#4 – The Need For Love & Connection

We’re more than halfway through our series on the 6 Core Human Needs and I hope you’ve been able to use these articles to examine your own needs, as well as looking at how these needs show up in other people.  Meeting these 6 Core Needs is at the heart of every decision we make, and the undesirable behaviour we see in ourselves and others is a result of these needs being unmet.  So far, we’ve addressed the first three:

1. Certainty

2. UNcertainty

3. Significance

The fourth need is the need for Love & Connection.  As gooey as this need sounds, it’s possibly one of the most powerful drivers we have, so stick with me here.  The phrase “People don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers” is at the heart of this need.  So is the phrase “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”.  Whether we are able to satisfy our need for connection within our place of work largely determines how long we stay there and is ultimately more important than our need for remuneration.
We satisfy this need in all sorts of ways.  Let’s have a look at some of them.

Meeting the Need For Love & Connection

As much as we may like to argue otherwise, our main mission as human beings is to seek out love and connection.  We are “pack animals” who thrive and measure ourselves by our connection with others.  Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School.  He is also the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest ongoing study of adult life to date, having started in 1938 during the Great Depression.  In the past 79 years, the researchers have tracked the lives of 724 men, following up with each one on an annual basis to ask about their work, home lives and health.
In 2017, Waldinger said “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health.  Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too.  That, I think, is the revelation.”  In his viral 2015
TED Talk, Waldinger confirmed that “good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
When we love, we feel alive.  When we feel passionate about what it is we’re doing, and/or the people we’re doing it with, our energy and creativity knows no bounds.  Our relationships with other people are what feed and replenish us.  We may go about it in different ways – some of us may seek to be around many people all the time where some of us may seek a few specific individuals and more personal setting – but we all seek this connection on one or other level.  Love and connection are the same need, merely on two different levels.
Meeting this need is what creates the undercurrent within our teams at work and at home.  If our communication is healthy and effective, it allows us to feel heard and accepted.  It allows us to feel effective as individuals and not only helps to satisfy the previous three needs we’ve discussed, but makes us feel connected to the group as a whole.  If our communication is stunted in some way, it prevents us from satisfying this connection and that dissatisfaction pervades everything that we do.

The Unmet Need For Love & Connection

When our environments and relationships don’t fulfil this requirement or side-line us from meeting it by making other needs (like control) seem more important, we don’t just shut off our need for love and connection.  When the people around us are taxed by their own situations and stresses and are less able to connect with us, we don’t suddenly become robotic.  We seek other ways of satisfying our unmet need – a need which is possibly one of the most fundamental needs we have.
We meet this need by arranging groups of people with common interests – golf, books, baby groups, community service.  We cultivate friendship groups and nurture those that have been with us for decades.  We buy pets.  We lean on our spiritual beliefs – perhaps one of the most fundamental ways that people feel connected, loved and ultimately part of a bigger picture.  I’ve seen people survive huge turmoil because they could connect spiritually, where others were wiped out by those same circumstances and experiences when they could not.
There is a theory gaining momentum that the increasing number of people suffering from one form of addiction or another do so because of a lack of connection.  In many countries in the world, the focus on helping people with addictions has shifted from helping them stay clean and sober to ensuring they are reintegrated into society and feel they are connected and contributing – supported in their community.
When the circumstances of a person’s life – be it their relationships or their environment – mean that their ability to meet their need for love and connection is hampered, we can go downhill very fast.  This results in anything from creating problems in a plea to be seen, to withdrawal and disengagement, to trying to meet those needs in unhealthy ways that result in our mental, physical and emotional disintegration.
In Southern Africa, our sense of community is one of the strongest forces we have.  When one of us calls on it, the others rise to meet us.  And yet, there are also few places in the world where our sense of community and our connection to it are as threatened by so many things.  No more so than currently.
When other forces take so much of our energy on a daily basis, we have little energy left to reach out and connect.  We have little left to give not only to those that directly surround us, but to our communities at large.  Our disengagement from this sense of connection is detrimental to the health of our work spaces, our families and to us as individuals and it must not be allowed to happen whilst we’re concentrating on other things.  Sometimes it feel as if we may crack if we connect.
There is nothing more powerful than people who feel connected and loved.  As a human race, we will pull together to help people we don’t even know when it’s called for.  And yet, our connection to each other is one of the first things to break down when we’re under pressure.  In our search for significance, we explain to each other how bad our circumstances are and the weight and importance of what we’ve had to deal with today.  We explain why we don’t have time to sit quietly and spend time with each other, why we must keep moving and busy.  We seek control (certainty) in our forward movement when one of the most rewarding and calming things is passing us by right under our noses.
This week, look for where you can foster connection within your teams.  Pause for a minute and refuse to allow the hype of everyday life to rob you of your relationships with those around you.  Sit and converse.  Carve out time to ask the quietest person on your team how they’re doing in their world.  Check in with your people – share with them and listen deeply as they share with you.  Look for the faces that are crying out for connection in a world that passes them by.  Wave at the vendors who line your travel route.  Shake the hand of the person you buy a paper from.  Remember how powerful we have been when our communities were connected on common ground.  Discuss the things you are grateful for and invite others to do the same.  Connection is a solid, foundational, calm energy in a world that often asks too much of us.  Don’t allow yourself to be robbed of it.

by Christen Killick

July 8th, 2019

Next articles in The 6 Core Human Needs series:
#5 – The Need For Growth
#6 – The Need For Contribution
6 Core Human Needs – The Bottom Line

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