Why Humans Do What They Do

Why Humans Do What They Do

Have you wondered why people do what they do, take certain action, make certain decisions or choices?

We often tend to go into judgement (‘I would not do that’, ‘that is so bad’, ‘they are a $#^%@#’),  rather than ask ‘why?’. Understanding the basic physiology of why people do what they do will allow you to influence them in positive ways and essentially be an effective leader.

You may ask whether I am talking about business or at a personal level … well, both. Leadership does not relate to business only. You lead every day with every interaction you make.

What is leadership really? It is the ability to influence others.

If you can understand the human needs of people you are trying to influence, you will do it more efficiently and effectively. There are six primary needs that define all human behaviour:

  1. The need of familiarity or need to feel certain.
  2. The need to feel important, special or significant.
  3. The need for entertainment or variety.
  4. The need to feel loved or connected.
  5. The need to progress or grow.
  6. The need to give back or contribute to others.

Everything we do is to meet one of these six primary needs. Even more so, actions or choices that meet three or more of these needs can become an addiction.Look at this example: smoking. It’s something that many humans do. Have you asked yourself why people smoke? You can have a story around this and judge the next person you see smoking, or you can understand something about them. Understanding them will give you a competitive advantage of being able to influence them.

How so? Think about which needs are met by a smoker and why smoking for many people is an addiction. Would you say that smoking gives the smoker a feeling of familiarity every time they light a cigarette? YES. Could a smoker feel important, special or significant by smoking? YES. And could they get love and connection with other smokers when they all light up together. YES. This is why they smoke and why it becomes an addiction. It meets at least three of the six human needs.

It is even more important to understand human behaviour in the technology race we are experiencing. With robotics and more reliance on machines than humans for various tasks in life, people will yearn for more connection and love in their life than ever before to meet this basic human need. Human interaction will become more important and taken less for granted over the next decade or so.

Understanding this and its application in business, at home, and out socially, will allow you to influence the people around you. By understanding the six human needs, I can look for different ways to meet the needs of the people around me. I am therefore having influence on them daily, whether it be my family (wife and children), my employees or my closest friends.

This opinion piece was featured in the Newcastle Herald.