Our Basic Social Needs: Belonging and Significance

Beyond basic survival, we all want to experience a healthy sense of belonging and significance through our four core social needs: to  feel powerful, lovable, connected and contributing. These four core needs are so great in us that the urge to meet them can override our conscience, our fears of disapproval and even threat of punishment or death. Solutions: Ask yourself if what you’re thinking, saying, feeling or doing is consistent with the four core needs for you or others. Examine if in  your home, workplace or other important environments you consistently remove what’s detrimental and install what’s crucial to meet the four core needs.

1. Our Need to Feel Empowered

By empowered I’m not talking about force, control or manipulation. I mean intrinsic power (which is ultimately love) whereby I can influence and affect outcomes. When we can’t get this need for power met legitimately, we’ll often accept the cheap substitute: force. Solutions: Insist on sharing authentic power and provide yourself and others with the skills, support, encouragement and tools to be self-managing. Honor yourself by asking for more power and being specific about what you want. Do the same for others. Spend time reading about and being with powerful people who use their power in mature, positive and intentional ways.

2. Our Need to Feel Lovable

Deep down, we all want to know that who we are uniquely, delights others. While  we  want to share our authentic self, the world often reflects back to us how we think about our self. I  remember a time I kept attracting men who seemed desperate and lacked self-confidence. My coach suggested I look for where I wasn’t seeing myself as a great catch and shift this belief. Once I did this, I started to attract a different type of person into my life. Solutions: Find ways to fall in love with you and look for and find the many ways you are delightful. Take time to remind yourself that you do enough, you’re good enough and that you always do your best. Each day, note five ways you were kind to yourself and others and  five things you appreciate about yourself and others in your life.

3. Our Need to Feel Connected

All institutions (including our homes and schools) are communities and within these communities, the need for connection is crucial. At the same time, so many communities fail because they’re fre- quently dysfunctional, based on win/lose, superior/inferior dynamics and dog-eat-dog assumptions and behaviors. Solutions: Make eye contact and smile. Physically touch others appropriately. Celebrate win/win intensely. Exaggerate affection and positive regard. When meeting new people, prepare yourself by taking a breath, getting present and putting down your fears or judgments so you’re not in a protective mode when they tell you their names. This helps to greatly increase your ability to remember names and other details about all you meet.

4. Our Need to Feel Contributing

People are deeply satisfied when contributing to something larger than themselves. An example of this was 9/11. People were able to contribute to one another in openhearted, extensive and immediate ways. Giving is consistent with who we are authentically. Yet, we often block others from contributing to us because that puts us into a state of receiving – and many people are  uncomfortable with the vulnerability they feel when asking for help. Solutions: Ask for ideas, advice and help from others often, especially those disenfranchised such as children, workers on the bottom rung of an organization or any person who’s not traditionally thought to be significant. Also, let go of the notion that it’s better to”give than to receive.” Finally, when you have a contribution to make, whether large or small, but are stymied by a fear of failure, do it anyway.

By living within the context of our four core needs, we honor others and ourselves. and gain great fulfillment. Isn’t that what life is all about?