Guest Blog: Integrating Empathy and Insight by Bob Yamtich

Sep 08, 2022
You can learn a lot about a person based on what needs they prioritize and how much life energy they put into those needs. NVC empathy teaches us to look at needs and their level of fulfillment; I extend this examination by looking at what percentage of a person's strategies and efforts in the world are dedicated to what needs. We can move back and forth between empathy and analytical assessment depending on which would serve us more in deepening our self-connection or accessing resources.
I spend about 65% of my life energy (not considering my all encompassing love of my son, who also benefits from the following need) maintaining stability. I have daily walks and plenty of down time between client calls. I have morning and nighttime medications and the medical appointments to sustain them. I receive weekly therapy and a dash of joy from my TV habits; any need (such as joy) becoming desperate would be dangerous for stability. My focus on stability is consistent with my diagnosis of bipolar with psychosis. 
I benefit from both the needs awareness and the clinical diagnosis which helps me access meds. Also, resources like self-help groups are not yet organized by the needs they attempt to meet. I would have attended a group focused on stability or shared reality, but I only found one focused on bipolar. Thriving happens with a combination of needs-based self-connection and analytical insight.
My foundation is now so strong that I am ready to reduce my focus on stability and take more risks personally and professionally. My strategies will be consistent with stability but not explicitly guided by it as I reach for more friendship, fun, challenge, meaning and purpose. Newly met needs begin with an urgency that can be desperate or even aggressive; Marshall Rosenberg calls new autonomy an "obnoxious stage" before someone reaches emotional liberation. Securely met needs allow a broader, more relaxed focus on a constellation of needs.
A person drowning in sensory sensitivities including specific preferences in temperature, lighting, sound, food texture, and clothing texture may empathically connect to their need for comfort or analytically consider a diagnosis of autism, both of which can be used to gather resources.  Longings for clarity, order, and effectiveness may mean you are a military officer and/or Autistic. A huge focus on safety understandably follows surviving something horrible and obviously points to PTSD, at a minimum to rule out.
Whether your self-understanding and self-connection begins with needs based empathy or with evaluative diagnosis, I hope you can harness the benefits of both. If I can reduce my life energy spent on stability from 65% to 40%, I free up 25% of my life energy for increased adventure and contribution. I used to ask, "What are three needs that are on your radar at this  moment?", and now I add "How much life energy do you dedicate to each of these three needs?" The answers reveal a lot.

Bob Yamtich was a Nonviolent Communication trainer and licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California. He currently coaches on the phone in Indiana and provides professional development for gifted schools. His website is