s input to ensure the team’s success.”
Effective communication is the key to building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships. “I feel” and “I need” are two simple, yet powerful phrases that can transform the way you interact with others. By expressing your emotions and needs in this manner, you foster understanding, empathy, and cooperation. So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where communication is essential, remember the power of “I feel” and “I need.” These small changes can lead to more fulfilling and harmonious relationships in all aspects of your life.
This video clearly explains how you can use NVC in your life.