To have good relationships, we must support the needs of others. Or to invert it: To avoid having poor relationships, we must avoid thwarting or ignoring the needs of others. If we communicate in a way that supports others’ needs, they will feel good about themselves in our presence and associate us with positive emotions.
One of the needs we have is the need to be seen, to be witnessed by someone, to be acknowledged, to be recognized. We do not like to feel ignored or invisible. Most social media is based on this need, which is an indication of how important it is. We enjoy likes and comments on what we do and say. It causes the chemical dopamine to be released in our bodies, rewarding us with the feeling of pleasure.
Consider the following examples to see how your way of communicating either supports or thwarts this need.
Example 1 of thwarting this need: Your friend has cleaned the kitchen. You notice how clean it is as soon as you walk in the door. You sit down and look at your phone.
Example 1 of supporting this need: Before sitting down, you comment on it: “Damn, you’ve really made this kitchen clean, James.” (He will think: here is someone who recognizes the work I have done.)
Example 2 of thwarting this need: Your friend has gotten a new haircut. You do not say anything about it.
Example 2 of supporting this need: Instead of saying nothing, you comment on it: “You’ve gotten a new haircut? It looks nice.” Your friend will enjoy that you have noticed the change. (He will think: you pay attention to me, ergo you care about me.)
Example 3 of thwarting this need: Your friend seems really happy about something. You just converse as you normally do.
Example 3 of supporting this need: Instead of doing nothing with your observation, you share it: “That’s one big smile on your face today, what’s up?” Your friend will be pleased that you noticed and enjoy talking about what is making him so happy.
Example 4 of thwarting this need: An acquaintance of yours checks out your profile on Linkedin. You do not look at his. Your acquaintance knows that you can see that he has visited your profile and might think something like: “Why doesn’t he bother to check out my profile? Does he think I’m beneath him?”
Example 4 of supporting this need: You click into his profile as well, acknowledging his existence and showing that you have noticed that he clicked on you. Because you have shown interest in return, your acquaintance will feel good about himself. It creates balance.
Example 5 of thwarting this need: You are in a group setting. Your friend makes a funny joke, and everybody laughs, except you. You envy his funniness and want similar attention. As soon as he is finished, you chime in with your own joke, trying to top him. By doing so, you deprive your friend of this moment of being the star in the room, feeling good about himself.
Example 5 of supporting this need: You laugh as well and let your friend be in the spotlight. If you have something to share, you build upon what your friend said so that he feels acknowledged, instead of taking things in a completely new direction and making it about yourself.
Example 6 of thwarting this need: Your friend changes profile picture on a social media platform. You do not like or comment on it.
Example 6 of supporting this need: You acknowledge the change and make your friend feel good by either liking or commenting on it on the platform.
Example 7 of thwarting this need: Your coworker enters the room while you are engaged in a conversation with someone else. He tries to get eye-contact with you but fails. You continue your conversation without acknowledging his presence. He feels invisible and negative emotions as a result.
Example 7 of supporting this need: When you notice that your coworker is entering, you look him in the eyes and say, “Good morning, James”, acknowledging his presence. Then you continue the conversation you were in.
Example 8 of thwarting this need: You are playing a first-person shooter game online with your friend. Your friend outplays everyone. You do not comment on it.
Example 8 of supporting this need: You comment: “Damn, you’re on a rampage. That shot was sick.”
Example 9 of thwarting this need: Your mom is on vacation and sends you a picture of a sunset. You do not answer.
Example 9 of supporting this need: You comment: “Beautiful sunset, Mom, looks like you’re having a great time.”
Example 10 of thwarting this need: You see someone you know in the store. You feel that he has seen you as well. You pretend like you have not seen him and try to avoid him for the rest of the stay.
Example 10 of supporting this need: You go up to him and engage him in a 10-second exchange, acknowledging his existence, then move on.
Example 11 of thwarting this need: A friend of yours joins your voice server (for example on Discord or Teamspeak). You do not acknowledge his presence in any way.
Example 11 of supporting this need: You notice that he joins. You say something like, “James, what’s up?”
Example 12 of thwarting this need: Your friend just got promoted. You do not congratulate him.
Example 12 of supporting this need: You congratulate him, for example by sending him a text: “I heard that you just got promoted, congrats!”
Key take-away: Do not ignore others’ presence, messages, contribution, achievements, emotional states or news or changes that have happened in their lives. Instead: Show interest and comment on them.
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