Ever wonder what drives human behavior?
I have spent the last decade trying to answer this question and have discovered some important truths about what makes us tick. As a sociologist, my answer to this question can be summarized as the following:
Our fundamental need is a perceived sense of personal significance, achieved through a perceived sense of both social belonging and social contribution.
What does this mean? Simply put, it means we all want to feel significant. This sense of significance is achieved through feeling like we belong and feeling like we are making a contribution.
When this is achieved, we feel fulfilled. When it is not, we feel the need to compensate for this lack of inner-fulfillment.
When either of these social needs are not met and our sense of personal significance is threatened, we compensate through fight or flight responses in an attempt to restore or escape our lost sense of significance.
Fight responses include displays of superiority and displays of power. Displays of superiority include harnessing status symbols or sabotaging others, and displays of power include aggressive attempts to control or manipulate others. Flight responses include social withdrawal.
These are the same processes that fuel addiction and mental health issues, including suicide. In the case of addiction, substance use is a flight responses from emotional pain. Understanding what drives these behaviors helps us better understand how to help others who are stuck in self-destructive habits.
In my book, Making People Change, I delve deeper into how to help others with self-destructive behaviors. The solution is not to simply try harder or do more. This may actually contribute to the problem further. Instead, this book shows you how to use scientifically proven communication techniques to help you become the most helpful version of yourself. With these techniques, you’ll have the skills to feel empowered when helping someone change.
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