Agreements Wkbk #5: Meeting Needs Through Agreements

Two stylized hands clasping, forming a heart. Copyright-free symbol designed by Ravi Poovaiah, Professor, IDC, IIT Bombay.This entry is the fifth in my series on the Agreements Workbook that I’m writing. [For the first entry in this series, click here]. Note that these entries are all rough drafts, and thus are probably missing things like references. If you know the perfect reference to add, feel free to suggest it! I always like to add to my resource collection. I’m updating these somewhere between 1 and 3 times per week, BTW.

Entry #5 begins the section on meeting needs through Agreements.

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions, either here, or on my FB Page, Love Outside The Box.

Agreements Are About Meeting Needs

What are your needs?

Ultimately, Agreements are about meeting needs. But in order to know what needs you’re trying to meet, you need to know what both/all parties needs are.

In some cases, this will seem obvious: “I need clean air! Someone needs to clean the cat box every day!”  In other cases, they’ll probably need some sussing out, even for you: “Do I really need to have written proof of the new lover’s STI status to feel safe, or will a verbal report do?” It’s usually best if each individual has reflected on their own wants and needs, before bringing them to the negotiating table.

Agreements as a process of self-discovery

About this time, many people’s eyes start to glaze over, and they start finding pressing business elsewhere.  “Do I have to??” is a common refrain, followed by “but isn’t it obvious what we need here??”  In short, ‘yes,’ and ‘no,’ in that order. But it doesn’t have to be work, you know! You might want to frame it as a game, or include this as part of your meditation time, so it’s either fun, or relaxing. Do whatever works for you and keeps you energized and inspired. I find the process of making Agreements to be an amazing opportunity for self-discovery (as well as discovery about your partner/s, but that comes later).  As someone who was trained early to avoid knowing what I want (so then, when I don’t get it, I’m not as disappointed), understanding what I need (because needs always underlie wants) has often been a challenge. Going through the process with someone else of crafting mutual Agreements has provided a context in which I could discover more about myself, as well as the impetus to do so. You’ll probably be surprised, as you work through these next exercises, at some of what you do— and do not—need. I know I was!

Some tools for discovering your needs

Needs vs. strategies

One of the simplest tools for discovering your needs is to sit down and make a list.  But how do you know what ‘needs’ are? Often we end up confusing our actual needs with our strategies to get those needs met.  What’s the difference?

A need is one of a group of core, universal, human needs.  We all need things like security, closeness, and air.

A strategy, on the other hand, is the way in which we are proposing to get those needs met.  In order to meet our security needs, we might have a strategy of monogamy, or of safer sex practices; we might put on our seatbelts, lock our doors at night, or install lights in our front yard.  Each of these is a strategy for meeting a need for security, although it’s easy to confuse the strategies with the needs themselves. For instance, it’s often said “I need you to wear a condom,” when in fact, the need is for safety (or any of several other needs), and it would be better and clearer to say “I need safety, and I request that you wear a condom.”  The first is the need, and the second is the request that they help you to meet your need via a particular strategy.

This distinction between needs and strategies is drawn from the excellent work of Marshall Rosenberg, in his books about Non-violent  Communication, aka NVC. [ref] You can find his books listed in the Recommended Reading list at the end of this workbook. [NB: And you can see the first one in the widget in the sidebar of this blog.]

[Next entry we’ll talk about identifying core needs of you and your partner/s by making lists.]

~♥ Dawn

∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥ ∞ ♥

[© 2011 Dawn M. Davidson]

[Return to the Table of Contents for this series]

[For the first text entry in this series, click here]

[Next Entry, #6: Discovering your needs: Make a list]



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