NVC & Life-Needs


The fundamentals of Thriving Life NVC (Nonviolent Communication, also known as Compassionate Communication) are based on the following principles.

(Elements that are unique to the Thriving Life approach appear in italics or bold italics):

  • It’s our birthright to THRIVE
  • Happiness is the feeling we experience when we are THRIVING
  • Everyone has the same right to thrive; no person’s well-being is
    more important than another person’s
  • The only thing anyone is ever doing, is trying to thrive
    (however unconscious, misguided, counterproductive, or tragically destructive their strategies might be)
  • All human beings require the same essential things (Life-Needs or “Needs“) in order to thrive.  Human beings who don’t get their Life-Needs met eventually become ill physically, mentally, and/or emotionally.  Examples of Life-Needs include harmonious connection, touch, belonging, self-expression, freedom/choice, etc. Download the full list of 12 Essential Life-Needs here –>
  • Once we become adults, our well-being (thriving) is ultimately our own responsibility, and other adults’ well-being is ultimately their responsibility (please also see Requests, below).
  • Every one of us has within us all the personal power and discernment we need to learn how to thrive … with ease.  (Even if we’ve grown up in a culture that has only taught us how to survive.)
  • Because we are social beings, the giving-and-receiving of positive relationships is the primary medium through which our well-being is nourished
  • We can learn how to thrive!


Learning how to THRIVE (be happy) requires learning how to (in ACTUAL PRACTICE):

  • genuinely value and consider (“respect”) our own well-being, remembering that we are ultimately responsible for our own thriving (once we reach adulthood)
  • genuinely value and consider (“respect”) others’ well-being, remembering that they are ultimately responsible for their own thriving (once they reach adulthood)
  • experience our body sensations and  feelings as they’re happening without avoiding, denying, numbing out, going unconscious, being “captured,” or being overwhelmed by them
  • dis-identify from our body sensations, feelings, thoughts, and impulses and observe these inner experiences with grounded presence, compassion, and authentic choice.  
  • identify our Life-Needs
  • meet our Life-Needs, including identifying effective inner-world strategies (e.g., learning how to generate the experience of met Life-Needs through memory or imagination, which I call “basking” or “self-sourcing”) as well as effective outer-world strategies (e.g., making genuine requests of other people and/or engaging with resources, places, circumstances, and/or events)


There are eight essential elements to the NVC view of human expression and experience:

Observations (What Happened)    vs.    Stories, interpretations, beliefs, judgments, evaluations, (etc.)

Feelings      vs.     Thoughts

Needs          vs.      Strategies

Requests    vs.      Demands


  • Observations (What Happened) include the facts of what was actually said or done at a specific time or place that could be verified by an outside observer, without any interpretive content added.  (“The thermometer read 82F” or “I said that I didn’t want to do that.”)
  • Stories, interpretations, beliefs, judgments, evaluations, etc. are ways that we attempt to make sense of the world, other people, ourselves, and our experience of all these.  (“It’s cold in here” or “You made an assumption” or “I can’t believe I screwed that up again!”)  When we notice, disidentify from, and know how to engage with them, our stories/judgments/etc. can bring us into deeper, more life-giving connection to ourselves, Life, and others. When we automatically believe them and react from that belief, they can disconnect us from ourselves, Life, and others. (NOTE: A great deal of conflict with other people arises from collapsing our Stories with What Happened. It’s essential to keep these separate.)
  • Our Feelings are primary emotions that arise from our body sensations. Feelings let us know whether what we’re experiencing is moving us towards thriving or away from it.  Specifically:
    • “positive” feelings indicate that our needs are being met and our well-being is increasing
    • “negative” feelings indicate that our needs are not being met and our well-being is diminishing
    • the longer a need goes unmet, the stronger and more negative and harder to manage our feelings become
  • Feelings are not the same thing as thoughts. Thoughts arise from mental activity.  We often label things as feelings that are actually thoughts (“I feel like you do that on purpose” instead of “I think you do that on purpose”) or combine feelings with thoughts (“I feel betrayed” instead of “I feel shocked, hurt, outraged, scared, and uncertain, and I think you did that on purpose”) in ways that create confusion and disconnection.
  • Strategies are ways we attempt to meet our Life-Needs. They are specific to time, place, and actor.  (“Food” is a Life-Need; “spinach” is a strategy. Note that money, property, and positional power are all strategies; none of these are Life-Needs that, in themselves, directly contribute to our thriving.)  The effectiveness of any specific strategy in contributing to our own or others’ well-being can and does vary from person to person, and from one point in time to another.
  • Requests are ways we invite others to take actions that we believe will contribute to our own well-being. Requests are expressions of Respect for both ourselves and others:  when we make a request, we are acknowledging, valuing, and considering our own well-being AND the other person’s.  (IMPORTANT: Remember that granting our request requires a gift of life-energy from the other person, and NVC principles hold that they have no inherent obligation to give that gift, except when they have agreed to do so and have not changed that agreement with you.  (The one exception is when the other person is your parent and you are a minor child.)
  • Demands are ways we attempt to get our needs met without consideration for others’ well-being, that state or imply the threat of judgment, blame, and/or punishment if the other doesn’t comply


This brief overview only begins to touch on a landscape that is as vast, complex, and varied as we and our relationships are. There are many, many questions that can arise for us as we begin to explore this territory, including:

  • “How do we value and care for our own well-being “first” while still being appropriately mindful of the impact of our choices on others’ well-being?”
  • “Does being responsible for our own well-being mean we shouldn’t ask others for help?”  (The short answer to this is — not at all! It does mean that “the buck stops here.”)
  • “What about when someone breaks an agreement, creating an enormous negative impact for others? Isn’t that wrong?”
  • “I feel excited about what I’m reading, but I don’t think anybody in my life is going to agree with any of this stuff. How do I explore this new world without becoming even more disconnected from them than I am already?”

I understand these questions and concerns and can offer guidance as you look for answers that satisfy your own values and sensibilities.

Please feel warmly welcome to reach out and connect with me, I’m delighted to share this wonderful, challenging, luminous human journey with you!

Blessings on us all,