Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Issue Six: Journeying Along The Needs Continuum

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

The theme for this issue is Journeying Along The Needs Continuum. In our culture we are not taught to be aware of or value needs. The journey to holding needs as precious and essential can be a rocky one - but the result is a more vibrant life.

leaves of japanese maple tree against blue sky with high white haze



The Journey To Living Through Needs Compassionately and Assertively

by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

Mary: You said you were going to leave your computer at home when we took our trip.
Fred: I changed my mind.
Mary: If you are playing games on your computer, my needs for intimacy won’t be met. Don’t bring your computer.

A reader requested an article on the "obnoxious stage" in learning how to express needs. I believe she was asking about a stage in many peoples’ NVC development when we are so excited about coming into relationship with the needs within us that we project our strategies for nurturing those needs out into the world with a lot of demanding.

Before discovering NVC, I thought of needs in one of two ways: either from a consumer perspective, differentiating between needs and wants; or a "spiritual" perspective. . . something to be transcended to achieve happiness.

In our NVC Level 1 workshops we learn a different definition of the word need. NVC uses needs to describe living energies that are universal and intrinsic. Every human has the same set of needs, which live in us as energy that cannot be touched, counted, given, or taken away.

The essence of NVC - that all humans share the same needs - is the basis of our interconnectedness with other humans and all of life. Most of us have been acculturated away from awareness of this use of the word needs. When we learn NVC, we reunite with this awareness of needs as elements of our humanity, something to be honored and celebrated. Coming to realize we are ‘need-full’ can stimulate self-connection and delight.

As Bonnie Fraser writes in her NVC study book, Connection: A Self-Care Approach to Conflict Management (see book review):

It seems to me that your choice is to adopt a social image and then try to make your behavior line up with it or to try to find your unique, individual self by knowing your needs and expressing that self with your behavior. Decide for yourself. Look again at the list of needs. Would it be a world you wanted to live in if everyone were trying to meet these needs and support others in meeting these needs? In learning to value our needs, we as individuals often go through three stages. Some have suggested societies go through the same stages. If so, what stage do you think we are in?
  1. PASSIVE: "I have no needs and if I had some, they are not important."
  2. AGGRESSIVE/Obnoxious: "It is very important that my needs are met, regardless of how that affects you."
  3. ASSERTIVE/Mutual: "We both have needs and all of our needs are important."

The PASSIVE stage is the result of cultural conditioning. In it, I believe I am responsible for other people’s feelings and often I focus on what I should do to keep everyone around me happy. In order to do this, my authentic feelings are suppressed. I often believe myself to be less worthy than others so if I do have needs they don’t matter as much as others.

In this stage my statements might sound something like this: "I have so much energy and wanting to play… I’m going to turn on the radio to dance. What? You are tired and want to sleep… Oh, okay, never mind. I’ll go in the other room and read quietly."

The AGGRESSIVE/Obnoxious stage can be an attempt at bringing NVC into my life. I realize I am not responsible for other’s feelings, I have needs, and that these needs are important. It becomes clear that my communication habits from the passive stage keep me from living life fully. As I embrace this awareness, that I have needs essential to my full blooming as a human being, I often develop an urgency to get those needs met. Sometimes I use the NVC form to try and get other people to do things for me without consideration of them.

This stage may sound something like this: "I feel cold in this room, I have a need for ease and comfort. I need the furnace on, now."

Notice, there is no checking in with the other people to see if they have needs to be considered before choosing this strategy. And, if others don’t go along with our idea, thoughts such as these may arise: "Those people are so inconsiderate! Can’t they see I have a need and its not getting met?"

The ASSERTIVE/Mutual stage is one in which I have come to accept responsibility for my own feelings, needs, intentions, and actions. I have both an awareness of needs and I have developed the skills to connect to the beauty of those needs before expressing them to others. I move away from thinking of needs as "mine" or "yours" and can fully embrace the intrinsic nature of needs. I appreciate that every choice I make impacts others and seek to develop relationships in which everyone’s needs are considered with care.

This stage may sound something like this: "When I think about our trip together I feel happiness arising from the needs of connection, fun and intimacy. When I hear you might bring your computer I feel anxious and concerned because I believe it will interfere with our connection. I wonder what comes up for you when you hear me say that?" "I wonder if we can take a few minutes to talk about what needs you are trying to meet by bringing the computer…. And we can talk about strategies to nourish all the needs."

Awareness of how I am holding needs is important to my development. As I learn and grow, I may relate to my needs differently in different relationships. Try this exercise from Connection: A Self-Care Approach to Conflict Management (page 40) to bring awareness to your interactions.

How Well Do You Assert Your Needs?

Consider your primary relationships. How do you usually interact with this person – passively, aggressively, or assertively? (It is typical to have varied behavior with different people, even with the same person.) The first two rows have been filled in as examples.

List your most active relationships: Stage ? Give an example
my friend passive When she asks my opinion I always say what she wants
my son aggressive I ordered him to get off the phone because I wanted it.


It is important to hold a lot of compassion for ourselves wherever we are in our needs journey. Awareness will give me more choice in how I interact with others.

To take more and more healthy responsibility in my relationships, I want to make use of my own internal "pause" button. Before I interact, I want to pause and consider which needs stage I am about to respond from. It is important to hold myself in kindness while considering. If I find that Stage 1 or 2 is what is alive in me, my intention is to wait, take some extra breaths, take a walk, do some journaling, call a friend for empathy, or use other forms of self-connection before responding. One practice to deepen my self-connection can be found in issue # 2

Authors gratitude: I want to express my appreciation to NVC certified trainers - Lynd Morris, Gregg Kendrick  and Bonnie Fraser - whose talents have contributed greatly to this article.

Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principle trainer with Open Communication

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Love After Love

Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

goldfish in a clear pond with rocks visible below and reflection of maple leaves on the water

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Crossword Puzzle

This is a fully interactive online puzzle; we will have a new one each month which relates to the issue's theme.

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Upcoming Trainings

June 23-27, Alfred, ME
Transformation of Our Core Beliefs

During this intermediate level NVC workshop we will use a variety of interactive group and individual activities to understand our core beliefs that make our lives less than wonderful. We will develop self-awareness, choice and self-empowerment.
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July 7 thru August 4
UM Hutchinson Center, Belfast, ME
PAX 495: Sustainable Communication:
Theory & Practice of Nonviolent Communication: details

Looking for workshops throughout New England?

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Celebration Corner

I am yet a novice in NVC, yet in the learning process, have been surprised to experience needs bubbling to the surface and leading me on a path to a more peaceful place. Focusing on communicating with others is a great goal, but I was stuck until I became aware that my first step was to communicate with myself and identify what needs were at work within me. Understanding from practice sessions in Camden that needs are beautiful is an insight that opened my tightly-wound self. Slowly, the light dawned, I made a difficult decision to "take a vacation" from an organization I had been deeply committed to, and freed myself to focus on a family member with health problems. I felt a weight lifted by my action, and only after the fact realized that I had used NVC to make a positive change in my life.
- Jean, Camden, ME

Book Review:
Connection: A Self Care Approach to Conflict Management
by Bonnie R. Fraser

reviewed by Kristi Kirkham

For several years, Bonnie Fraser taught a semester-long course in conflict resolution, based on NVC, to juniors and seniors at Champlain College in Burlington, VT.  Drawing on feedback from her students, she compiled the exercises she used in class into this book. Adults, both in groups and individually, have also used Connection successfully. This thorough testing is what makes the exercises so useful and practical. Lots of students’ quotes bring the book to life. I’ve been using this book as a source for practice group activities for about four months. The activities consistently prove to be enjoyable for the participants while leading to important insights into hard-to-hear messages and difficult situations.

Fraser begins her book with a thorough dialogue with the reader answering questions about NVC and how she came to write this book. She tells a little about the students who took her course; many were from other countries and some were adults. I like the way the book is organized into four parts. The first part covers standard OFNR (observations, feelings, needs, and requests); however it adds an important extra part, the attitude of being hungry to connect with ourselves and others.  In "Part Two: Grounding through Self-Care" and "Part Three: Communicating for Connection," this five part process is carried through each chapter, reinforcing and practicing OFNR with the attitude of compassion and desire to connect with self and other. Looking back over my five-year NVC journey, teachers keep bringing me back to self-care and self-empathy as the core skill that allows me to interact with others in a connecting way so I really appreciate Frasers's emphasis on self care.  In "Part Four: Into Action," Fraser incorporates her experience in counseling as well as her extensive background in NVC to present an effective and useable conflict resolution tool. There is a closing section, "What’s Next" and an impressive bibliography with at least 13 books that I plan to check into. A graphic designer helped the author lay out the book out in a user friendly way. Each exercise has boxes to fill in and there are blank pages available for mind mapping.

I just love this book! If you have had an introductory NVC course or not, Connection: A Self Care Approach to Conflict Management will guide your personal practice or your practice group in a self-connecting, constructive direction

Order this book directly from the author by email


pinkish red rugosa roses

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July 7 thru August 4, Monday and Wednesday evenings
PAX 495: Sustainable Communication:
Theory & Practice of Nonviolent Communication
UM Hutchinson Center, Belfast, ME

This is a 3 credit course, equivalent to a combined Level 1 & Level 2 workshop; a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers, social workers, health care professionals and other professionals who require credits for re-certification to experience the power and delight of shifting our thinking to needs-based consciousness. This course will also be helpful to parents or business professionals who want to explore how needs-based consciousness will enhance connection and expand creativity.
Course taught by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainer
For questions about course content please contact Peggy Smith: 789-5299 or email
To register or call 338-8000

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