Why Weren't We Taught This at School?
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Why Weren't We Taught This at School?

The surprisingly simple secret to transforming life's challenges

Alice Sheldon

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  1. 232 pages
  2. English
  3. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  4. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

Why Weren't We Taught This at School?

The surprisingly simple secret to transforming life's challenges

Alice Sheldon

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About This Book

A beautifully simple guide to the relationship skills we all so deeply need, but most of us don't know how to access. This book belongs firmly on the curriculum for creating a more peaceful world.
Dr Scilla Elworthy, three times Nobel Peace Prize nominee

This book is a tool box. Keep it close at hand and dip in often.
Jim Carter OBE and Imelda Staunton CBE, actors

Brilliant, easy to understand, and applies with equal force in personal and professional contexts.
Sharif Shivji QC, barrister specialising in commercial law

Why weren't we taught this at school? introduces Needs Understanding, a fresh approach for finding creative solutions and building relationships at home and at work. It's based on one simple idea: we're all on a quest to meet our underlying human needs – such as belonging, knowing we matter, and fun.

Whether you are trying to make a tricky decision, communicate more effectively, parent the way you want to, or make a difference in the world, Needs Understanding can help.

  • Understand the 'fingerprint needs' that drive your behaviour
  • Discover 10 ways you listen that alienate other people, and what to do instead
  • Stop blaming yourself and others, and fix what's going on underneath
  • Find creative solutions to difficult problems by 'walking around the mountain'
  • Empower yourself to change the world.

Alice Sheldon is the creator of Needs Understanding and shares it globally with individuals and organizations.

www.needs-understanding.com

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Chapter 1
The surprisingly simple secret
Understanding the world through the lens of needs
Right at the heart of Needs Understanding are two core principles that can hold an extraordinary power to help in all areas of life and work. Whether you want to understand yourself more fully, transform the way you relate to other people, or make your own unique contribution to a better world, these principles are key. We’ll start exploring them in this first chapter, and we’ll keep coming back to them throughout the book.
Principle 1: Our behaviour is always an attempt to meet our needs.
Principle 2: Our world works best when our chosen strategies take care of everyone’s needs.
What do I mean when I talk about needs? We have survival needs such as food, water, shelter, and warmth. Then there are mental, emotional, and spiritual needs, such as learning, freedom, love, connection, and beauty. In short, needs are what human beings require in order to thrive as well as to survive. They’re something that we all share.
To help you, here’s a list of universal human needs broken down into different groups; you can find it again at the end of the book so it’s always easy to reference, and you can also download a ‘print out and keep’ copy at www.needs-understanding.com.
LIST OF NEEDS
Physical Needs
Air
Food
Health
Light
Movement
Rest
Shelter
Touch
Water
Security
Emotional safety
Peace of mind
Physical safety
Protection
Stability
Freedom
Autonomy
Choice
Ease
Independence
Responsibility
Space
To Matter
Acceptance
Acknowledgement
Care
Compassion
Consideration
Empathy
Recognition
Respect
To be heard
To be seen
Trust
Understanding
Play / Leisure
Fun
Humour
Joy
Pleasure
Rejuvenation
Relaxation
Understanding
Awareness
Clarity
Discovery
Learning
Stimulation
Connection
Affection
Appreciation
Attention
Closeness
Companionship
Contact
Harmony
Intimacy
Love
Nurture
Sexual expression
Tenderness
Warmth
Community
Belonging
Communication
Cooperation
Equality
Inclusion
Mutuality
Participation
Partnership
Self-expression
Sharing
Support
Tolerance
Sense of Self
Agency
Authenticity
Competence
Dignity
Effectiveness
Empowerment
Growth
Healing
Honesty
Integrity
Knowing I’m enough
Mattering to myself
Self-acceptance
Self-care
Self-realisation
Meaning
Aliveness
Challenge
Consciousness
Contribution
Creativity
Exploration
Integration
Purpose
Transcendence
Beauty
Celebration
Communion
Faith
Flow
Hope
Inspiration
Mourning
Mystery
Peace
Presence
Everyone groups needs in slightly different ways. If you find yourself identifying needs that don’t appear on my list, or if some of the groupings don’t mean much to you, please feel free to alter it. The purpose of the list at this stage is to invite you to think about the full range of human needs, many of which we aren’t conscious of in our day-to-day lives. If you’re printing out a copy, you might like to stick it on your fridge or somewhere you can see it easily so that the needs become familiar.
PAUSE BOX
(First, a reminder that the book still makes sense if you choose to skip over the Pause Boxes or come back to them later.)
Become familiar with needs
Have to hand: the list of needs.
This is an opportunity to become familiar with the needs on the list.
Read slowly through the list of needs, noticing any feelings that come up. Choose one need that jumps out at you for any reason.
Reflect: why did I choose this need?
You might like to think about where the need shows up in your life today, and whether you recognise it from your past. Is it one that particularly matters to you, or that you’re lacking in your life at the moment? Take a few moments to explore its significance to you.
How our needs influence our behaviour
Let’s dive into an example of a situation from my own life, which I’ll use to illustrate why needs are fundamental to the way we think and behave. I’ve chosen a conversation between me and my daughter Katy (I’ve changed her name). Although I’m using a parenting example in this first chapter, the same principles can be applied in similar ways in all sorts of other situations at home and at work.
When my daughter was six, her favourite thing in the world at weekends was to stay at home and play endless games with her toy people. I enjoyed joining in because it was a delight to be with her, but after a while I’d long to get out of the house and do something different. As a single mum with no one else at home to look after her, my strategy was to agree with her that we’d have some time playing before we’d visit the local café. But whenever the moment came for going out, the same thing would happen. She’d refuse to leave her toys, and the situation would descend into me shouting, pleading, or bribing her to do what I wanted. Either we’d go to the café with her feeling upset and angry, or we’d stay at home and I’d feel resentful and crazy with frustration.
PAUSE BOX
Explore how behaviour links to needs
Have to hand: the list of needs, and a pen and paper.
This is an opportunity to reflect on how our behaviour can be understood as an attempt to meet our needs.
Divide a piece of paper in two, with each side having its own heading: ‘My needs’ and ‘Katy’s needs’. Now turn to the list of needs.
1. Think about me. Have a go at guessing which needs lay beneath my desire to go to the café and jot them down. You might start with a need for stimulation, for example.
2. Then think about Katy. Have a go at guessing what her needs might have been, and jot them down. Perhaps you might include a need for fun, for example.
Note the word ‘guess’. There are no rights or wrongs – we can never know for sure because we each experience the world differently.
Let’s imagine that, given the repetitive nature of the scenario, I want to find a different way for next weekend. What could I do differently? I can start by putting on a pair of ‘needs glasses’ and looking at the situation through the lens of needs. Now I can ask myself what I need in this scenario – what is it that really matters to me here? When I think about going to the café, those of my needs that jump out most strongly are:
aliveness: a longing to feel full of energy and possibility;
connection: a desire to enjoy being together with my daughter; and
to matter: this is less obvious, and I’ll come back to it in a moment.
What about Katy? What are her needs, and what role do they play in her refusal to go out? Here are my best guesses:
choice: this is a huge need for most children as they have so much less autonomy than adults;
to be heard: she wants me to fully understand what’s important to her; and
fun: she’s loving playing with her toy people and doesn’t want to stop.
You might like to try putting yourself in the same situation as me. Would your needs be different from mine, or the same? Different people’s needs can vary even in the same situation because we each have our own individual responses.
So how does this way of understanding the situation help? Let’s use the example of Katy and me to explore the four skill areas of Needs Understanding, which correspond to the four parts of this book.
The four skill areas of Needs Understanding
The four skill areas are tools that can help you to understand yourself and others. They offer ways of making the changes you want so that you can thrive personally and professionally, and make a difference to the world around you. The skill areas flow from the two core principles: our behaviour is always an attempt to meet our needs, and our world works best when our chosen strategies take care of everyone’s needs.
These are the skill areas:
1. Listen with empathy
2. Understand yourself with compassion
3. Speak to be heard
4. Act with care for everyone’s needs
Image
In this first chapter, I’ll offer an overview of each of the four skills to give you a flavour of what is to come. In the rest of the book, we’ll look at them in much more detail.
1. Listen with empathy (Part One)
When I look through a lens which tells me that everything my daughter does is an attempt to meet her needs, I have a new context for understanding the situation, and this context helps me to empathise with her. Without this awareness, I might try reasoning instead. ‘We agreed to go out after we’d had some time playing, remember?’ or ‘But y...

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