Understand people’s underlying needs with this guide to communication. Enhance relationships and improve your leadership style by being able to adapt.
Today’s guest post is by Paul Bramson, CEO — The Paul Bramson Companies
Effective communication is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship — both personal and professional. This is not new information of course, but the reality is most of us are not very good communicators. Even if you have strong skills and may even be told this by others, you can always be even better by honing your skills.
Who you are communicating with naturally changes the dynamic of how you approach a conversation if you know them, or if this is your first interaction. If the former, you likely know a lot about the person, and what I’m about to share will absolutely allow you to take what you already know about them a step further. If you don’t know the individual before you, you will take away some incredibly helpful ways to learn about them quickly so you can connect with them right off the bat.
When you think you know a person, how much do you really know about what truly drives them, motivates them, or triggers them? What are their inherent drivers that you need to meet to effectively communicate with them? Conversely, what are yours that need to be met, or that you need to be aware of so that you can manage yourself and your reactions appropriately during a conversation?
What I am talking about are inherent needs; every person has them and when they are met in any life situation or conversation, they will feel energized. When they are not met, frustration and anger may be triggered, motivation drops, and the quality of the overall conversation deteriorates.
Deepening your level of understanding of yourself and another person like this allows you to connect with people on a much more human and empathetic level and create much more meaningful interactions. If this doesn’t sound easy, that’s because it’s not, so let me start to break it down.
Identifying your underlying needs
What I call underlying needs or inherent needs are what lie at the core of each of us. It’s a preference or element that when it’s met, energizes, and excites us, motivating us to do something or interact with someone.
Understanding what yours are creates a level of awareness to know when you are humming, you’re in a groove of having your needs met or when you are feeling off-center, frustrated, or annoyed because they (your underlying needs) are either not being met, or worse, tweaked in some way. When you have this awareness, you are better equipped to make necessary changes in a conversation or situation. Similarly, when you know someone else’s underlying needs, you can adjust to meet their needs in the moment during a conversation.
What motivates you? How can you find your underlying needs?
Start by reflecting on your communication patterns, preferences, and emotional reactions in various situations. For example, consider how you respond when your routine is disrupted, when you are corrected or disagreed with, or when you are not included or acknowledged in a group. What need is at the core of your emotions or frustration? That “thing” is a clue into your underlying needs.
Consider how you approach conflicts, seek validation, make decisions, and interact with others, as this introspection can help you uncover your primary and secondary underlying needs.
Some of these questions may feel hard to answer because you’re building self-awareness as you explore and discover them. Sometimes, you may not love what surfaces as a core underlying need, but you need to dig deep and be honest with yourself. This work pays off in every conversation where you use this awareness.
Identifying someone else’s underlying needs
The first step to identifying someone else’s underlying needs is to understand your own.Then, as you interact with others, start to think about what theirs might be. Is there language they’re using that could give you an idea of them? Do they seem to get “triggered” or frustrated by something you say or do? What core need in them could you be tweaking or going against?
It’s interesting what you start to notice when observing conversations through this lens. As you explore, you build this awareness muscle that allows you to recognize and start to adapt to the underlying needs of others. This understanding also allows you to pivot when needed during conversations.
Utilizing knowledge of underlying needs for effective communication
Once you recognize another individual’s underlying need, you can be adaptable in conversations and discussions by adjusting your word choice, tone and even body language based on their specific needs or your own. You become much more flexible and adaptable in the moment to keep a conversation moving forward in a productive way.
When talking to someone, in addition to listening to their word choice or language style, pay attention to their non-verbal cues, including attentiveness (or a lack thereof), energy, fidgeting, changes in facial expressions, or subtle nods or smiles. Each one may show you an underlying need being met or challenged. Recognizing, understanding and responding accordingly fosters and creates a supportive environment for everyone.
By doing all of this effectively, you build trust and rapport with individuals and teams. Bonus fact…building and having this awareness allows you to provide constructive feedback in a more empathetic way that best allows the other person to receive it.
Applying underlying needs in the workplace to become a better leader
Understanding and responding to one’s underlying needs allows you to be more empathetic overall; a quality we look for in strong leaders. Empathetic leaders create and foster a supportive environment where individuals can thrive. Additionally, leaders who can communicate at this very personal level achieve an environment where everyone feels listened to and respected.
Motivating a team as well as providing constructive feedback are essential skills to have, and leaders can more effectively do this when they understand underlying needs.
A final note, now that you have this awareness, how can you create opportunities for your team members to understand and appreciate each other’s underlying needs? This level of understanding and communication is integral for building a strong and cohesive team and building healthy and sustainable relationships.
Paul Bramson has been described as a powerhouse on keynote stages and in training arenas. He is distinguished as being one of the most effective speakers, trainers, and executive coaches in the world today. He is considered a global authority and thought leader in the areas of leadership, sales & communication. With over 25 years of experience in educating, speaking, and coaching, Paul has a unique ability to connect with professionals, leaders, and teams at all levels, providing them with valuable insights and empowering them with the most relevant knowledge and skills. His sincere and passionate approach to his work is evident in his ability to engage and inspire audiences. Paul grew up in Boston, graduated from Boston University, and currently lives in Atlanta, GA.
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