Nourish relationships and self-care

Empathy works. It always does.

How my bougainvillea can help you understand the difference between needs and strategies

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Imagine a bougainvillea. You can imagine any plant you like, and I take a bougainvillea, because I have two in a pot that are blooming excessively.

Image courtesy to David NayerSo, we have this bougainvillea and she has certain needs. Universal, precious, plant needs. She shares those with all other plants: she wants growth, personal development, nourishment, protection, support. Since she lives in a pot and is dependent on me for her survival and thriving, she probably needs to be heard, so I understand how to best take care of her.

It took me a while to understand her non-verbal signals what she needed, and now I can proudly say that I get them. I know exactly what she wants and I am willing and able to meet her needs.

Does the bougainvillea care if I am the one watering her? Would she mind if my husband did that instead?

I doubt it.

I would be surprised if the bougainvillea would say: “Hey, I want water, and I only want you to water me, not David.” Or: “I want to be in the sun, and I want you to place me there, not David.”

She just wants her needs met, and is not attached to who meets them. She understands the difference between needs and strategies. Since she is not attached to a specific person as the only strategy to meet her needs, she can flourish and bloom, even when I fly to the Netherlands to visit my family and friends. She will happily be taken care of by David.

Now, it might be that I know better than my husband how to take care of her, which would explain if she preferred me as a strategy to meet her needs. But as soon as my husband is up to speed in taking care of her, that attachment would dissolve.

What goes around for plants, goes around for human beings. We all have the same universal, precious, human needs, like connection, support, understanding, growth. But saying I have a need for connection with you is confusing the need with the strategy. You might be the best strategy for connection, because I know that you understand, accept, support me. And as soon as he is up to speed with understanding, acceptance, intimacy, support, he is an option too.

Once you understand the difference between needs and strategies, you have way more opportunities to meet your wonderful needs.

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You want help to find more ways to support your needs? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping compassionate professionals integrate self-care in their lives. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

2 thoughts on “How my bougainvillea can help you understand the difference between needs and strategies

  1. Miss Elly, I’d have to give this blog a big WOW! Wish our public schools had teachers of your caliber. Would stop a lot of senseless bullying. As an adult I have found ways to meet my needs. Smiling, meditating, being able to laugh at myself, and not being afraid of failure. To reach for the stars and if I failed, at least I tried, and I can live with that. I think the most sad part is when a person doesn’t know what they need. Walking lost in the world, being afraid. How do we help them grow Miss Elly? How does the message get across. How would we be able to introduce NVC to the school system? There is food for thought. I’d like to make that a goal I think. I will ponder that. Blessings and peace.

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    • Hi Richard,

      Yes, as soon as we understand the needs beneath our bullying, anger, withdrawal we can find more wholesome ways to support those needs and those of others at the same time. NVC is indeed helpful at schools and I think there are some NVC trainers who directly work with schools to help them with this language of feelings and needs. If I had more time and spaciousness that would be one of my big focuses.

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