We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.
~ Simon Sinek, Start with Why (2009)
If you don’t make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.
~ Stephen Covey, Seven Principles of Effective People (1989)
Begin with the End in Mind
Simon Sinek, author and consultant, sold a number of books over the last few years by highlighting the value of knowing the motivations that drive behavior in marketing. He posits that successful businesses have a strong awareness of the “why” behind the work they do or the product they sell. Thus, he suggests that we all get clear on those “why’s” and surround ourselves with people who share them.
A generation earlier, Stephen Covey offered the same insight in the form of the second of seven principles of highly effective people: Begin with the end in mind. He recommended that individuals and families create mission statements that clearly define their purpose or the “why” that motivates them.
Both writers are onto something: Knowing our purpose is very important if we want to achieve it.
What’s the Purpose of Your Relationships?
Relationships are no different. When we are clear on the purpose of our relationship, we empower ourselves to make that purpose come to life. Conversely, when we are not conscious of the forces underneath our actions when we connect with others, it is likely, as Covey says, that others will “shape” our lives.
Despite the importance of knowing the “why” of our relationships, we rarely spend time and energy on the topic. Instead of exploring the depth of purpose of a relationship with a boss, we are more likely to just do our work. Only when things aren’t going well do we turn out attention to what we are wanting in the relationship. At this point, it may be too late to create the kind of connection that fulfills us.
Knowing the “Why’s” in the Moment
Compassionate Communication offer a unique twist on the concept of knowing the “why’s” in our relationships. This process tunes us into the factors underneath what we say or do in each and every moment. Needs are the universally-held energies that motivate all that we do. By connecting with the needs “active” for us, we get clear on the purpose of our behavior and develop ways to achieve that purpose.
For example, in the workplace, a person might notice that they’re dissatisfied because their boss isn’t giving them sufficient guidance to complete a project. This might indicate an unmet need for information or support. Awareness of this “why,” in the form of an unmet need, vitalizes the person giving them energy to act to meet the need. In this case, an awareness of an unmet need for information allows the person to make a request using language like this: “I’m not clear about the next step in this project. Can you let me know exactly what you’d like me to do next?”