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spike bullet June, 1997 - Basic Human Needs

Human Needs - The Nine Basic Human Needs and how they affect people in the workplace.
Tips - How to use this information for yourself and for understanding others

spike bullet The Nine Basic Human Needs

The Nine Needs:

Security, Adventure, Freedom, Exchange, Power, Expansion, Acceptance, Community, Expression.

Each of us has three primary needs, meaning three needs that are more important than the other six needs, which we have to a lesser degree. When people do not get their needs met, they can become agitated, belligerent or driven to use the negative aspects of their needs.

Each of the needs is described below, with their positive aspects (how they work in positive ways) and their negative aspects (how people use more forceful or destructive ways to get their needs met).

Each person is responsible for seeing that they get their own needs met - this is an inside job, not something that is fulfilled by another person. People who share the same needs will feel a connection or common bond. 

Two people who do not share at least one common need will feel little connection with another person. Co-workers who do not share similar needs will have a hard time working together. Close friends, partners and mate relationships will usually share two or three needs in common.

spike bulletSecurity

Security is the need to feel safe, to feel assured that they know what is going to happen, to know ahead of time what the plans are. What constitutes Security can be different for different people.

Examples of how Security manifests for different people:

  • Having lots of money in the bank
  • Having a planned savings/retirement program
  • Having a secure job
  • Having a house, home and family
  • Having a dependable car
  • Paying off the mortgage or having no debts
  • Having excellent personal and family health, or health insurance that covers any possibility
  • Having life insurance to protect their family
  • Having deep personal faith or personal conviction that they will be OK regardless of what happens in the world
  • Carrying a gun or having a way to protect themselves
  • Knowing their personal family history, or ethnic background
  • Living in a gated/guarded community
  • Living near friends and family.

Positive aspects: Whatever makes you feel safe, balanced, grounded, connected, safe, secure, trusting that things will be OK in your life.

Negative aspects: Overly cautious, fearful, paralyzed, indecisive, frozen in place, unable to function due to insecurity, retaliation against someone who they believe destroys their sense of Security.

How this need affects the workplace: People who have a need for Security will be more deeply affected by sudden changes, unforeseen events, real or perceived threats to their job, their livelihood, or their sense of self.  Their fear will keep them from functioning in times of crisis or potentially cause them to react strongly to someone that they feel is threatening their sense of security.  People who have a high need for security will be drawn more to working in government or public sector jobs than to entrepreneurial enterprises.

People who have a low Security need or have a need for Adventure may welcome change of any kind, while those with a high Security need may react very strongly at even minor changes. A manager who has a need for Adventure with a staff with high Security needs can create havoc and traumatic reactions very quickly.

spike bulletAdventure

Adventure is the need for an adrenaline rush, to have new experiences, to travel, to have BIG experiences, to have drama in their life, to have a sense of anticipation about upcoming events.

Examples of how Adventure manifests for different people:

  • Planning new trips (even if they are never taken)
  • Re-organizing a department or company
  • Starting a new company or division
  • Creating new markets, new products or new industries
  • Changing partners or spouses
  • Changing jobs frequently
  • Moving frequently
  • Buying a new car every year
  • Being an entrepreneur or being self-employed
  • Changing work assignments or locations
  • Conquering something (climbing the highest mountain, winning the gold medal, setting new records)
  • Experimenting with new techniques or materials
  • Being first to do something or try something
  • Loving the challenge of solving problems
  • Racing sports of all types (the thrill of victory!)

Positive aspects: Sense of higher self-confidence, independence, risk-taking, optimism, excitement, enthusiasm for living.

Negative aspects: Reckless regard for life and limb, irresponsibility, cutting themselves off from people (hermit), judgmental of others who are less adventurous, creating crisis or drama inappropriately.

How this need affects the workplace: People with a need for Adventure will be leading the pack to find new things to do, new places to visit, new markets to open, new products to sell, new ways of doing things, new ways of organizing the company.

They make excellent sales people, who love the thrill of making a sale or opening doors to new clients/customers. They could be a customer service representative who gets a thrill every time the phone rings with a new problem, or they could be an entrepreneur who starts companies over and over.

If things get too boring, people with a need for Adventure will find a way to liven them up - either in a positive way by initiating something new or in negative ways by going off on their own, taking great risks or by criticizing others who can't see that the new Adventure is wonderful!

As mentioned in Security, the conflict between people with a need for Adventure and those with a need for Security can create havoc. Some people have both Security and Adventure in their highest three needs; this creates a particularly challenging situation for them as they seem to be opposites. To handle both appropriately, a person might enjoy travel to new places (Adventure) yet will carefully plan out the trip (Security) - satisfying both needs in a positive way for themselves. Or, they might find themselves constantly torn by conflict between the two. If they realize they are responsible for resolving their own needs, the conflict can be managed in a positive way.

spike bulletFreedom

Freedom is the need for independence and spontaneity. It is also the need to have choices and to feel in control of making those choices. In many people, Freedom might be combined with Adventure, since a person who has a need for Freedom might be willing to partake of more Adventures, than a person who has both Freedom and Security. Freedom does not care for plans or heavy structure. What constitutes Freedom for one person may be very different from another's need perception of Freedom.

Examples of how Freedom manifests for different people:

  • Having choices and making their own choices
  • Feeling free to move around without restrictions
  • Feeling free to make decisions in their job
  • Making choices about relationships
  • Choosing where they live
  • Choosing what work assignments they will accept
  • Teaching others how to be self-sufficient
  • Refusing to obey rules that were created by someone else
  • Making or enforcing rules that allow Freedom and free choices for others
  • Advocating Freedom as a basic human right
  • Keeping their options open by not making decisions
  • Re-arranging their work space
  • Changing their appearance, hair style or way of dressing
  • Feeling free to be themselves, regardless of what they are doing or what situation they find themselves in
  • Feeling free to search or seek out answers rather than having answers imposed upon them
  • Having the freedom to work as they feel is best - either by what hours they work, what days they work, or by how they approach a job or a project
  • Refusing to "make a commitment" (an easily recognized example of the need for Freedom)

Positive aspects: Independence, self-confidence, high self-esteem, teaching others, clarity, a way out of martyrdom (feeling stuck, trapped or sorry for yourself)

Negative aspects: Relationship avoidance, fear of commitment, separation and distancing from others, inability to understand others and be understood, manipulative (imposing on people's freedom).

How this need affects the workplace: People with a need for Freedom may resist any and all attempts to impose new rules on them. If they work in an "open" environment, they may excel at projects that require or reward independent thinking and spontaneity. They will make good teachers of people who are expected to exercise independent judgment.

Someone who manages a person with a need for Freedom will get along best with them when they recognize and respect that person's to make choices for themselves. People with a need for Freedom must recognize that need in themselves and not take jobs that are very rule-oriented; rather they must look for situations where their need for Freedom can be exercised appropriately.

The Nine Needs:

Security, Adventure, Freedom, Exchange, Power, Expansion, Acceptance, Community, Expression.

spike bulletExchange

Exchange is the need to trade information and knowledge with others, not just to mingle or socialize, but to deliver and receive something of value. That something of value may be information, conversation, communication, energy, friendship, services, money, gifts, love, justice, shared experiences. People with a need for exchange are concerned about the flow of energy in all types of relationships. They like to see things "moving" in some way that expresses balanced equality, integrity and an equal exchange.

Examples of how Exchange manifests for different people:

  • Participating with others in discussions of all types
  • Staying in touch with friends, family and business associates (phone calls, letters, e-mail, in-person visits, gifts, etc.)
  • Feeling a sense of camaraderie with coworkers
  • Working with others who have a common goal
  • Participating in groups (teams, committees, clubs, boards, etc.) where they feel they are valued and receive value from others
  • Seeing that justice is done
  • Feeling a sense of fairness and balance in interactions with others
  • Working in a way that creates equality for all participants
  • Feeling a sense of integrity and trust with others
  • Sharing information with others and receiving information in return
  • Working with contracts and agreements
  • Studying (and working with) situations and people related to ethics, integrity and justice
  • Building and maintaining an active network of contacts
  • Making introductions to others through their network.
  • Sharing a deep relationship with another person, where they feel able to communicate and interact freely and easily.

Positive aspects: Positive role model for relationships; maintaining an equal balanced flow of <whatever> in a relationship; keeping things moving (knowledge, information, communication, energy); promoting equality in all interactions; working with money, contracts, justice, ethics, integrity, wholeness, balance.

Negative aspects: Keeping secrets, withholding communications, engaging in inappropriate communications (gossip, lying, criticism), cynicism, general negativity, stinginess, not participating with others in an equal or balanced way, unethical behavior or treatment of others.

How this need affects the workplace: People who have a need for Exchange work well with others with common goals. If a person who has a need for Exchange meets someone that does not interact well with them, they will "write off" the person and the relationship, finding no common ground for interaction. If this other person is a boss, client or coworker it will be very hard for them to continue any further interaction with the person.

A person with a need for Exchange needs to feel they are getting something of value from someone else and that they are giving something of value. They will be very distressed by unethical or discriminatory behavior, or learning that information has been withheld from them.

spike bulletPower

People with a need for Power need to be in a position of authority and responsibility. They need to explore Power, leadership and accomplishment. People with a need for Power tend to be good organizers and accept responsibility, setting an example of leadership.

Examples of how Power manifests for different people:

  • Managing a company, a division or a department
  • Becoming a leader in a civic organization or professional group
  • Organizing events, trips, projects
  • Achieving success
  • Helping others feel empowered
  • Being a well-known speaker
  • Becoming an authority on some topic
  • Writing a book that expresses leadership
  • Being responsible for people, things, projects, events, situations
  • Being a leader and recognized as a leader
  • Teaching others about leadership and responsibility
  • Taking command of an army or a military unit
  • Taking over a country
  • Rescuing a company in trouble
  • Taking charge during an emergency or crisis

Positive aspects: Self-empowerment, leadership, accomplishment, success, organization of others and things, responsibility.

Negative aspects: Viciousness, abuse of power, dictatorship, inappropriate control and manipulation, anger, violence against others or things.

How this need affects the workplace: People with a need for Power will gravitate to situations that allow them to exercise their leadership skills and responsibility. This may be on a grand scale or on a smaller level. When they cannot exercise their need for Power, they may become manipulative through coercive power, threats or over-control. A person with a need for Power may exercise it in the workplace, find outlets in a community setting or in teaching others about the use of appropriate Power.

People with a need for Power may be noticed when they enter a room because they carry a strong sense of leadership and are used to be in command. These are good folks to put in charge when something needs accomplishing. They will be happiest when they feel powerful. They will be unhappiest when someone or something prevents them from exercising Power in some way, or if they feel a sense of personal failure.

spike bulletExpansion

Expansion is the need to build something, to add onto, to create an empire, to expand horizons, to go where no one has gone before.

Examples of how Expansion manifests for different people:

  • Building a company
  • Building a personal or political empire
  • Creating a personal fortune
  • Expanding a collection of any kind
  • Saving rare art, rare books or historic buildings from destruction
  • Protecting the environment because it benefits humanity
  • Building new buildings, cities, communities, roads
  • Expanding a market niche
  • Creating new knowledge
  • Discovering new ways of doing things
  • Expanding the boundaries of science, art, medicine, music or nature
  • Expanding the knowledge of physical and spiritual laws
  • Understanding how the Universe works and explaining it to others
  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Becoming an astronaut, oceanographer, medical researcher or scientist focused on exploring new worlds
  • Exploring uninhabited lands or regions
  • Becoming a minister, preaching about people's connection with a larger spiritual reality
  • Creating new breeds of animals or plants

Positive aspects: Growth and expansion; recognizing the value of others; recognizing the value of art, science, nature, physical and spiritual laws; working with cosmology; recognizing a connection with great spiritual teachers (Christ, Buddha, the Higher Self); working with the study of intuition and psychic interests; understanding how the Universe works and how they fit into it; understanding themselves and others.

Negative aspects: Indiscriminate growth (cancer, huge weight gains, hoarding things, large collections of odd things), confusion, loss, abandonment, betrayal, loss, suicide, atheism, evil, sin, spiritual separation.

How this need affects the workplace: People with a need for Expansion will constantly be trying to expand their knowledge and the boundaries of that knowledge. This is good if they are in positions where that energy can be focused on assisting a company grow, creating new knowledge or creating new products. It can be bad if their only outlet for expansion is to take from others. When their need for expansion is thwarted, they may turn that need into inappropriate and harmful ways.

The Nine Needs:

Security, Adventure, Freedom, Exchange, Power, Expansion, Acceptance, Community, Expression.

spike bulletAcceptance

Acceptance is the need to accept yourself and be accepted by others.  This includes a feeling of belonging.  People with a need for Acceptance are usually very easy-going and pleasant to have in a group.

Examples of how Acceptance manifests for different people:

  • Participating with situations that are open and accepting of everyone
  • Feeling a sense of acceptance by coworkers
  • Being accepted by neighbors
  • Being accepted as a valuable member of a family group
  • Being accepted into a club or group
  • Working with people who need extra attention and acceptance
  • Feeling loved
  • Accepting whatever comes up in life
  • Doing things that make others feel good
  • Being nice regardless of the situation or the person
  • Being tolerant of self and others

Positive aspects: Understanding and participating in love and loving situations, romance, bondedness, sense of family or tribe, self-esteem, self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others, altruistic, humanitarian.

Negative aspects: Rejection, jealousy, prejudice, guilt, shame, hate, xenophobia (group prejudice, fear of different classes of people)

How this need affects the workplace: People who have a need for Acceptance are a valuable addition to any group. They will often be a stabilizing presence and help others tolerate each other a little better. They may "go along" to whatever proposals are made to avoid any conflict in a group. It is very hard for them to express any different opinion because of their fear of being rejected.

A person with a need for Acceptance needs to feel they are accepted, as well as accepting others. They can be seen as a "doormat" with no opinion of their own or their time may be abused since they will rarely criticize others or say "no." Because of this, they may be rejected by others, which causes them more severe pain because of their high need for Acceptance.

spike bulletCommunity

People with a need for Community like having people around. They are highly social and will express their enjoyment of gatherings. These are the best folks to put in charge of parties and company gatherings. They will seek out people and are able to maintain large numbers of relationships. The need for Community is different from the need for Exchange in that the need for Community does not require the exchange of anything.

Examples of how Community manifests for different people:

  • Throwing parties for the slightest of reasons
  • Being the center of the office network
  • Participating in classes, groups, clubs
  • Going to a shopping mall or concert just to be around large groups of people
  • Being the cook for large family gatherings
  • Hosting family gatherings, groups of friends
  • Opening their home to people with common interests that may be in town for some reason
  • Running for public office
  • Gathering signatures for a petition or ballot initiative
  • Being part of a campaign to save the rain forests or a wild life area
  • Creating a learning center for people interested in political, social, environmental or spiritual goals

Positive aspects: Need to be around other people; highly social; need to be tribal; ability to have and relate to children, grandchildren, distant relatives; need for family; need for bonding at a wider level; political and ecological participation; responsibility as a citizen; sense of one's own importance and dignity in relation to the rest of humanity.

Negative aspects: Indiscriminate contact, neediness, clinging, dependence, irresponsibility, criminal behavior, short-term thinking.

How this need affects the workplace: People with a need for Community will be with people every chance they can get. They may be the center of the gathering or on the sidelines. They may be the ones bringing forth proposals that point out a company's responsibilities to the environment or the community.

These are not people to be sent to work in an isolated laboratory, work the midnight shift or sent on a mission where they will not be able to socialize with others. Because socializing is such an innate talent with them, others may feel jealous and not understand the high need to be with other people. Others who are less social may be compared inappropriately and told, "If they can do it, so can you." That's not necessarily so. Not everyone has an inherent need (or even tolerance) for very high social contact. The less-social folks may want tag along occasionally, letting those with Community gather the crowds.

spike bulletExpression

Expression is the need to be artistic, to be seen, to be heard, to be felt. It is the need to express oneself through words, speech, actions, dress, art and self-creations of all types.

Examples of how Expression manifests for different people:

  • Expressing through the Internet (creating web sites, writing newsletters, creating graphic art, stating opinions)
  • Writing books, poems, articles
  • Reading poetry at coffee houses
  • Writing opinion articles for newspapers and magazines
  • Public speaking about topics that are near and dear to the speaker
  • Creating art in all forms (painting, jewelry, crafts, interior design, graphic design, furniture design, architecture)
  • Teaching creative thinking classes or workshops
  • Designing company logos or ad campaigns
  • Coaching children in creative arts
  • Dancing or teaching dance in all forms
  • Acting in movies, plays or local theaters

Positive aspects: Demonstrating individual creativity, showing balance, getting in touch with creativity, promoting understanding (by revealing self) through art, words, behavior; being a living expression of "who I am."

Negative aspects: Invasion of other's space (too much self-expression), self-centered, temperamental, blind to other's value, lying, creating or expressing a false image.

How this need affects the workplace: People with a need for Expression will be happiest when they are free to express their inherent creativity. Examples might be through writing or designing a company newsletter; creating a company logo; developing company brochures; designing a new work space arrangement; creating designs for new products , services or related materials; designing or maintaining a company's Internet web site; giving speeches on behalf of the company's values, goals and mission (if they reflect the person's values and beliefs).

In many companies, expression of individuality is rigidly controlled and monitored. This may lead to destruction of an individual's ability to function fully and productively in that environment.

For a person with a need for Expression, such an environment will either drive them toward negative expressions or they will go where their creativity is valued. People who cannot be creative or expressive through their work, may find outlets in community activities that are sufficient to satisfy their need for Expression.

The Nine Needs:

Security, Adventure, Freedom, Exchange, Power, Expansion, Acceptance, Community, Expression.

spike bulletHow to use this information for yourself and for understanding others

  1. Read over the descriptions of all the nine needs.
  2. Determine which of the needs are highest to lowest for you (rank them 1 - 9, with 1 being highest), if you can.
  3. Or, group your needs into top tier (3 highest), middle tier (3 middle) and lowest tier (3 lowest).
  4. For each need of your top tier, think about how your life has been driven to satisfy those needs in positive ways.
  5. And/or, how you've acted from the negative aspect of those needs.
  6. Ask yourself the following questions: What is happening in your life today that satisfies your highest needs?
  7. Are there strong needs that are not being satisfied for you?
  8. What changes can you make so that your highest needs are satisfied?
  9. Have your needs changed much since childhood? Is this because you have found ways to satisfy them easily, or have they been constant sources of frustration?

You may find that some needs seem to be of equal importance or that you can't decide between the 3rd and 4th highest. That's OK. If the needs are very strong, consider them to be in your "top tier." Sometimes, unmet needs exert extra force so we pay attention to them for a while.

Once you are fairly sure about where your needs rank, think about the people you are closest to and what their needs might be (spouse, partner, coworkers, close friends, children, etc.)

Talking to others about what your needs are, how they affect your life and how they affect your interaction is a valuable exercise to gain understanding. For working teams, learning what is important to each member of the team helps reduce friction and improves communication.

Knowing the needs of others helps us understand that they may be acting from their own highest needs, not just doing something to frustrate us!

SourcesNine needs material adapted from various workshops by Jose & Lena Stevens, Pivotal Resources and JP Van Hulle, Michael Education Foundation.

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Page updated: December 28, 2013      

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