Core Needs

A language designed to create comfort & understanding, and build connection & growth in every conversation and relationship

What does CNC do?

If you’ve ever had concerns like

  • “How do I say what I want without seeming greedy or demanding?”
  • “How do I share feedback without sounding mean?”
  • “How can I bring up a touchy or risky subject?”
  • “How can I speak if someone talks a lot?”
  • “What can I say if someone’s upset?”
  • Or others

Then speaking CNC helps, by bringing the focus and gravity towards recognizing, connecting, and fulfilling people’s top-level values & needs. This is made possible by the structure and vocabulary itself which centers around “clean thinking” and intentions.

  • Within oneself, this redirects thoughts away from rabbit holes of judgement and blame, and instead towards fulfilling needs
  • In relationships, this expresses frustrations and fears in a “clean” way that people can more easily understand and empathize with
  • In business, this leads differences of opinion & conflicts more towards understanding, trust, and confidence for clients, teams, and partners

How do I know it really works?

Here are some candid messages people sent in the community with no expectation or preparation that they would be shared publicly, but ones they gave permission to share afterwards:

So how does it work?

CNC is spoken at its most fundamental level by expressing Situations, which are composed of 3 things:

  • Pure Emotions
  • Direct Observations
  • Core Needs

Pure Emotions

A Pure Emotion is an internal mental state that creates unpleasant or pleasant physical feelings in the body


  • Anger
    • “I’m frustrated when…”
    • “I feel irritated after…”
    • “I’m feeling angry”
  • Fear
    • “I’m concerned after…”
    • “I’m worried when…”
    • “I’m scared”
  • Sadness
    • “I’m feeling down after…”
    • “I feel unhappy when…”
    • “I’m sad”


  • Comfort
    • “I’m comfortable”
    • “I feel calm when…”
    • “I’m feeling relaxed after…”
  • Happiness
    • “I’m happy”
    • “I’m glad about…”
    • “I feel delighted when…”
  • Excitement
    • “I’m excited”
    • “I get aroused when…”
    • “I’m feeling motivated after…”

(Unclear expressions of Pure Emotions)

  • “I feel cheated on”
  • “I feel like you’re cheating on me”
  • “I feel betrayed by you”

How would you feel hearing these non-emotions?


(Clearer expression of Pure Emotions)

  • “I’m worried”
  • “I’m feeling frustrated”
  • “I’m sad”

How would you feel hearing these Pure Emotions?


Non-emotions contain presumptions that can trigger defensiveness or imply “wrongness”.

But, Pure Emotions are clean, so it’s easier for people to empathize with them

Direct Observations

A Direct Observation is a specific sensory experience, something you literally saw with your eyes, heard with your ears, felt with your body, smelt with your nose, or tasted with your mouth

(Unclear expressions of Direct Observations)

  • “I saw him steal the phone”
  • “I heard you insult me”
  • “He pushed me”
  • “There was a disgusting smell”
  • “It tasted like heaven

(Clearer expressions of Direct Observations)

  • “I saw him put the phone into his pocket
  • “I heard you say ‘That’s dumb’
  • “I felt pressure on my arm, and saw him
  • “I smelt cheddar cheese
  • “I tasted strawberry

Non-observations can be interpreted in many different ways than you intend.

But, Direct Observations are more objective, shared points of reference everyone can agree on

Core Needs

A Core Need is a high-level concept that all people value

  • Freedom
    • Making decisions for yourself
    • Being able to do what you want
    • Knowing everything will be okay
  • Connection
    • Being recognized, understood
    • Relating to someone
    • Having a bond
  • Growth
    • Doing, building, creating things
    • Developing skills, improving capabilities
    • Learning, acquiring, passing on knowledge

(Unclear expressions of Core Needs)

  • “I need to smack him”
  • “I need him to calm down”
  • “I need to leave this situation”

(Clearer expressions of Core Needs)

  • “I need peace”
  • “I need understanding”
  • “I need to know I’ll be okay”

Non-needs can create violent beliefs and tunnel vision on unfulfilling and unnecessary things.

But, Core Needs are common values people can more easily connect with and use to see more options

What does this look like?

Imagine you’re in a group, some are friends, some are new people, and you hear one of the new people say to your friend “Your friends are lame”

If someone was actually in this scenario, their Situation would be the

  • Pure Emotion they’d be feeling
  • Direct Observation they’d be making
  • Core Need they’d be having

Putting these together into a sentence might look something like this:

On your side

“I’m feeling angry after hearing ‘Your friends are lame’, because I need to be understood

On their side

“They might be feeling frustrated after perhaps not seeing something they were hoping for with us, maybe because they need to have connection around the things they enjoy”

Is that it?

Of course not. These 3 things, Pure Emotions, Direct Observations, and Core Needs are just the beginning. But even with just these, learning them by heart, and translating thoughts and other people’s words and behaviours into CNC Situations already makes a huge difference in how people feel, think, and speak to one another and themselves.

The more CNC you know, and the more familiar you are with speaking it, the more comfortable and confident you’ll feel when

  • Expressing discomforts in ways others can more easily empathize with
  • Responding to unwanted requests (Saying “No”)
  • Catching unfulfilling self-talk, and making it fulfilling
  • Intervening in uncomfortable Situations between others
  • And more…

Next parts of CNC include

  • Acting Upon Your Situation
    • Deciding Fulfilling Actions
    • Making Requests
  • Expressing Your Thoughts
    • Interpretations & Memories
    • Ideas & Imaginations

So how can I learn & practise CNC?

Free resources

Online practice events

Community-supported learning

Talks, seminars, workshops

Programs, retreats