If we clarify these things, then both of us together can try to figure out how to meet those needs, how to satisfy those legitimate interests. Suddenly we become part of a team solving a problem together instead of being opponents fighting about who is going to get their needs met while the other isn’t. That is why I say positions and demands can impede consensus, while addressing deep needs is essential for consensus. When you can go to that deep level of needs and legitimate interests, it opens up new possibilities. There may be – and usually is – some way we can deal with our situation that will satisfy you AND satisfy me. We would never find that unless and until we get down to that place where our real satisfaction – or lack of satisfaction – resides, that deep place in us where our true needs and values and life energy live, the place from which our motivations arise. That is a place where we can truly connect with each other and find our way together.
This has broad social implications. Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef observed that in a consumer economy, most companies don’t actually want to satisfy your real needs. If those needs were deeply satisfied we wouldn’t need to keep buying those companies’ products and services. So having a need-situation in which you can’t really satisfy your needs is better for the companies. You buy a car in order to get a sense of sexual satisfaction, but that doesn’t actually work even though there was a beautiful woman in the car advertisement. So you need another car so you can get satisfied there, one that has more sexy power, one you can drive faster to attract more sexy women, and on and on.
Whereas if people are really satisfied there is no need for this consumerist game. They are not addicted to it, they have a deeper sense of satisfaction so they don’t consume so much.
This dynamic is going on now in the politics of many countries: We are told if we can stop immigration we can have our sense of job security back. Well, that is a pseudo-satisfier. We might be able to stop immigration but we still wouldn’t have that sense of job security. It is a different level that needs to be addressed. But if we can create an “other” – like the immigrant – as an enemy, and then that “othering” is a good source to manipulate people. Get rid of the “other” and your needs will be fulfilled. But they won’t be. The world of needs, values, pseudo-satisfiers, and all that is also part of the world of PR and manipulation, as well.
This is another reason why it is important to get down to the real needs of people. In the heart of the pattern we find the phrase “once understood“. That phrase is there because what we want to do in many conversations is get clear early on about what kinds of needs people are sensing, and to realize that their emotions come out of those needs being fulfilled or not. The vast majority of emotions have that connection to the fulfillment or non-fulfillment of needs. So attending to that level of human life allows us to be more productive and creative without so much of the friction of dysfunctional emotions messing us up from that deep place of unmet needs.