What We Need Vs. What We Do

Emotional Literacy Dec 3, 2021

To identify, understand, and manage our emotions, it is important that we keep three principles in mind.

#1. At any moment, we're trying to meet universal, all-inclusive needs (for example, needs like physical safety, emotional support, respect, peace, learning, contribution, etc).

#2. Our emotions are hints about whether those needs are met or unmet (for example, anger, disgust, joy, calmness, frustration, relief, etc).

#3. Everything we do with our actions (our body) is an attempt to meet our underlying needs (for example, talking, remaining silent, eating, running, etc).

Actions are attempts to meet needs. Whether those needs are met or not, we will know by the emotion we feel in the moment. This understanding is simple. But in real life, some of the following things might be happening:

Let’s take a few examples into consideration:

  1. What we need is clarity when we’re learning something new, but we don’t speak up when the session facilitator asks if we have a question.
  2. We want the other person to listen to us and understand us, but we resort to shouting at them to convey this.
  3. We want to build confidence, but we choose not to speak up in team discussions.
  4. We are longing for connection but don’t reach out first.
  5. What we need is rest, but we end up browsing through our social media feed 2 hours into the bed time.

Do any of these examples click with you? Think of a recent time when you were trying to meet a certain need of yours through an action. Did that action take you closer to attaining your need or away from it? Emotional Intelligence is being smarter with feelings. If we are aware of our needs, we give ourselves a better shot at meeting those needs. And a helpful way to meet those needs is to identify what those needs are. The first step toward that is to be aware of our feelings.

When we are reacting blindly to our emotional states, we might be taking actions that are hurtful rather than helpful. A simple framework to make sure we aren’t hurting our chances of meeting our needs is to think of the ABC:

Avoiding- Are we avoiding taking responsibility to meet our needs?

Blaming- Are we blaming ourselves or others instead of working towards meeting our needs?

Complaining- Are we looking to justify ourselves rather than seeking a solution to our needs?

Avoiding, blaming and complaining are great indicators of unmet needs but suboptimal strategies to meet those very needs.

Ask yourself often:
1. How am I feeling?

2. What needs are those feelings indicating?

3. What action(s) would help?


Aprajita Jha

Aprajita Jha is Linchpin at My Emotions Matter and can be reached at [email protected]

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