Carrying the Stone – Part 2: Listen for Feelings and Needs

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    My last blog was about not carrying someone’s stone – that is, pay attention to when you step in and fix someone else’s problem that is not yours to fix. I suggested instead for you to take some time to discern what is yours to do vs. not. Perhaps some of you had a hard time with that this week, maybe others of you caught yourself and were able to let the stone lay where it needed.

    This week I want to write about how you can connect with someone who’s in the midst of a struggle in an authentic way of caring, yet not do their work for them. Marshall Rosenberg’s work called Non-Violent Communication (NVC) has led to a significant shift in how I view the world and has led me to be more conscious of my words and actions with others. I’d like to share, in a very short way, his four steps for compassionate connection with others.

    The four part process involves Observing without judging what is happening as being either good or bad. Practicing observation without evaluation or judgment starts you on the road to being present to what is happening, to describing events without claiming rightness or wrongness.

    The second step is identifying the Feelings you or the other has in a situation, again without diagnosing or evaluating. Paying attention to the feelings that are emerging will help your co-worker bring awareness to themselves rather than focusing on the actions someone else did that may be causing the problem or hardship.

    The third step is identifying the underlying Needs that are not being met in the situation. Rosenberg suggests that our feelings often direct us to what our needs are, like a ‘check engine’ light in your car. Having your co-worker connect with their feelings allows them to get in touch with their underlying needs. Rosenberg says there are basic universal needs people from all cultures have. These needs are what make us human, such as respect, autonomy, harmony, love.

    The final step is to make a Request of another to help meet the unmet needs in that situation. After listening to your co-worker’s feelings and getting clear on their need, you could ask ‘What would help you meet your unmet need’? This focuses on effective strategies that will meet needs rather than continue the blame game your co-worker may be playing.

    Rather than blaming, criticizing, guilt-tripping or condemning, NVC offers a four part process for communicating (Observation, Feelings, Needs and Requests – OFNR) that focuses on identifying what is honestly going on and then communicating from that place of authenticity and openness. I have found this has greatly enriched my relationships at work and home.

    1. Observe non-judgmentally what happens in work situations

    2. Listen authentically for your own and another’s feelings

    3. Discern what you or another’s needs are

    4. Identify strategies that can help you or another meet their needs.

    Rosenberg’s book “Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life” explains this four part approach in greater detail. I’ve enjoyed and learned a fair bit as well from Rosenberg’s DVDs, which capture his humor and depth. If these ideas resonate with you, I encourage you to explore these resources further.

    I invite you to focus on what you are feeling and needing in a challenging or troubling situation sometime this week. See if you can get clear on your feelings and needs and explore a strategy that will help you connect with your true nature of caring, loving, giving, and receiving.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.


    Linda is an author, speaker, coach, and consultant. Go to her website to read more about her work, view video clips of her talks, and find out more about her book “Path for Greatness: Spirituality at Work” available on Amazon.