“What are you doing? The finishing line is here!” Kay shouted and gestured which track I should take. I had just covered 40 km on cross-country skis, but instead of crossing the finishing line, I took an extra lap in the stadium. The ski race went three laps and the first time I switched laps I missed a bit and accidentally took a shortcut. It did not seem as if anyone had noticed this and I could easily have finished the race a few minutes faster.

At the moment I didn’t think much about it, I just wanted to cover the whole distance before reaching the goal. Later when I thought about it I realised it was about my need for integrity. Even if it’s just me who’s interested in my race time (I did not directly belong to the top tier), how fun would it be with a time that did not show the real distance?

What is integrity?

So what is integrity about and what happens if I do not live according to it? Part of integrity is that my actions are congruent with my values. Then I experience integrity. When my actions go against my values, part of my being suffers.

When I think about integrity, it becomes clear to me that it can be difficult to meet certain needs at the same time. Acting in accordance with my need for integrity sometimes means standing up for something. In my life, this is often associated with some kind of tension. I might choose to do or say something that differs from what others do or say. Most of the time when I consciously act in line with my need for integrity, other needs will not be fulfilled. For example, my need for harmony, peace, acceptance, community or belonging.

When integrity is lacking…

If we notice that we give up our need for integrity more than we want, we can look for the “why” behind it. We can think of different situations where we have not stood up for our integrity and for each of the situations, check what needs we were trying to meet instead of the need for integrity. Maybe we can find a pattern? It is probably one or more needs that recur in most situations. The next step is to see how we can ensure that we continuously fuel these needs. If we don’t have recurring situations where this happens, we may need to develop some strategies for these needs to be met. When we meet these needs continuously, it becomes easier for us to act in accordance with our integrity.

Personal integrity

Another example of integrity is the concept of “personal integrity”. How much do we share our inner life, how transparent are we? People who are considered to have a high level of personal integrity often do not reveal much of what is going on within them.

When we are learning NVC, we often want to explore our own and others’ feelings and needs. In my opinion, this is easiest to do in contact with other people. We can participate in empathy sessions and support each other to discover our feelings and connect them with our needs. When we do this, it is helpful to be open and transparent about our inner life. If I have a high “personal integrity” – if I do not like to share my inner self – this can be an obstacle for me to develop and learn.

I also want to see the good reason why people have “personal integrity”. Opening up can be vulnerable. Maybe we were involved in situations where we were ridiculed. Or maybe we did things we are ashamed of and worried about how others will treat us if we tell them. There are lots of reasons why people choose not to tell everything about themselves.

So, check with yourself what integrity means to you and if it supports meeting your other needs or maybe sometimes sabotages them. I also invite you to share below how you meet your need for integrity and if you notice a difference in your own and other people’s strategies.


Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)

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On 24 February at 19:00-19:45 CET, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Kay Rung. We will talk about the need for integrity.

Sign up for the Needs’ Year and you will receive a link to Zoom.

If you read this afterwards, you can watch the recording when you become a premium subscriber. Check the details HERE.

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