Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

My friend Kadi is in the ER. Her husband calls me to see if I can take Anora, their 14 months old, to their apartment and hang out with her until Kadi is released.

I love Anora. They all lived across the street and we used to go for a walk, every day, till they moved out of the neighborhood six weeks ago.

Anora has not been apart from her mom, more than the occasional 1½ hours I babysat with her. So this request is different – really different. I won’t be able to bring her back to her mommy.

When we get to Anora’s home – without her mom – Anora is fine. I feed her yogurt, we play, we watch baby Einstein. Then she starts crying. Big, blue, baby eyes fill with tears. She looks at me with this innocent plea “Will you please help me? My needs are unmet.”

I pick her up. It doesn’t help. I take her potty. She doesn’t want to. I feed her yogurt. She pushes it away. Finally, I put her in a car seat and drive her around. The crying gets worse.

I know she misses her mommy. There is nothing I can do about that. What I can do, is receive her tears as “gifts offered with ‘Santa Claus energy”, as Marshall Rosenberg coined it: “Hoho, wouldn’t life be more wonderful when my needs are met? Are you willing to help me with that?”

I’m happy to help. I don’t hear blame, as if I’m doing something wrong. I don’t hear shame, as if she believes she’s not worthy of getting help.

It makes me think of all the people who did receive messages of wrongness when they shared their needs. All those people who came to believe that having precious, universal, human needs is the same as being needy. That there is something wrong with them because they want support for their needs.

We’re not needy. We just have specific conditions for our happiness. We can hold our needs the same way we would hold the needs of a baby or anything we care for.

We don’t think a bougainvillea is needy because it wants full sun and lots of trimming. Or that the fern is demanding because it wants shade and lots of water. We happily respond to their requests because we’d like to see the bougainvillea in full-bloom and the fern green and vibrant.

The next time we confuse having needs with being needy, let’s look around us and ask ourselves what we would rather see: a drooping bougainvillea, or one in full bloom? A strong fern, or one that’s shriveled? A smiley face, or one that looks angry, sad, or scared?

It might inspire us to hold our needs with the same compassion and care.

We’re more than worthy of receiving support for our needs.

Let me know how this landed for you.

%d bloggers like this: