Communication of Needs

Our conflicts have many causes. TruceWorks’s five-step CLEAR Process is based on the theory that communication failures—resulting from an inability to express our feelings and needs clearly, and to hear and respond to others’ feelings and needs—are the driving factor in most conflicts.

Often our own need to be heard and understood, when unmet, interferes with our ability to hear and understand others. When someone misunderstands or isn’t able to take in what we are trying to say, our sense of connection gets disrupted. We have a strong need to be in relationship with others, and this feeling of disconnection is a source of anxiety and discomfort. When we understand more about our relational needs--the needs we have for being understood, recognized, respected, etc.--we can learn to express those needs in ways that are easier for others to hear and respond to.

Expressing ourselves clearly in an argument involves learning to translate our own emotional experience into words, and this can be difficult. Our emotions first must register in our minds as images and thoughts, and these need to be translated into feelings. We then need to put these feelings into words. We need to learn to articulate our emotions in clear and understandable language.

The strong reactions we have to not receiving the responses we need also seem to reflect earlier communication failures we have experienced. Because our minds store many old feelings and tend to associate previous events with current ones, our reactions in the present can be more extreme because they are loaded with old feelings. To connect with current feelings and needs, we must try to differentiate our past feelings from our current ones. Old feelings can obscure our needs in present situations.

We experience anger, hurt, and resentments when our needs are not being met. Learning to recognize and to articulate which of our needs is not being met, or is being threatened, helps us to de-escalate our negative emotions and reduces our tendency to project negative emotions onto others. We can, with practice, learn to be in more direct contact with our experience and accept the experience of others.