What makes people tick? Pt. 1

By SteveDrozdeck

Drozdeck & Assoc.

Understanding what makes people tick substantially increases the power and effectiveness of your conversations. This knowledge is useful in all interactions with people

Persuasion is the discovery of another person’s needs, wants and desires, and then the presentation of a solution which will satisfy those desires. Persuasion takes into account not only what the other person says but the probable reason he says it.

For example, a person may state that he has purchased a Mercedes Benz because of the quality and safety of the car; however, his real reason may have been to demonstrate to everyone he knows that he is successful. In this case, the socially oriented reason is equally or more important to the persuasion process than the stated reason(s).

Managers must constantly motivate and persuade their employees if they are to have a highly successful office. Understanding what makes people tick substantially increases the power and effectiveness of your conversations. This knowledge is useful in all interactions with people.

Stated and unstated reasons

It is important to realize that the vast majority of people will usually have hidden or unstated needs, wants and desires that are the actual motivations driving that person. They may think of them as likes and dislikes, or simply as preferences.

Effective persuasion requires that you understand why people behave as they do and what motivates them positively and negatively.

We will briefly examine the foundations of human behavior which form the basics of most sales and management courses. This information will give you a powerful edge. Your knowledge about how people think and react will be superb. You’ll be able to anticipate their probable responses and to more effectively present your ideas. Therefore, more often than not, you’ll be able to create a series of win-win situations.

As you read this material, it may be helpful to think of people that you have met that fit into each of the categories. These can be employees, friends, family members, etc. If you can’t think of a particular person, it would be helpful to think of television plots or characters which represent the various types.

As you will shortly realize, the various descriptions represent key, or dominant, themes in our society. We are individually and collectively molded by the society just as societies are molded by the primary needs of the people. Your ability to recognize and flow with the key forces of human nature will allow you to more effectively influence and persuade.

Hierarchy of needs

Abraham Maslow was a behavioral scientist who suggested that people behave in accordance with real or perceived needs. The following is an overview of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
  • Basic
  • Protection
  • Social
  • Recognition
  • Self-actualization
According to Maslow each person has a hierarchy of needs that must be met. Once the key basic needs (food, clothing and shelter) are met, an individual becomes concerned with protection issues as he or she seeks to protect and maintain the basic needs.

Once assured of protection, social needs become more dominant. The need for recognition is the next step up the ladder, followed by the need for self-actualization.

While rarely distinct steps, the position of a person on this hierarchy will often determine how he or she will react in a particular situation. It will often determine what will be motivating or persuasive.

Application of Maslow’s hierarchy

Basic needs. While the majority of people in the United States and other developed nations have their basic needs taken care of, there are many who are homeless and wondering where their next meal is coming from.

Protection needs. If a person is in danger of losing property and/or a job so that his or her ability to provide food and shelter (basic needs) is in jeopardy, other things seem unimportant. Your awareness of your broker’s dominant concerns will allow you to address their needs more appropriately.

Social needs. Social concerns take on greater and greater importance once protection needs are satisfied. Peer pressure and styles become key determinants in the decision-making process. These people will use the pronouns “we” and “us” often. Managers appealing to these needs by saying “everyone is doing it,” or “this is the ‘in’ product,” have increased their probability of persuading the individual.

Recognition needs. After satisfying the need to belong, the desire to rise in the pecking order is the next normal step. Recognition needs supersede the need to be merely a member of the group. Gaining the respect of others becomes a dominant theme as the person increases his self worth. A manager would phrase the advantages of working in a particular way to one of his brokers by taking this into consideration. For some brokers, saying “your associates will admire you” becomes a very powerful point.

Self-actualization needs: Once esteem needs begin to be adequately satisfied, the need for self-actualization becomes more prominent. “Feeling good about yourself” is a phrase which would make sense to such people. Motivating a broker by demonstrating how “owning a Jaguar will allow you to be who you are,” permits the broker to feel good about himself and his accomplishments.

A person’s interest and willingness to follow your ideas is dependent upon whether the ideas are explained in terms that make sense at that time. What makes sense is dependent upon which is the dominant or motivating need.

For example, telling a new broker who has protection as a primary concern that “you can do your own thing” or “you can drive a Mercedes” is meaningless and probably counterproductive to your purposes. Of course, the person may mentally transform what you said into something personally meaningful, but that would be relying on luck. The sales manager must take as many things into consideration as possible, thereby decreasing reliance on luck while increasing the effectiveness of his message.

In summary, by making note of a person’s probable key needs you can increase the impact of your words by more precisely targeting the individual. All of the sales and management courses teach that benefit selling should allow customers to understand the features, benefits and advantages in terms that are meaningful to him as an individual. The same is true in management.

While Abraham Maslow presented a psychological model that categorizes and explains many behaviors, it should only be taught of as a foundation from which additional refinements can be made. The concept of power-affiliation-achievement coexists with Maslow’s ideas and will be presented in the next article in this series.