For example: I want to go to my parents but my partner wants to stay at home…

They want ‘A’ and you want ‘B’.

Now the secret to any kind of clash is that it happens on the level of what I call ‘strategies’. Strategies are the concrete things that we want.

When I say that I want to go to my parents and my partner says he wants to stay at home, we are talking about concrete things that we want. We are thinking and talking on the level of strategies.

And even when you know Nonviolent Communication, you might still forget that you are doing this!

You want to constantly remind yourself that clashes happen on the level of strategies, so when there is a clash you want to go to the level of …


Needs are always abstract – at least how we use them in NVC.

So I might have a need for community and togetherness, that is why I would like to go to my parents with my partner. My partner might have a need for relaxation, being himself, something that he might think is a little harder to do with family-in-law.

After finding the needs, you can brainstorm about what you want to do concretely now.

In our case, we could brainstorm whether there are ways that he would feel more relaxed with my parents. Maybe if we would do an outdoors activity?

And we could figure out ways that I have more of a sense of community. Maybe if I were to invite my brother? And my partner could stay home this time?

These are just a few options. It’s about finding each other’s needs and brainstorming potential options.

Now you might wonder how to start doing all of this. You might think: ‘NVC is HARD…’

You’re right. NVC is hard. That is, if you’re trying to do it all at once and if you think you need to get it right at once!

NVC already works when you take a small step.

What I would recommend as a start is to simply familarize yourself with the list of needs. I have a free pdf that you can download if you didn’t do that already.

Print it, and hang it somewhere in your house. That’s important, cuz then you will actually see it regularly.

My top 5 favorite spots to put the need list are:

  1. The toilet
  2. The bathroom mirror
  3. Above the desk in my office
  4. On the fridge
  5. The back of my partner’s sweater (just kidding!)

Print out the list and hang it somewhere today. Ask yourself regularly: ‘what do I need right now?‘ and then check the nearest list.

This will bring you in a need-based mindset, and that way you will actually remember to use it also in the heat of the moment.

Let me know in the comments what you think of this! Do you have a recurring topic about which you clash with your partner?

3 replies
  1. Marianne van Dijk says:

    I imagine reading this that there is annoyance in you, maybe you feel like this person makes the rules and you are powerless! from that place it’s hard to find each other’s needs. I would recommend brainstorming how you can respond to your own needs, regardless of where this person is.

  2. Natasha says:

    We are on holiday.
    One person gets ready for the day or evening within half to 1 hour. The other needs more time. 2 hours.
    The 2 hour person lies around, telephones with friends while the quicker person is ready to go and make experiences. The quicker person feels totally annoyed at the slow persons tempo and disregard for her needs.
    Discussion happened and the slow person says that she is the way she is and others just have to adapt.

    • valerie says:

      I can understand your feelings of frustration about this behaviour, which is actually quite controlling. What your partner is saying (covertly) is that your time is not as important as theirs. Perhaps you could try pointing this out and then discussing how it makes you both feel?

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *