Understanding Human Needs

In order to understand the management and resolution of human conflict, one must first understand human needs. Any de-escalation training or conflict resolution training program  should include a discussion of the connection between unmet needs and conflict. In Mandt System courses, Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” is proposed as a tool for this purpose (Maslow, 1943). It’s been around a long time and many people have already had exposure to this model.  It’s a good starting point.  

In the bigger process of conflict management, people must first de-escalate and stabilize before they can engage in problem solving. The emotions must be addressed before the problem can be solved. As a tool of conflict management, Maslow’s Hierarchy reminds us to ask the question, “what needs are not being met”.  Often, a person will de-escalate and stabilize after their basic,  safety, and relational needs are met.  After this, problem solving tools, such as the SODAS model, can be utilized to resolve problems arising from unmet achievement or self actualization needs.

People who are likely to be involved with conflict management must take care to make sure that they are managing their own needs.  After all, conflict can be quite stressful at times, and stress decreases our ability to resolve conflict.  Part of being able to help others is to first be able to help one’s self.  Having one’s own house in order creates a stable base to help others.  In 1969, Abraham Maslow amended the Hierarchy of Needs to include “Self Transcendence” (Koltko-Rivera, 2006).  He no longer believed that self actualization was the pinnacle of human experience. He believed that a connection to something beyond self, such as higher values and service to others, was the true pinnacle of experience.  His updated hierarchy recognized that in order to transcend self, one must first actualize the self.  A person who regularly transcends self to help others can be a powerful mediator of conflict.

John Windsor – Director of Technical Curricula

Koltko-Rivera, Mark. (2006). Rediscovering the Later Version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: Self-Transcendence and Opportunities for Theory, Research, and Unification. Review of General Psychology. 10. 302-317. 10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.302. 
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

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