How to Make Your Relationships Authentically Harmonious
A quick guide to making decisions with others by understanding your needs
There is a common misconception that we need particular things to happen in order to feel satisfied. We want certain events, outcomes or objects — at times, we believe we need them — and so, naturally, we take actions in order to make these things happen. In the perfect world of our imaginings, all our desires would come to fruition, but as Jean-Paul Sartre reminds us, “Hell is other people.”
We do not live in the world of our imagination. We live in a world with all manner of others, with any number of desires all their own.
When our desired actions clash with the desires of others, we find ourselves in states of conflict. These conflicts can be minor arguments with loved ones or all-out international wars. They can be quick squabbles or painful, traumatic experiences. They can ruin relationships and alter the course of lives.
Many of them can also be avoided, without anyone sacrificing their own needs.
The problem with the way we look at conflict is that we typically treat it as a zero-sum game: either you win, I win, or each of us sacrifices something in service of a less-than-fully-satisfying resolution. If human nature were to require us always to have certain, specific outcomes in order to experience well-being and satisfaction, we would live in a near-constant state of conflict. Many of us do spend huge portions of our lives in conflict, with others and with ourselves, due to a simple lack of awareness about how our needs work.
Fortunately, our nature is much more forgiving than we give it credit for.
As I wrote about at length recently, our needs are only ever states of being. We conceptualize the satisfaction of our needs by imagining different pathways to getting our needs met, but we often make the mistake of equating the pathway to getting our need met with the need itself.
If we are too cold, and we need to become warmer, our body does not care whether we achieve a state of greater warmth through putting on a jacket, going for a run, sitting by a heater or wrapping ourselves in a blanket. Any and all of these actions can…