United States of America First Lady Michelle Obama famously said, “when they go low, we go high”. The phrase has reverberated throughout the world to represent how the “classy” respond to the “classless”. Personally I loved the rational response to the irrational outbursts of a political candidate. Anytime you can quell the ignorant with intelligence, I’m in! The phrasing has gotten my performance intelligence juices flowing – why does this phenomenon exist and why does it work? How does taking the “high road” overtake the lowly?
When They Go [Mas]Low, We Go High
Entering Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Most students in secondary education and certainly those who took an entry-level psychology course in college were introduced to Abraham Maslow’s motivational theory known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is a psychological pyramid model that illustrates a vertical progression of motivation based on basic needs being met or unmet. The five levels are described as follows listed from the bottom up in the pyramid:
Base Level: Level 1 – Physiological (breathing, food, water, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion)
Next Level Up: Level 2 – Safety (security of body, of employment, of resources, of morality, of the family, of health, of property)
Middle Level: Level 3 – Love/Belonging (friendship, family, sexual intimacy)
Next Level Up: Level 4 – Esteem (self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others)
Top Level: Level 5 – Self-Actualization (morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts)
While these are listed as “top down” above, the pyramid shows them as going from the bottom up. Just digesting the list for a few minutes should give you the spark of “a-ha” moments. The theory says you cannot fully commit to the next level up until your needs have been fully satisfied by the base levels.
This hierarchy presents a conundrum of sorts – what if you’re striving to be at the proverbial “top” but you’re missing a few things? Isn’t there such a thing as fake it until you make it. Yes there is, but you’re not fooling everyone! The signs of unmet needs present themselves daily if you know what to detect.
Here’s the formula to evaluate your needs:
Write the name of the person you want to evaluate at the top of the page (yes this can be where you write your own name down)
Underneath, list the Levels with the adjectives listed above to describe each level
Highlight the areas that you feel the person you’re evaluating has unmet needs (yes this is your best guess based on your observations of the person or your honesty with yourself)
Seriously – this is scientifically unscientific – now stand back and look at the areas of unmet needs – you’ll more than likely notice a pattern (i.e. a connection between Level 2 Morality with Level 4 Respect for Others).
I will tell you to go through this exercise of evaluation on yourself first! There are times when we scratch our heads trying to understand why things happen to us in a certain way….look in the mirror. Look at your needs – that’s what drives you! Fear drives us, satisfaction drives us – whether the needs are in the positive or negative it drives us.
I implore you – know where you’re driving yourself
You should know the roadmap – and you most certainly can by looking at your needs. IF you honestly want to figure this out, be honest about yourself. You don’t have to share this with anyone. Lying to yourself about where you actually are with your needs hurts your growth – don’t let your ego stunt your growth – be better than that (dare to be better for you)!
Why Does “High” Triumph Over “Low”?
When someone initiates conflict they do it at their lowest level – wherever their highest level of met needs rests. Most uninitiated conflict (you know the “I was minding my own business and then was attacked with conflict out of the blue”), comes from a place of low-level met needs. Meaning – I’m unhappy with myself, so I try to attack someone at the level I am at presently. Now, if you’re not careful you’ll respond to the attack at their level – even if you’re at a higher level.
Reality-check – the only way low-level people can have conflict with you is if you respond at their level!
Makes sense right? So they attack, they prod, they pry, and they do whatever they can to pull you from your higher level into theirs. Here’s why staying at the high level is important – you’ll be able to outpace and outsmart the attacks. At the end of the day, you’ll stay at your level and should remain proud of your responses. While we can all go low, if we’ve achieved a higher level of met needs – why would we demote ourselves? Didn’t you work hard to achieve your own level not to have it pulled down by anyone or anything? Know your level – and build from your level ALWAYS.
When they go [Mas]Low – We go High! BE AMAZING! #ShockTheWorld