Needs & Strategies

We tend to confuse needs and strategies for meeting those needs. Our basic human needs are pretty much the same for all of us, and there is usually not an inherent conflict among them (other than maybe in the most extreme situations). But there is often a conflict among our favorite strategies to meet those needs.

We are often strongly attached to particular strategies. We are sometimes attached to a strategy even if we have forgotten the need behind it. And in many situations, we do not explore other strategies which could meet our needs equally well or better.

Life and society is abundant with examples of this confusion of needs and strategies.

I recently listened to the Language program of To the Best of Our Knowledge, where one – relatively innocent but common – example came up. Some of us are attached to a particular grammar and syntax, frozen in time, and are not willing to accept that language is always in flux – always changing to adopt to and reflect new situations. In this case, we are attached to a particular strategy (one very particular form of a particular language) rather than the underlying need of any language – communication and connection between human beings. As soon as we remind ourselves of this underlying need, we can allow language to flow and change as it naturally does, and enjoy it rather than resisting it.

There is no lack of other examples, in our own everyday life as well as in society and globally, and no lack of more serious examples either. In each case, a possible solution is to take time to explore which need(s) we are trying to meet through a particular strategy, clarify this need, and allow ourselves to openly explore other strategies.

In a group situation, which we almost always find ourselves in, it is also useful or necessary to take time to help others explore the underlying needs behind their strategies, and together explore new strategies that can allow all of our needs to be met. And this includes the needs of ecosystems (which we are dependent upon) and of future generations as well.

When all the needs of all involved are out in the open, it is often possible to find new – and maybe surprising – strategies that meets the needs of all.

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