Expressing Needs


Dietrich Fischer – TRANSCEND Media Service

A father and mother quarreled again, as they did frequently. He had forgotten to take out the garbage, and she whined,

“You are so irresponsible. You never remember what you promised to do.”

He: “This is the first time this year that I forgot to take out the garbage, but I had more important things to worry about.”

She: “That is always your excuse. I can’t stand it!”

Their nine-year-old daughter said to mother, “Why don’t you simply tell father what you need?”

Mother said what she wanted, and to her surprise, the father agreed. She asked her daughter in amazement: “Where did you learn that!?”

“At school.” the daughter replied.

The daughter had gotten a day of training in “nonviolent communication”. It avoids blame or praise; it only expresses appreciation for help received. It emphasizes saying what we need, and express a request, not a demand. A request is something the other party can say no to without reprisals, whereas if a demand is denied, there can be negative consequences.

Mother asked her daughter, “Can I learn this, too?”

The daughter said, “In a month, the same training will be offered to parents.”

Mother did not want to wait and signed up for a course in a neighboring town where she paid for registration.

(Freely recounted after Marshall Rosenberg, who developed the techniques of nonviolent communication)


Dietrich Fischer (1941-2015) from Münsingen, Switzerland, got a Licentiate in Mathematics from the University of Bern 1968 and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from New York University 1976. 1986-88 he was a MacArthur Fellow in International Peace and Security at Princeton University. He has taught mathematics, computer science, economics and peace studies at various universities and been a consultant to the United Nations. He was co-founder, with Johan Galtung, of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment in 1993.

Excerpted from Dietrich Fischer’s Stories to Inspire You – TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Feb 2017.

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