A65 Working With Need Conflicts : A method of dealing with situations which our needs conflict with those of others

We have already mentioned a number of possible conflicts which can evolve because we have different needs or different ways of satisfying our needs. We unfortunately seldom communicate very clearly and objectively in these cases and this lack of effective communication adds to the problem.

A classic example is a couple I remember who were married for about 40 years and when given the opportunity to discuss things more openly, the husband mentioned to his wife that he was hurt when she made the sound of clearing her throat when he was talking to others. He interpreted that she was rejecting him with that sound. She was taken back by his interpretation and explained that she made that sound because she was agreeing with what he was saying.

That is forty years of misunderstanding, simply because they never communicated about it.

Relationship problems are 95 % need conflicts and 5% values conflicts. Even when values are involved, the actual conflict arises out of the our need for the other to believe or behave according to our values.

A. Learning to express needs

We first must learn to discover what our needs are before we can express them to others.

As we have not been trained to understand our needs and also fear very much expressing them, our job is to clarify what our actual needs are behind our:

1. complaints

2. criticism

3. withdrawal

4. refusal to cooperate

5. reactions

6. conflicts

7. games we play

8. competitiveness

9. sermons, and teachings

10. aggressiveness

These and a wide variety of other behaviors are mechanisms which we adopt when our needs are not being fulfilled. We complain or criticize, or withdraw when our needs are endangered. These needs might be biological, material, emotional, mental, social, professional, or spiritual.

Look at the list of ways to express accusations, complaints or criticism as needs in the previous chapter. (answers to question 2 of the first questionnaire.)

The following questionnaire (fig. 10) may help us clarify our needs.



1. Make a list of your various needs i.e. Material, physical, emotional, mental, social, professional, spiritual etc.

2. Rate each need according to the degree that that need is being satisfied in your life at this time. O% mean not at all. 100% means that it is being totally satisfied.

3. In the third column place the names of the persons from which you believe that you need help or cooperation in order to satisfy those needs.

Need degree of satisfaction persons





Fig. 10

Having completed this list of needs, we can now share them with our spouse or all the family if appropriate. Everyone listens to the everyone else’s needs.

Now we divide a paper in as many columns as the number of people involved in the conflict. We then apply active listening in order to help each person clarify exactly what he or she needs from the other. Once we determine and list each member’s needs, then we seek to help each determine the deeper needs behind his or her previously discovered needs.

We write each member’s needs as he or she express them in one of the columns, with his or her name at the top.

Some questions which might help us discover the deeper needs behind the one’s we have already declared are:

1. What do you need from your __________(spouse, child, parent, sibling)?

2. Why would you like this need to be fulfilled by this particular person?

3. Why do you need that? What do you gain when you have that from that person and what is missing from your life when you do not have that from him or her?

4. And why do you need that which you have now mentioned? What will be missing from your life if that need is not fulfilled by this specific person.

5. What else do you need from ________? (then we follow the same questioning procedure as for no. 1 until we arrive at the deepest expression of that need)

6. Can you think of any other needs which you might have forgotten? Think of these categories: physical, material, social, recreational, mental, emotional, economic, professional, spiritual etc.

7. Just in case you have forgotten any needs, look at this list of needs which we have frequently observed in these situations. You might find a need which you possibly have not mentioned.

a. To be respected

b. For affection

c. To be loved

d. For more open communication

e. To be left alone when not feeling well

f. To go out more often.

g. To have time alone when feeling the need

h. For more rest

i. For more help with the chores

j. For more attention when talking

k. For a more peaceful environment

l. To be accepted exactly as I am

m. To do more things together.

n. For more freedom of movement and expression

o. For greater responsibility from the other

p. For the other to be on time

r. For more help and cooperation in keeping order and cleanliness

s. To be able to behave in the way I like in my home.

t. Other _______________________

B. Communicating about needs

Now that we have made a list of what each of us needs, we make sure that each clearly understands the other’s needs. We ask each to express the other’s needs in his own words, and if possible without the help of the written list. If one of them forgets a need, we can remind him of it from the list and then ask him to express it in his own words.

C. Looking for solutions

Now we can ask each member to suggest what he could do, of his own free will, in order to help the other fulfill the other’s needs. Each can make a few commitments concerning how he might help the other to be happier in this relationship.

One or both or all may be resisting. In such a case, we need to ask to him explain if he can, the reservations or fears that he has, which prevent him for cooperating in this process.

We go around a number of times, asking each whether there is something else he or she would be willing to do as a sign of love towards, and cooperation with, the others. Each declares what he or she is willing to do to help the others fulfill their needs.

When this process is finished, if someone feels he or she needs more help from the others, he can ask for some specific type of help from a specific other. If someone asks something more from another, the other is free to respond positively or negatively. Or he can ask for time to think about it.

We write all the decisions and commitments made by each so that we can give each a paper with his decisions at the end of the session.

In the case that one starts accusing, criticizing and blaming the others, we remind him or her that this problem cannot be solved if we remain in the past and we ask him or her to express what he or she needs from now on from that person. Always come back to needs.

D. Specifying the solutions

Once we have created a basic plan for employment, ask each subject when he or she plans to act on these decisions. Try to agree to meet on a regular basis and discuss matters between yourselves. If possible decide there and then on the place, day and hours of these meetings.

If you have decided that there will be natural or logical consequences if one or the other is not conscientious in keeping up his side of the agreement, then agree what those consequences will be. It would be best if the person who will be subjected to the consequences would suggest what they might be.

If we have the feeling that one of the subjects is promising a type of behavior which we feel is going to be very difficult for him, and that failure is almost surely imminent, we might want through active listening to help him decide whether his decisions are feasible. Or we may want to help each subject think of the possible inner and / or outer obstacles they will encounter, and to think before hand of how they will manage to surpass those obstacles.

For example if this change in behavior is one that has been asked of him for many years, what was it which obstructed him from making that change until now, and what will he do now that will be different, so that he will actually succeed? Also it is most important that each expresses why he or she wants to make these changes.

E. Affirming each other

Towards the end of the session, each can be asked to look into the other’s eyes and tell him or her the positive qualities that he sees and respects and admires in the other. This is important and should not be skipped.

F. The continuing process

1. We explain that each must give some time to the other and not jump on this back at the first incident of being unconscious and returning to old habits.

2. We suggest that all practice positive projection daily in which each brings to mind 5 positive qualities which he or she recognizes in the other and sends him or her light and love. We can also forgive him or her for any mistakes of the past.

3. We would do well to learn to communicate through I messages and active listening. ( Discussed in detail in the book “Psychology of Happiness”,

4. All should be encouraged to do the work described in the chapter 15 on LIFE’S LESSONS so that each can realize how the other is simply mirroring parts of his or her own self.

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