Negative Behaviors Are Clues to Your Personal Needs and Those of Your Characters

“Negative Behaviors Are Clues to Your Personal Needs and Those of Your Characters”

According to the Center for Nonviolent Communication, there are 8 areas of personal needs. Momentum Works, Inc listed 20 personal needs as excerpted from Coach University.  I  put these 20 needs beside the areas I thought they would belong. Feel free to move them around in an order that suits you.

  • Connection – be accepted, be cared for, be needed, acknowledged, be loved, to communicate

  • Honesty – authenticity, fairness

  • Meaning – duty, recognition, work, to accomplish,

  • Physical Well-Being (I think, Mental Well-Being, too.) – be comfortable, security

  • Peace – certainty, order, safety

  • Play – joy, humor, be right, excitement

  • Autonomy (freedom of choice) – be free, to control, power

You and your character have the same basic needs. In your life, you try to solve your problems with as few negative traits as possible. However, when you bring a make-believe character to life, it’s a little different. In the situation described in your story, make at least three primary needs show up asking for the most attention.  It’s your job as a writer to make them stand out. It’s your job to exaggerate, describe, and magnify these flaws so readers can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste them up close.

In reading “Identifying Your Personal Needs” by Momentum Works Inc. that used an excerpt from Coach University, I started to laugh. They listed reasons that you might do a crazy thing like procrastinate and whine. Here are a few personal experiences with these traits and one I added which was pout.


You might do it for safety, independence, and/or excitement.

I do know that I have procrastinated many times in my life. I never thought it was for one of these needs.  Afraid of risks…wanting my way…oh. yes.

When I was in college, one of our English assignments was to read Moby Dick. It was a thick book. I had no interest in the sea, whales, or fishermen. The night before it was due, I hid myself in the broom closet in my college dorm and read Moby Dick aloud. I took the test on it the next day. I did well on it. I was a bit sleepy, but I took a nap the next afternoon after classes. Perhaps other things are more exciting than something we have deemed we have to do or other people have deemed we must do.


You might whine for security, control, power, acceptance, and/or attention.

I admit I might have done this for control and or attention, especially when I was a young child. My mother would take me and my sister visiting a neighbor. The only time I knew that she would leave immediately was if it looked like it was going to rain. When I was ready to go, I’d say, “I want to go home, now. It’s going to rain.”  Even if the sun was shining brightly. Even if there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I must confess that the first time I said this, it worked. However, the newness wore off much too quickly. My efforts to get back home before many hours elapsed failed miserably.

Pout. The silent whine.

You might pout to show displeasure by frowning and thrusting out your lips. You do it for power, control, and attention.

I pouted to show my long-term brooding ill humor. I did it to protest in silent resentment. When I didn’t get my way, if whining didn’t work, I pouted. Pouting involved sticking out my lips as far forward as I possibly could. My lips during these times made great diving boards.  Alas and alack. Pouting usually got me into deeper water than I cared to tread. Plus, I still didn’t get my way.

There are other negative habits, such as: being late, over-committing, under-achieving, yelling, and watching television (instead of doing a chore). I’d like for you to choose one of these and tell me why you might do this. What need were you trying to furnish when you did it?

Would you share funny stories about what you did when you didn’t get your way when you were a child? I’m sure you’ve corrected these behaviors as an adult. If not, it’s okay. You can share the things you’ve seen others do.

Thinking about these needs and negative behaviors might give you a few ideas of character traits to bring a few of your characters to life. Thank you for reading my blog. I enjoyed writing it. I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Center for Nonviolent Communication. “Needs Inventory:” Copyright © 2005 Website: Email: Phone: +1.505-244-404.
  2. Tony Belak. “How To Handle Difficult Behavior In The Workplace:”

Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards

Flip Flap Floodle on Amazon Even mean ole Mr. Fox can’t stop this little duck!

Copyright 2012 © Joan Y. Edwards

12 thoughts on “Negative Behaviors Are Clues to Your Personal Needs and Those of Your Characters”

  1. Joan,
    When I was little, I didn’t get to buy candy at the store. There was a girl in my class at school who walked home for lunch. She would stop at a small community store and buy candy for anyone who gave her money to spend. I gave her my lunch money, meant for a day later in the week. I remember the teacher saying we were not to do that, but I already had.

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thanks for sharing. Isn’t it interesting what we do to fulfill an unmet need? You poor puppy! I hope you didn’t starve without your lunch money later that week.
      Do something fun to celebrate you.
      Joan Y. Edwards

      1. Funny thing–I don’t remember what I did about money for lunch later or if I got in trouble with my parents. Wonder why some of the details are so clear and some fade with time?

        By the way, I thought your personal experiences were quite interesting. I especially enjoyed the story of your visiting a neighbor with your mom and saying it was going to rain to get to go home early. Clever girl!

        1. Dear Linda,
          It is funny how we remember vividly certain details and not others. I think it depends upon what was important to you at the time. Did the girl give the candy as promised?
          I’m glad you thought my personal experiences were interesting. I rejoiced when my “want to go home now, it’s going to rain” story worked. At least it worked once.
          Enjoy your day. Thanks for stopping by again.

          Never Give Up
          Joan Y. Edwards

  2. Joan, when I was in college, I spent a summer working abroad as an exchange student. I got back, totally fried due to the time change, and that very evening my parents dragged me to a family event. After several hours, on the point of collapse, so I believed, and unable to get my folks to leave (we had driven there together), I threw a tantrum. They quickly gathered everything and we left.

    I totally did it to get my way, which was to leave. And it worked, too.

    1. Dear Margaret,
      I can imagine how exhausted you must have been. I’m proud that your parents finally understood how tired you were, even if you had to throw a tantrum to get their attention and get them to listen to you.
      May you always be able to get people to listen to you without resorting to a tantrum. Although, I must say that I’m curious as to just what your tantrum entailed! That would make a great scene in one of your books. You don’t have to tell them it was described from a very personal experience.
      Celebrate you sense of humor! Thank you for writing.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      1. Joan, great idea about using this in a book. As I recall, I rather noisily had hysterics. I stopped saying in a reasonable, mature tone, “I’m tired and I want to go home,” and started crying and screaming the same thing.

        1. Dear Margaret,
          Thanks for writing. I’m glad you liked my idea about using your tantrum scene in one of your books. The crying and screaming at the same time was very descriptive. Do something fun to celebrate you.
          Never Give Up
          Joan Y. Edwards

  3. Joan,
    The girl did deliver the candy, but she got caught. She only had permission to go home, not to the store. She was not to do that any more. Eventually, no one was allowed to leave for lunch.

  4. Joan,

    This post coincided with some professional (writing) questions I am working on. Very helpful links, indirectly lead me to this article on procrastination. Some research indicates people are more likely to proscrastinate when given abstract tasks than concrete tasks.

    So the question becomes how to turn the abstract “Write a novel” into something more concrete.

    Very serendipitous. Thank you.

    1. Dear Kathy,
      Thanks for writing. You’re very welcome. It was my pleasure. I’m glad my post came at a good time to help you with professional questions you are working on. I enjoyed reading the Procrastination article from the link you put in your comment. So we will be less likely to put off what we can put a picture of in our minds. That makes sense to me. Although sometimes I resist cleaning up the kitchen, although I know exactly what it looks like. We humans are tricky people, aren’t we? I love hearing other people’s ideas. It helps us make sense out of things that are happening to us and/or people we love. Please come by again.
      Celebrate your gift of asking questions and looking for answers.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

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