The Secret to Understanding Humans | Larry C. Rosen | TEDxsalinas


Translator: Leonardo Silva
Reviewer: Queenie Lee Is it possible to understand everyone
at a deep and meaningful level, to get what really matters to people,
no matter how different they are from you? That proposition sounds a little absurd. After all, human psychology
is really complex. Some people are abused as children, others are loved and supported. The brain of an 18-year-old girl
who sleeps with her cell phone is different than an 80-year-old man who can’t remember
the names of his children. There’s no one way to understand everyone,
no broad operating principle. That’s the conventional wisdom,
it makes perfect sense, and yet, it’s a myth. A few years ago, I was watching TV,
scenes from Afghanistan. A group of teenage boys was standing
in the back of a dusty pickup, waving rifles, and one boy wrapped in a white cloth,
with dazzling blue-green eyes, was staring directly into the camera. He looked intent, menacing,
and that was the point of the piece: we should be afraid because young men
were passionate about killing Americans. Let me tell you about another boy: my nephew, Rory. At the time I saw this piece,
Rory was a freshman in college, at Harvard. But Rory is not full of himself.
In a word, he’s sweet. He’s not a hugger, but he’ll always hug me
because he knows that I am. He bakes brownies with his young cousins. He wants to be a doctor one day. I’m proud of Rory, and I can’t imagine a kid more different
than that one from Afghanistan, except, at a fundamental level,
these two boys are exactly the same. They’ve chosen their respective paths,
join the Taliban, go to Harvard, for the same internal reasons: they both would like respect. Everyone knows
that when you go to Harvard, people look up to you
for the rest of your life, and when you join the Taliban, little kids look on in awe
as you drive by in that dusty vehicle. They also want community belonging. Rory’s got close friends,
the men of Harvard, but no closer, I’d bet,
than the men of the Taliban. And lastly and probably
most important to both, they want to make
a difference in their worlds, they want to help those they love. What’s amazing and horrifying is that one will learn to be a doctor
and the other will learn to kill. It’s true that human behavior
is amazingly varied and complex, but at the level of motivation, at the level of what drives us
to do all those different things, we’re actually identical. There’s a formula for understanding
why we do what we do, and once you get it, you get it. There are 30 basic human motivations. Let me give you a quick primer. There’s the obvious, the physical. We want to survive:
we need air, food and water. There’s a second category,
of relational needs, that help us understand how to balance our self-interest
and that of the community. We all want to receive care,
understanding, love, but at the same time,
we want to give our love, to help others in our lives. Then there’s a third category of needs
you’d call aspirational, or spiritual. We want to grow, we all crave
adventure and beauty. I’m not going to go
through the whole list because everything on the list
you’re already familiar with. But don’t then mistake this
for that old high school sociology lesson, where the teacher says,
“Human beings have needs; if they’re not fulfilled,
unhappiness and war.” That’s all true, but I’m not here
to make that macro sociological point. I’m here to help you understand
the micro, the human individual, in any given moment, what drives your mother,
your spouse, your boss. Human behavior, no matter
how seemingly bizarre or mundane, is designed internally to fulfill one
or some of the common needs. If you want to understand
what really matters to a person at the level of deep motivation, ask: which of the common needs
have they been pursuing? Here’s a story from my personal life. My wife Shelly sometimes
gets upset with me for not cleaning the dishes
to her exacting standard. I can see her there, as I’m cleaning,
over my left shoulder, pretending to read the mail, watching me. Now, I could easily conclude,
“That’s a little weird. She might be OCD.” (Laughter) But these brilliant observations
don’t get me very far. If I want to understand my wife, and I do, I ask a basic question: what needs are driving her? Shelly’s a busy woman. She teaches high school full-time,
she drives our kids everywhere, she calls my mom to say hi
and “I love you.” Excuse me. I got a little
emotional with that. (Laughter) She calls my mom to say hi
and “I love you.” Clean dishes, neatly stacked and put away, fulfill in her the common needs
for order and rest. Finally some peace of mind. And there’s one more huge need
motivating her dishwash spine: when I leave stuff on the dishes, like that big piece of vermicelli
hanging off the back, that’s so super obvious to her, after she’s said, “Larry,
do a good job this time; this time, please, do a good job,” she concludes I don’t care about her. If you want to understand
everyone, including Shelly, the outside world matters to us only because we’re trying
to fulfill needs internally. She doesn’t really care
about clean dishes. At depth, she, like everyone else,
wants respect, to be loved. Human behavior is complex,
but human motivation is actually simple. We seek these common needs,
and nothing else. Now, I didn’t myself discover
that common needs drive human behavior. The idea was proposed around 50 years ago
by the psychologist Carl Rogers and then further developed by the extraordinary peacemaker
Marshall Rosenberg. I came across their concepts
around 15 years ago, and they made good sense to me. So, I began to implement them
in my personal life, to decode family and friends. And I was understanding people.
I was intrigued, but I was also skeptical. I asked Marshall Rosenberg, “Why 30 needs, and not 755?” And he said, “Oh, it could be 30 or 755. The need to survive, for example,
could be further broken down into the needs to not walk off a cliff,
or to not be eaten by predators. Thirty is just a useful level
of aggregation.” I thought, “OK, that’s a good answer,
but what about this Marshall? What are needs, from a neurological perspective? What’s happening in the brain?
How do they actually motivate us?” And here, Marshall said,
“Oh, that’s simple. Needs are life force, human life force.” And I thought, “Whoa.
That’s not science at all.” And so, I spent the next two years
meeting with neuropsychologists and speaking with evolutionary biologists and reading cognitive journals
with footnotes, and I eventually concluded this
needs stuff is grounded in solid science. And because research shows that if you mention the word
“neuroscience” or “brain” in a big talk, it’s a thousand times
more likely to go viral, (Laughter) let me say, this is neuroscience. (Laughter) Brain science. Neuro and brain. Neuro-brain. (Laughter) Now, I’m not a scientist. I’m a lawyer, a mediator, and a writer. But being a layperson has allowed me
to unravel this science, to translate it away from chemicals
like oxytocin and dopamine and into what I believe
is a useful narrative. And so, here’s what I believe is going on
in the human brain, with needs. The human unconscious evaluates the world, telling us whether
it’s dangerous or friendly. That’s its job. Once it reaches its conclusion, it’s got to motivate the whole system,
including the conscious mind, to do something about it. How? If it concludes
that the world’s dangerous, we naturally feel fear or anxiety, and we try to get less of what caused it. If it concludes the world is friendly, we naturally feel happy or excited
and we try to get more. But, and this is the key, how does the unconscious determine
what’s dangerous and what’s friendly? It’s not just left
up to each of us individually. Rather, the criteria upon which
we evaluate the world is born into you and born into me
and born into all of us. Those are the human needs. Those specific criteria
were honed through evolution, because they allow us to survive, to relate to other people,
and ultimately, to make more people. “Am I being respected?” “Am I making a contribution in the world?” “Does she think I’m cute?” If so, pleasure, get more of that! If not, pain, change the world. It took me several years
to unravel the science in a way that made narrative sense to me. And yet, in that time, I actually stopped caring so much
about what was happening in the brain. I was using this and understanding people
in a way that I didn’t think was possible. I was seeing their hearts, it worked, and really, that’s what counts. I’d like to tie this
together with a story. As I said, I’m a mediator. When people are at war, they come to me
and I help them work it out. Not too long ago,
I was visited by a couple that had already been divorced. The ex-wife, Sophia,
said a precious object had gone missing. What was it? Sophia had never met her father, and her mother died
when she was a little girl. She was raised by her grandmother, and in her grandmother’s house
hung this large painting, painted by Sophia’s grandmother,
of Sophia’s mother. Sophia used to look at this painting
when she was a little girl and imagine herself
holding her mom’s hand and kissing her mom’s cheek. Sophia’s grandmother, the painter,
died a few weeks before the mediation, and in her final hours,
she signed the picture. Sophia described this with tears and finally looked to her
ex-husband and she said, “Frank took the picture. Frank, when are you going to stop
trying to punish me for the affair?” I looked to the guy,
and his face was cold as stone, and I thought, “Whoa.” People come to see me
because I can help solve their problems, but I’m kind of a one-trick pony. The thing is I have this excellent trick, I can help them understand
each other’s hidden motivations, and I knew something that Sophia didn’t. Frank wasn’t trying to punish her. People often think
revenge is a human motive, but hurting another person
is not a human need. Now, how do I know? Well, here’s a trick I developed
a few years ago that I find very useful. If you ever think that somebody
is motivated by something that doesn’t personally give you pleasure, you actually haven’t found
their motivation; go deeper. I don’t get pleasure
from hurting other people. If it’s not in me, it’s not a common need, and if it’s not a common need,
it’s not a human motivation. Go deeper. Revenge is pursued
to fulfill another need. But what? It varies, but very often,
it’s a need for understanding. If I hurt you, you will understand,
at the level of personal pain, at the level of intense
personal suffering, what you did to me. You’ll finally get it. This wasn’t the case for Frank. My theory that he had taken the picture in order to be understood
for the pain of the affair was wrong. I often guess wrong. But as I was guessing and without blame
convinced him to share something else, his eyes welled with tears and he looked over
at his ex-wife Sophia and he said, “Soph, she had become my grandmother too! She was all that I had! You were all that I had.” Frank was an orphan too, just like Sophia. He took the painting to fulfill
a common human need of connection. Hurting Sophia was never the point. Sophia moved next to Frank on the couch
and she wrapped her arms around him, and they sobbed together for ten minutes. And I cried too. I had ten minutes.
What was I going to do? (Laughter) Frank ultimately returned
the painting to Sophia, and she dug up a trove of old photos of Frank with her grandmother, so that he could remember his family. Understand what happened here. We didn’t make the common and easy mistake
thinking that revenge is a motive. Instead, we went to the source
of all human motivation, to the common needs. When Sophia understood that Frank
had simply needed connection, human connection, and in particular,
to her grandmother, she got it, she could feel it, and then the magic, and then solutions. Now, many people,
including some in this audience, are wary of understanding others,
and especially during conflict. The thought goes like this, “If I understand the reasons
you did what you did, I’m basically saying you were justified.” Understanding seems like condoning, and for this reason, people often say, “Don’t go inside the mind
of a terrorist, don’t get them. To get a terrorist
is to legitimate terrorism. It’s to be an apologist.” And for this reason,
it was suggested to me that I dropped from my talk the piece
about the Taliban teenager, because then people might think
I condone terrorism. Let me make something perfectly clear. Understanding reasons
is different than condoning. I’ve learned through
thousands of mediations understanding is a power
to shape the world far greater than any sword or gun. Understanding is exactly how you create
the world that you want. I began this talk asking, “Is it possible to understand everyone
at a deep and meaningful level, even those that are different from you?” And the answer is yes. When your teenage daughter asks you for that hair straightener, and just one week after
you bought her that hair crimper, and she’s standing
at the top of the stairs with this crazy crimped hair, screaming, “You just don’t understand!”, this is how you understand: What is she needing? She wants to be accepted, liked. The desire to be accepted, to be liked, is in you, is in me,
is in everyone in this audience. And so you can understand
exactly what she feels, and that alone will transform
your relationship. And then come the solutions, even if it’s only, “I see you,
my beautiful little girl. I get you.” There’s a formula for understanding
why we do what we do, and once you get it, you get it. Human behavior is complex,
but human motivation is simple. We seek the common needs,
and nothing else. We seek the common needs,
and nothing else. The common needs are human motivation. Learn this language of the unconscious, this language of the heart, and you’ll improve
every relationship in your life. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The Secret to Understanding Humans | Larry C. Rosen | TEDxsalinas

  1. Absolutely mind-blowing talk. We are so often quick to judge and jump to conclusions about one another when really we're all the same. The world would be a much better place if we all took the time to understand each other.

  2. The desire to be accepted is not a basic need though. This is just a way to test our "worth" as a human being on other people. The real need behind it is be worthy. Not to feel worthy.

  3. Seek to understand why you do what you do. There is an innocence down there at the bottom of the well. When you finally see it in yourself, trace how it rides alongside all of your actions, good and bad. Then turn outward and seek to see the same in the actions of every other person you interact with. See it clearly in yourself, then in others, and you may feel an inner peace arise and take root in you… This is a profound mediation of an inner war. After this understanding, you can begin to mediate outer wars too.

    Incredible TED talk, thank you so much for sharing.

  4. This is incorrect. There are different "breeds" of humans, just as there are different breeds of dogs or horses etc.
    There is a profound difference between the terrorist kid and the other kid. Some people are born goodhearted toward those who are "vulnerable" — or "weaker" — or "less important" etc—— and they dont give a sh1t about "respect" . And some kids are just prone to being plain mean-spirited and throw their weight around. Not everyone is put together alike. (there are PITBULLS aka Taliban —
    and there are beautiful caretaking BORDER COLLIES aka beautiful good wonderful guys).

  5. I find this topic really interesting, So to this day have or do they understand why they kill millions of their own species every year and now even Kill their own species before they come out of the womb? Yes Explain that to me. What is the secret? Is this why the species is so afraid of AI? They no longer will have to kill each other, they now will create something that will do that for them. Awesome.

  6. Thanks Larry. The urge to punch you in the face due to your initial juxtaposition between your nephew and the 'terrorist' faded out in the last few minutes to which I wish you had more talk time. I think you did rather well to keep the 'terrorist' character example. Even if you didn't really (have time to) legitimize his reality. This was an exceptional and emotional talk.

  7. “But hurting another person is not a human need.”

    I like this. It really stuck out to me for some reason.

  8. I have always operated at a level with an intuitive understanding that people are motivated by personal needs. What I don't understand, and never have, is why most people do not understand that other people are motivated by needs similar to their own. In other words, this talk was not needed for me. Why is it needed for most people? Why is this talk a revelation to so many people? Didn't you all realize that people are like you and have internal needs like you? Why did it take this guy years of studying brain science to learn what I always knew since I was a child?

  9. I wish he had chosen a different example than any radical group.
    Some kids do not chose becoming criminals or radical to begin with.
    Lets give an example

    All kids in USA go to high school when leaving primary school.
    In other countries it depends on your socio-economic background whether you are eligible to go to high school or not.
    Learning a trade? Again in many countries depends on your socio-economic background if you are eligible or not.
    There are countries out there where international students study for free, they don't even have to know the language spoken in that country.
    If you are citizen but born into the wrong socio-economic group…well, sucks to be you but you are not allowed to study or to learn a tradebecause you do not "qualify".

    The country I talk about is no Islamic country.
    Just the country a friend went to study engineering.
    That european country is well known and has a high reputation internationally.

    It is always easy to say "they chose to do this or that"… but we should think twice and do a research on our own.

    I do not agree on what radical groups are doing. But we all have radical groups.
    And I don't think kids from developing countries ending up in the wrong team based on not having had a chance to get a proper educationthan is worse than kids in usa or other well established countries where they have all options but become criminals instead.

  10. What if Afghanistan would have attacked US on American soil and would have stolen your cousin's dream of becoming a doctor at Harvard? What if the Afghan boy would not need to defend his creed, he might have followed his dream of becoming someone great and loved, like a great doctor and your cousin a great warrior…I wonder what would feel that Afghan boy listening to your righteous and scientific talk. Injustice is a great motivator, as great as love and greed.

  11. You are missing it on a presuppositional level. People are born with a spirit/soul. The evolutionary biologist is selling you an agenda you have been deceived by. Man was created by the Triune God of the Bible. People are born sinfully selfish which is why babies have to be taught to do good. You don't have to teach babies to be selfish, greedy, violent little hellions. The secret to understanding Humans is in the Bible. We need to be loved. We need the Holy Spirit to love perfectly. Perfect love casts out fear. Jesus is the answer.

  12. Simplistic and wrong. A strong primate motivation is to assert dominance – hence child abuse, wife beating, bullying in schools and the workplace. The one being attacked has done nothing except be different – and maybe in good ways – being gifted, bright, asking questions – which in and of themselves challenge dominance hierarchies. And even if there's no challenge – humans like sameness. Abusers/ bullies take a great deal of pleasure in what they do – and they continue to do it because of the pleasure they derive, regardless of whether they were ever at risk of losing anything and they continue long after they have destroyed their victim(s) personality. This isn't pathology – this is normalcy.

  13. Yes …

    Tell me one thing, …

    why someone dont wanna safer and comforted, healthy, clean, kinder environment for their kids …

    If he/she wanna neutrality or freedom for some sins, cos he/she dont like strict life, but rich in happiness and all those good quallities …

    And this all just in a form of some more, added conditions and opportunities, for just graduating calibration … for those, who choose it …

    So tell me the logical reason …

  14. I’d do ANYTHING TO MEET WITH YOU. IF YOU ONLY KNEW …. I need a lawyer I need support I need advice so very bad !! Loved your speech !! It’s amazing!!!

  15. Wow… I love this…In my whole life, the most difficult task I've ever had and still having is understanding human.
    I hope more presentation on this topic would be posted for people like me to learn.
    Nice one Larry

  16. This particular video help us to understand the behavior of not just one specific category of a human being but various categories of human beings. The video enables us to understand that the mentality of different people belonging to the different age group differs significantly. Also, according to the speaker, psychology or the human behavior of an individual very much depends on the environmental factor as well. The above video aids us in understanding the reason behind the reactions given by our own people about whom we care a lot, thus, augmenting our patience level towards each other for a better and a healthy living.

  17. We are so different yet the same. To understand others you must understand yourself, for you are the window that sees the world.

  18. If the whole world could follow this speeches of yours that would be the biggest blesssings & thing ever happened in everyone's life, hats off for this awesome words Mr. Larry! GodBless you

  19. Very well said sir !
    The way we percept the situation differs from man to man it may be either in the Good side or a Bad one.
    so understanding ones perception is way too difficult.

  20. I understand that the behaviour of humans just depends on what they expect or on what they need from the others. one you attain a position of fulfilling their needs the relationship and bonding between them increases. Motivation is that which drives the brain. Human's field of work ,area of intrest,way of life might be different but the single reason that motivates them to work is to reach basic needs of their life.This process of attaining makes changes in the way they respond or behave based on the process they go through while attaining their requirments. so understanding a person might be a bit complex but convincing and making them in favour of you is not that dificult once you start becoming solution for thier problems. so I conclude that human brain is very good at executing things but should be guided and motivated well to reach the peace of life and so the psychology of humans can be understood to a better extent one you start reading their needs than other ascpects of life.

  21. This concept should be the overall goal of our education system.   Half of our learning should be about how to manage our complex mind.  The other half can be academic.  Both are needed.

  22. Listening to this one while folding laundry, and 2/3rds of the way through it invokes tears for me because of an example he gives about an ex-husband and wife who at one moment felt hate and resentment, but once they understood the motivations, felt love and understanding. I have always seen human commonality more so than human differences. I believe no matter how different we are culturally, racially, rich/poor, man/woman, old/young, or whatever — we all have common motivations. Common needs. I wish the media and all of the influential outlets focused on similarity & love over drama & divide.

  23. The human mind is very complex. Many things can come into play when it comes to "what matters to us". Things like our current situation, people could be going through financial hard ship which is temporary, Current mood, the way they are being treated in their personal life, how they view their selves. There are so many variable that effect a person's current perception of them selves and the world around them.

  24. the speech sounds easy to understand but when i really get in to it, it really bothers me that i cant understand.

  25. Thank you for the talk. Mind blowing idea. It teaches me how to use the knowledge I learnt in high school and how to understand people.

  26. “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" Luke 17:7 NIV translation

  27. Check out Sam Harris on his theory we dont have free will it's a pretty compelling argument

  28. Amazing, mind-blowing speech. Simple when you think about it, but incredibly deep as always is the truth. Thank you, sir.

  29. ahhh yes…. but what exactly is that underlying factor that results in the original behavior to lead us to why we think the way we are???

  30. He said to seek and understand the 30 common needs. But did not list them. He mentioned connection, respect, care, to be understood, accepted, seen, heard.
    Said revenge or to hurt others is not. Hmmmm. What about sadists?

  31. 0311
    People are both simple and complex.
    Mustang, two types of people. Fight or flight. However, on a psychological stand point. Variables such as; loss, what type of spoon, and locational hardencies. Human psychology is based on simple things. Survival and habit. Brilliant man.

  32. Maybe that Afghani boy was in pain maybe just maybe he had rage and anger for people invading his country and killing them for oil.

  33. I understand dark amtter more than I understand people. Humans are extremely complicated an unessecary dramatic

  34. I think the Taliban fighter probably has a better understanding of human nature than this white lawyer guy who probably hasnt had one existential crisis or life threatening situation in his life.

  35. it's because IQ and EQ are not prevalent in the same person. nowadays most people go into robot mode or over dramatic mode. they don't know how to balance it. most people dont even know how to ask the most important question. why? understanding. just simply trying to understand others.

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