Sunday, April 12, 2009
The Six Human Emotional Needs
Have you wondered why it seems so difficult to change our habitual behaviours? The reason is because our decisions and behaviours are driven by our emotions more than by our logic. Logically, we want to stop smoking or stop overeating, and yet, we still find ourselves repeating the pattern of behaviours. Why do we do this? It is because smoking and over eating meets our emotional needs.
At the same time, we all logically want to have a great relationship with our spouse or friends. And yet, we sometimes find ourselves getting into the same patterns of arguments and conflicts. Again, this is all caused by a mismatch of emotional needs between well-intentioned parties.
To change any kind of behaviour, you must first understand that as human beings, our decisions and actions are almost ALWAYS driven by the need to meet six human (emotional) needs. This is why we sometimes do things that don’t make any sense at all. We do it simply to meet these 6 human needs (by the way, this was developed by Anthony Robbins). So, what are these 6 human needs?
Human Need 1: CertaintyThe first human need is the need for CERTAINTY. We all need to feel a sense of security that things will be okay. Certainty gives us peace of mind and assurance.
Although we all have the need for CERTAINTY, we use different behavioural strategies to meet this need. For example, when you feel stressed, worried, unsure and uncertain, how do you meet your need for certainty?
Some people use destructive strategies like over-eating, smoking or drinking alcohol. Don’t some people do these things to relieve the stress of uncertainty and get into certainty? Others get certainty by controlling other people (becoming a control freak) or by losing their temper. In one episode of Oprah, she interviewed a woman who handled her stress of being sexually abused by creating a multiple personality disorder.
At the same time, there are useful strategies to get certainty. Some people pray/use religion to get that sense of certainty. Some people, adopt empowering beliefs like, ‘ I know I will get through this’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ or they simply have faith in themselves. Others get certainty through exercise, meditation or confiding in a friend.
So, think about this? How DO you meet your need for certainty? Is it constructive or destructive to you?
Human Need 2: Uncertainty
Now, here is the big paradox! As human beings, we have a second emotional need that is in direct conflict with our first need. We all have a need for UNCERTAINTY!
Think about it. If you had absolute 100% certainty in your life where you knew exactly what was going to happen, when it was going to happen, how it happens, before it happens every single day, how will you feel? You will feel BORED TO DEATH. This is why there are multi millionaires who have all the money and all the possessions in the world, but are depressed! Their life is so certain that they have no more challenges or surprises. No more uncertainty!
This is also why a woman/man in a perfect marriage where everything is routine and predictable will eventually get so bored, that they will unconsciously start picking a fight, having an affair or leave the marriage. There is no more excitement and stimulation that we all need emotionally.
So, how do people meet the emotional need of uncertainty (i.e. challenge/surprise/variety) in their lives? Again, some people do destructive things like having an affair, starting arguments, picking up one-night stands, taking drugs, smoking when bored and drinking to get high (yup, smoking and drinking offer both certainty AND uncertainty).
Some of us do neutral stuff like watching a movie, playing sports, changing jobs, making new friends or partying. This gives us the stimulation and variety we all need.
Some constructive strategies would include taking on new challenges (e.g. going mountain climbing, traveling, starting a business, writing a book). So think about it, how do you meet your need for uncertainty?
Human Need 3: Significance
The third human emotional need is the need to feel significant/special/unique/important/needed. We all hunger for this need and again pursue it in different ways.
Some people feel significant by attaining qualifications (e.g. MBAs, PhDs etc..), achieving success, buying lots of toys (e.g. bigger house, bigger car, country club, Rolex watch etc…) or pursuing status symbols.
Others get significance by putting other people down, dressing in a unique way or tattooing every conceivable part of their body. Again, others feel significance by having children (and making sure they excel and do them proud) or flaunting their wealth. Some people get significance by being proud of certain identities they adopt like being a Christian, a Muslim, an Army Officer, a Vegetarian etc…
Many people have asked me why I continue to work so hard to write so many books, spend hours writing posts on my BLOG and speak at so many seminars when I clearly don’t really need the money anymore. The answer is that I am driven to all these things because it makes me feel significant (useful, special, needed) and provides me the uncertainty (challenge & variety) that I crave. It also, gives me the 4th human need, connection and love and the 6th human need, contribution.
Again, think about how YOU meet the need to feel significance?
Human Need 4: Love and Connection
The 4th human need is in direct conflict with the 3rd human need of SIGNIFICANCE. Think about this. If you felt TOTALLY significant where you were so unique, so special and so different from all the people around you. Would you be happy? No! You would feel disconnected from the people around you.
One of our strongest needs as humans in the need to be accepted, to be loved and connected to the people around us. Once we become so special and unique, we will start to find ourselves losing that connection to our peers. I can tell you that I feel that way sometimes myself. At times I find it difficult to really be myself, connect with people I meet because people keep expecting me to be this perfect guru, with all the answers.
Have you ever wondered why a superstar like Britney Spears with all the fame, money and talent in the world could end up screwing up her life by engaging in destructive behaviours like drink driving, drug taking that would lead to 2 divorces, losing custody of her children and ending up in a mental institution? My guess is that although she felt total significance, she felt unloved and disconnected from everyone around her.
She probably could not be herself, always having to put up a front and feeling that all the people around her were just using her. Her need for connection and love probably drove her to mix around with the wrong company (i.e. Paris Hilton) and engaging in destructive behaviours that would get her the love/connection and sympathy she was lacking.
We all need to feel love and connection and again get it through different means. Some people get connection by getting into a relationship, getting married, making love, joining clubs, playing with their children, having pets, prayer (connection to God) or hanging out with friends.
Sometimes, people even ‘try’ to get love and connection by self-abuse and falling sick (studies show 90% of all illnesses are psychosomatic). This gives them the sudden outpour of sympathy and love that they yearn for. How do you get love and connection in your life?
If Your Relationship is Not Happy, Here’s Why…
I have found after working with many couples that whenever a marriage breaks down, it is always because partners are not meeting each others emotional needs.
A man (or woman) often wants to leave the marriage either because he/she no longer feels significant, loved, certainty or uncertainty by his/her partner. What is a very very common scenario is that after a couple has a child, the man no longer feels the same level of significance anymore. It seems that his wife spends all the time with the kids, that he is no longer important. So what happens? He rather spend his time in the office where he feels more significant or find a girlfriend who makes him feel special again!
So, here is a point of reflection. How well are you meeting your partner’s emotional needs?
If Your Staff Are Leaving Your Company, Here’s Why…
As a boss of my own company and a person who trains other companies in bringing put the best in their employees, I have found that your staff will only be happy and motivated to give their best when they feel significant (they are praised often and recognized), certainty (sense of security of their future in the company), uncertainty (their jobs gives them variety and challenge) as well as connection (they love the people they work with and have a sense of belonging).
Similarly, people leave a company not only for monetary reasons. They leave when they feel a lack of security (certainty), lack of challenge (uncertainty), lack of connection (they hate the people) or a lack of significance (unappreciated).
Reflection: if you are a boss/team leader, are you meeting your staff’s/colleagues emotional needs to bring out the best in them?
If You Have An Addiction that You Cannot Change, Here’s Why…
Finally, I have found that if you have a negative behaviour that you find hard to change, it is only because it is being used to meet two or more of your emotional needs. For example, if you find yourself constantly losing your temper, it is because it gives you a sense of significance and certainty.
If you find it difficult to stop smoking, it is probably it meets your needs for certainty (relaxes and de-stresses you), uncertainty (smoke when you feel bored), connection (especially if you smoke with friends to ‘fit in’) and significance (makes you look ‘cool’). Often, when a behaviour meets more than 2 needs, it becomes an ADDICTION.
In my patterns of excellence programs, I show people how to break limiting patterns of behaviours by first finding an alternative way to meet their needs. If you do not find a new useful alternative behaviour to replace it, you will find yourself going back to the old habit/addiction.
The Last Two Human Needs: Growth and Contribution
You are probably wondering what the last two human emotional needs are. Understand that the first four needs MUST be met by us constantly. It is what drives our daily behaviours.
However, to be truly fulfilled and happy, we need to meet the last two needs of ‘growth’ and ‘contribution’. We need to constantly grow by learning more and challenging ourselves to become better. The moment we stop growing, we start dying emotionally.
Finally, we all need to contribute beyond ourselves, This is why people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett make all the money in the world only to give most of it away to charity. contribution is what gives us ultimate purpose and fulfillment in life.