For the last few years I have been fascinated by the idea of personal culture: how people spend their time, how they create their ideas and content, and how they represent themselves to the wider world.
My fascination centers on the idea that understanding yourself better helps ground yourself; by understanding your own needs you become more empathetic toward those of others. By doing this, you become less afraid, more courageous and hopeful.
Representing yourself to the world is a tricky business, you have to show your past, present and future, and much of it centers on how you express what you need. Not what you think or what you want, but what you need as a person to grow and better understand yourself.
This has led me on a path of researching how people can express what they need. Two books I have found stand out as examples of this idea: Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. While on the surface these books seem to deal with very different subject matters, at their cores they each help people express what they need and create a vocabulary that is rarely taught.
What follows are a series of quotes from each of these books, which I’ve grouped around the ideas of empathy, thinking for yourself, listening, and stating your needs. I hope you find them as enlightening and as empowering as I did.
“Former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold once said, ‘The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is happening outside.’” – Marshall Rosenberg
“To focus on children’s needs, and to work with them to make sure their needs are met, constitutes a commitment to taking children seriously. It means treating them as people whose feelings and desires and questions matter.”- Alfie Kohn
“I’ve become convinced that praise is less a function of what kids need to hear than of what we need to say.”- Alfie Kohn
“When we are in contact with our feelings and needs, we humans no longer make good slaves and underlings.”- Marshall Rosenberg
Thinking for yourself
“In our culture’s workplaces, classrooms, and families, there are two basic strategies by which people with more power try to get people with less power to obey. One way is to punish noncompliance. The other is to reward compliance.”- Marshall Rosenberg
“Depression is the reward we get for being ‘good’.”- Marshall Rosenberg
“The most dangerous of all behaviors may consist of doing things ‘because we’re supposed to’.”- Marshall Rosenberg
“My friend Danny recently summarized what he’s learned from years of fatherhood: “Being right isn’t necessarily what matters.” – Alfie Kohn
“Studies in labor-management negotiations demonstrate that the time required to reach conflict resolution is cut in half when each negotiator agrees, before responding, to accurately repeat what the previous speaker had said.”- Marshall Rosenberg
“Listen to what people are needing rather what they are thinking.”- Marshall Rosenberg
“When we listen for feelings and needs, we no longer see people as monsters.”- Marshall Rosenberg
Stating your needs
“Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts”- Marshall Rosenberg
“If we express our needs, we have a better chance of getting them met.”- Marshall Rosenberg