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Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Role of Communication within Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

This post talks about the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and how communication fits into his hierarchy of needs.

First, a summary of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

It can be represented as a pyramid with 5 levels. Top of the pyramid represents the person who has reached his or her full potential or as what Maslow calls it, "Self Actualization." In order to achieve this level of "Self Actualization," you will need to fulfill all the levels.

If you fail to fulfill a certain level, you get stuck or drop down to that level.

The five levels are namely,
1) Physiological
2) Safety
3) Social
4) Esteem
5) Actualization

Lets look at the first level of needs, physiological needs.

This bottom level of needs is related to immediate survival. These needs are necessary for a human to survive and include things like sleeping and eating.

People stuck at this level include people such as nomads, who spend all their effort focused on this level, and don't have time for anything else.

The next level deals with safety needs.

With one's immediate survival needs being satisfied, a person would turn to the needs of this next level, which deals with long term survival needs. These are mainly safety and security needs

For example, if you are jobless, your focus is on finding a job, cos if you don't find a job, your survival will be threatened.

After immediate needs and safety needs are taken care of, the next level of needs are social needs. This next level of needs are love and belonging needs. If your survival is not threatened, a person would naturally start seeking friendship, family and sexual intimacy.

Remember, if one of the needs at the lower levels are not met, that person will fall back to the previous level and will seek to satisfy the more urgent needs of that particular level.

The next level is esteem needs. This level relates to how people feel about you and how you feel about yourself. This is a higher level need that relates to one's self-esteem or sense of self. Once a person reaches this level, that person will seek accomplishments in order to fulfill the higher level need of gaining a sense of self respect and self worth.

This is the driving force that pushes athletes to strive to be the best in the world, entrepreneurs to create a world class empire for themselves and rich people to donate to foundations in order to have buildings and libraries named after them.

So, how does communication relate to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs? It has a huge impact in level 3 (social) and some impact in level 4 (esteem). I have left out the highest level of self-actualization as it is implicitly implied that the highest level of needs is all inclusive.

Social needs relate to gaining love and belonging, and this is intrinsically linked to interpersonal communication.

To quote John Donne: "No man is an island". We all seek the love and understanding that another human being brings to us.

Communication is important in each of our lives, from small talk, to the intimate conversation of lovers. In order to gain the love and affection that we all crave, we've gotta learn to be interested in other people in return, and to always keep a nice smile on your face. This will help is fulfill our social and esteem needs and allow us to shift our focus towards needs of a higher level.

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Anonymous said...

Maslow's hierarchy of needs was something that was lectured to me so many times when I was in college. True enough, he was able to identify the necessary steps for us to categorize which needs are supposed to be prioritized. When I became a teacher to my own students, I never really forgot to share how Maslow's hierarchy can be effective in the communication process.

Patricia Rockwell said...

This is an excellent explanation of Maslow. I especially like how you emphasize the relationship of one level to the other.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post, especially how you related Maslow's hierarchy to communication. Yes, we communicate when we interact with others, for example level 3. And on level 4, esteem, we can communicate positively or negatively with ourselves. And that has an effect on our self esteem.

Interpersonal Communication Skills said...

Nice post. Interesting to see how you fit communication into Maslow's hierarchy!

Bruno Junior said...

I really liked your post. Maslow was a great man and his work does help someone to achieve their self actualisation. Thanks for that.