veterinary wellness

Difficult client hack: using 6 human needs psychology to your advantage

By now you may be getting the hang of making things “not about you”. If so, good work! If not, go back to this post and start to work on it. But what now? What the heck do you do with that angry person still in front of you. Yes we can have compassion and hold no judgement but really those are tools that you are using within yourself so that you don’t get triggered. Mr. X is still standing in front of you turning a beautiful shade of red and you still need to deal with him.

This is where the 6 human needs come in. 6 human needs psychology was taught to me by Stacey Martino* but they originate with Tony Robbins. He developed a framework that states that all humans have 6 basic human needs. These are:

1. Certainty: assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure

2. Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli

3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed

4. Connection/Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something

5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding

6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others

In any given day we fill these needs with our life and our way of thinking and our experiences. When I first began my personal development journey I went through this list the first time and was slightly horrified when I realized that work was meeting almost all of my needs at a very high level. Think about it for a second. Is that you too? If so, that’s ok, we will hit that topic at a later date. For now let’s get back to angry Mr. X.

Angry Mr. X is upset because one of his needs is not being met. If you are dealing with a man then usually it is his significance need that is empty. If you are dealing with a woman then usually it is her certainty need that is empty. These are really broad generalizations but they usually ring true. In these instances you need to do 4 things.

1. Think about the situation and what has transpired

2. Listen – don’t interrupt, really listen to not just what they are saying, but the words they are using and the punctuation marks at the ends of their sentences. Are they ending sentences with exclamation points (significance) or question marks (certainty). Are they using lots of “I” statements (significance). Are the asking crystal ball questions-you know what I mean (certainty).

3. Translate #1&2 into a need that is empty.

4. Feed that need with a need sandwich.

A need sandwich is a series of statements that are built like a sandwich. The slices of bread are the statements that fill the need. The meat and cheese are the things you need to say. Start with the first slice of bread to fill the need up front, say what needs to be said, then finish with another slice of bread to fill the need again.

It sounds like this:

I’m so sorry Mr. X that we filled the wrong prescription for Fluffy, I can see how upset you are and I’m so grateful that you brought this to my attention. You and Fluffy are so important to us and we are so thankful that you realized that the medication was wrong before you gave it to Fluffy and that Fluffy is ok. We will be sure to put some more checks into play to make sure this doesn’t happen again. We are so grateful to have clients like you that are so observant and on top of your pets care.

If you had just jumped to the I’m sorry and we will fix it, that wouldn’t be enough to calm Mr. X down as his significance need would still be empty. By feeding his need a sandwich you open him up to actually listening to what you have to say.

Here’s one more:

I know this is scary Mrs. Y, I know how important Fluffy is to you and how much you love her. I don’t know yet if she will respond to treatment or how long she will live. I do know that we will work through this together and that we will be here for you every step of the way.

By giving Mrs. Y some certainty around the things you do know, it can help her feel better about the things you don’t know.

Something else that is really helpful in our line of work is to be able to recognize when a client is having all of their needs met by a pet. Often times these are people who have suffered loss in their lives and are now living alone with just their pet or pets. Their pets are providing for them all of their needs at very high levels in some cases.

Pets will be there for you day in and day out (certainty), your pet loves you and only you and loves you best (significance), you pet does funny things and comes up with new games and new habits (uncertainty), your pet gives you unconditional love and affection (love and connection), your pet needs food, medicine, shampoo and these are things you can research and learn about (growth), your pet needs you to take care of them or they will die (contribution).

When a pet is filling 4 or more of a clients’ needs at a high level, anything that threatens that pet is going to be seen as a code red emergency and bring about high levels of anxiety. Anything that tries to separate that pet from the owner is going to be met with huge resistance. I say this so that when you meet this anxiety or resistance you can understand why. Understanding the why helps us make the leap from being confused and mystified and possibly triggered by their reactions to not being triggered and more able to make it “not about me”. This in turn enables us to hold space for these people with compassion and patience for their struggles.

So the next time you have someone upset in front of you ask yourself, what need is empty and how can I help to fill that need? If you don’t give a tiny rats a&! about their needs take a deep breath, realize it’s not about you and get some distance for just a few minutes while you work on your own trigger. Then ask yourself, which need is empty for ME, and how can I fill that need. You might be surprised at what answers you find within yourself. This is life changing work we do. You got this.

*This post may contain affiliate links. Please know that I only recommend things that I have experienced myself and have found to be valuable to my growth or well being. If you purchase a product offered I may benefit with a small commission.

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