There are 6 human needs that drive our behaviors. Human Needs Psychology sees these six human needs as profound motivations behind our every action. These go beyond desires or wants. They are fundamental in who we are are what we do. Everyone has these 6 human needs. How one prioritizes the needs determines how they act. We all prioritize them differently. In this article I will explain the six human needs and at the end, offer you an opportunity to look deep into yourself and discover how you prioritize the 6 human needs in your life.
Chloe Madanes explains the six human needs in her terrific book Relationship Breakthrough. The workbook she includes at the end of the book helps readers understand and use the 6 human needs in relation to their spouse or partner. It is life changing. It is said that if 2 needs are fulfilled between you and another person, a connection is formed. When 4 are met, a bond is formed. When all 6 human needs are met, an everlasting relationship is formed.
As your read the needs below, understand they are not in an order of priority. Each person needs to discover their own prioritization. The first 4 human needs are considered the needs essential for human survival. The last 2 are considered needs of the spirit – needs essential for human fulfillment. It is important to understand that needs can be met in positive or negative ways. You’ll see examples of both below.
The 6 Human Needs
Certainty / Comfort
We all want to feel safe and secure. This sense of certainty is physical, financial, and personal. We like to feel secure in our job. We like to feel secure in our home. We like to feel secure in our relationships. We like to know we are financially stable. In tough economic times it’s easy to see where those who prioritize certainty high will have to find other places to get certainty. If someone has lost their job, had to take a pay cut, or feel insecure with their job, they can feel stress until they find another place to fulfill their need for security. Some turn to food. Some turn to sexual gratification. Other words used for certainty and comfort include security, safety, stability, and predictability.
Uncertainty / Variety
It’s a paradox that another need is the opposite as the first, but it is still a fundamental human need. We want variety, adventure, challenges, and surprises. If one were to live the same routine exactly every day, they could get bored and want something out of the ordinary. Every year I take a white water rafting trip. If I were to analyze why I take that trip it could be to fulfill my need for variety and adventure. Such variety or uncertainty makes us feel alive. Those who are into extreme sports might use those activities to fulfill their need for uncertainty. If uncertainty were prioritized higher than certainty, this person might be one that doesn’t keep a stable job for long, does adventurous things, and takes more risks in life. Other words for uncertainty include fear, change, entertainment, conflict, and crisis. Given those last couple alternate words, can you see where one might use a personal conflict or family crisis as a way to fulfill their need for uncertainty? Do you find it interesting if you think about it, that some folks are always in some state of dysfunction, crisis, or health scare? Hmmm.
Love / connection
You knew I’d get to this one sometime, right?! We all need love and connection. When we put love above all other in priority, we take actions that will bring us love, sometimes at the expense of security, variety, or other needs. A guy values the love of his wife, puts off playing sports with his buddies, to express and feel the love with his family. A girl not in a romantic relationship will reach out to other female friends for the connection she gets when she is with them. Infants need love and touch, or will die without it. Other words for love and connection include passion, warmth, tenderness, and togetherness.
In a paradox with love, significance is the need to feel important and wanted. We gain significance when, in comparison to others, we can view ourselves higher. Whether we achieve something great, built something huge, or tearing down something or someone, we can fulfill the need for significance. In a positive way, significance can help us achieve more and be more than we presently are. An athlete who competes and wins gains significance by bringing home the trophies. In a negative way, we can gain significance by destroying or hurting someone else. Gang members and mobs feel significant when they steal or beat someone up. “Look what I did” proclaims the teen who beat up an elderly woman. Animal abuse is also a sign of the need for significance, and a sign of future human abuse. CEO’s often have a high need for significance and fulfill the need by spending countless hours at work making the company bigger and greater. Other words for significance include pride, importance, performance, competition, and rejection.
We’ve all heard the phrase about growing or dying. It’s true, if we are not growing we are dying. We can grow emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially, and intellectually. Those really into reading books might be doing so to fulfill their need to grow. Adults constantly taking classes or going after more degrees might be fulfilling the need to grow. Anytime someone studies or tries learning new things it could be contributed to the need to grow. It is said that anything in your life, if it is not cultivated and growing it is dying. One works endless hours but the house is a wreck. another person tends to the lawn and house tirelessly, but the spouse feels neglected. Growth is a balancing act, trying to keep everything growing and not dying.
Fulfilling the need to contribute goes beyond personal needs in an effort to help someone or something else. Know someone dedicated to a cause? Getting involved in the community, planting trees, volunteering, and writing a book are all ways to contribute back. If you live in a home owners association, the board members are contributing their time. If you give to the United Way you are contributing. Do you know someone who runs a United Way campaign? Contribution makes the spirit feel good. You are helping others. The focus is not on you but on others. By helping others, however, you really are helping yourself. Someone who has a high prioritization for contribution will be actively involved in a lot of causes and freely gives of their time. If you want to help a person with high contribution prioritization, help them feel like they are contributing.
Prioritize the Six Human Needs
It’s time to do a little work. Print out this post. Take some quiet time where you will not be distracted. Bring another blank sheet of paper with you. Review the 6 human needs. Now, on the blank piece of paper, prioritize how you think the six needs fit in your life, 1 through 6. Now, take a close look at the first two. Are these in the right order? Think about your life and your actions. Your actions are what matters. Do your actions conflict or agree with how you rank the first 2 human needs? Spend some time in deep thought. It’s not about what you think is right, or what you want them to be, it is what your actions say they are. (When I did this for myself the first time, I made a number of changes. I reordered. When I seriously looked at my actions, the top 2 did change.)
If you are in a relationship with a serious partner or spouse, think about how you would rate their 6 human needs. Write down how you would prioritize their needs.
Now, have your partner or spouse do the same on their own. Have him/her come up with their own prioritization. Have them come up with your 6 human needs.
Lastly, when both of you have done this on your own, it’s time to compare. Please – listen to each other and not be judgmental.
In another post, I’ll extend this drill to discuss your actions as they relate to your partner/spouse. So, what do you think of the 6 human needs? When you prioritized them, did you discover something new about yourself? Did you discover something new about your partner/spouse? Please share your thoughts below.