When is something a need and when is something a strategy to get that need met?
Christina here, writing about cars, consensus, and covenants.
Since we moved to Dancing Rabbit almost five years ago, I have had plenty of opportunities for growth. Challenges, new experiences, difficult situations—so many painful, er, wonderful chances to stretch my comfort zone and confront my own patterns and less-than-healthy behaviors and responses.
Probably the opportunity that helped me the most was a Non-Violent Communication (NVC) study group a few years ago. In that group, we worked together to learn about ourselves and others and how best to communicate with the people around us. We read a book, completed exercises, and pushed and supported one another to confront our own “stuff” as we often say here.
It truly was a life-changing experience for me—one of those events that marks a shift in the way that I see my world probably for the rest of my life. So can you tell that I am a fan of NVC?
Anyway, for those of you who didn’t get the opportunity to participate in that group, here are a few lessons that NVC taught me:
- There are human needs that are common across all cultures and people. We share those needs. Listening to others express their needs and expressing our own needs is connecting and healing.
- People have strategies for getting those needs met.
- Conflict happens when strategies for meeting needs seem to conflict with each other.
- We all make choices in our lives. Often the choice doesn’t feel like a choice, but when we think of doing things because we “have to” or are “forced” or someone else “makes us” do them, we just make ourselves more unhappy.
- Taking responsibility for our own actions and decisions is empowering and helpful for everyone involved.
- Having more empathy for others is my goal in life.
At this point, you might be saying, wait, I thought this was a column about what is going on at Dancing Rabbit? What does NVC have to do with events of the past week?
To this question, I would answer with one word: cars.
Yup, surprise surprise, the car issue has come up again around here.
Here at Dancing Rabbit, we have a set of “covenants” which are agreements we all agree to live by when we move here. The first covenant reads as follows: “Dancing Rabbit members will not use personal motorized vehicles, or store them on Dancing Rabbit property.”
For many people, not owning a personal vehicle is the biggest sacrifice they make to move here. Along with all the easy awesomeness that life here can entail—with Ultimate games and spontaneous hangouts and kids running through the lovely light cast by the setting sun— ultimately, living in community means a lot of compromise.
In short, you can’t always get what you want.
So this brings me back to the whole needs-and-strategies conversation. Understanding the difference between a need and a strategy, I think, is key to working through conflict. And cars, however you might use them or not use them, are strategies, not needs.
Here are some questions I have been grappling with over the past few days:
- Why do people choose to break an agreement?
- What needs are those people trying to meet when they break an agreement?
- Why is it painful to me personally when people choose to break an agreement that they have made with the community in which I live?
- How can we figure out a way to get those needs met together while staying in accountability with our agreements?
- What does it mean to live intentionally in a community with others in which we agree to use consensus to work together to find the best strategies for the health of the whole?
As you can probably see, I’ve got lots of big questions and maybe some hurt feelings, but not so many answers—yet.
However, I have seen the power of coming together to talk about differences and figure out how people can get their needs met. We have worked together in the past to get through challenges, and I am confident that we can do it again… even if we have to meet over Zoom for the foreseeable future.
So I’ll leave you with the timeless wisdom of the great Rolling Stones, who were probably not actually talking about NVC, but it still seems to apply: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
Christina Gil is a member of the Dancing Rabbit community. She loves to garden and cook for large groups. During the pandemic, she has been energizing the community with connecting activities. Want to know more about the ecological covenants we live by at Dancing Rabbit? Browse our informative website: www.dancingrabbit.org.