A Guide to Improving Communication

What motivates you? How can you find your underlying needs?


A Guide to Improving Communication

The importance of seeing underlying needs

Consider how you approach conflicts, seek validation, make decisions, and interact with others, because this introspection can help you uncover your primary and secondary 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 their needs 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?

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 in building a strong and cohesive team, and building healthy and sustainable relationships.

What I am talking about are inherent needs; every person has them, and when they are met in any life situation or conversation the person will feel energized. When needs aren’t met, frustration and anger may be triggered, motivation drops, and the quality of the overall conversation deteriorates.

Understanding what your needs are creates a level of awareness to know when you are humming and 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) either aren’t being met or, worse, they are being 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.

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.

Using knowledge of underlying needs for effective communication

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Once you recognize another individual’s underlying needs, 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.

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

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.

When talking to someone, in addition to listening to their word choice or language style, pay attention to their nonverbal cues, including attentiveness (or lack thereof), energy, fidgeting, changes in facial expressions, 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.

Published: Thursday, August 10, 2023 – 12:02

Whom you are communicating with—whether you know the person or this is your first interaction—naturally changes the dynamic of how you approach a conversation. If it’s the former, what I’m about to share will absolutely allow you to take what you already know about the person a step further. If it’s the latter, you will take away some helpful ways to learn about the person quickly so you can connect with them right off the bat.

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 help create an environment where everyone feels listened to and respected.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship, both personal and professional. This isn’t new information, of course, but the reality is most of us aren’t very good communicators. Even if you have strong skills and may even be told this by others, you can always improve by honing your skills.

Deepening your level of understanding of yourself and another person allows you to connect with people on a much more human and empathetic level and create more meaningful interactions. If this doesn’t sound easy, that’s because it’s not. So, let me break it down.

Identifying your underlying needs

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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

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 your needs that must be met or that you should be aware of so you can manage yourself and react appropriately during a conversation?

First published July 18, 2023, by ThoughtLEADERS LLC.