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4 Questions That Can Reveal Your Psychological Needs

2. What compliment do you crave most?

 Guilherme Stecanella/Unsplash
Guilherme Stecanella/Unsplash

Self-reflection can help you better get to know your psychological needs and how these are being met or not met. Try these question prompts for learning insights into yourself.

1. What's the best compliment you received this year, and why?

The best compliment I received this year was when I was telling my doctor about breastfeeding struggles with my newborn. He said to me, "You'll figure it out. You always do."

Why was this compliment meaningful to me?

First, he recognized my tenacity, intelligence, and resourcefulness. These are all qualities that are important to me.

Second, before he gave the compliment, I did not have confidence in my capacity to overcome the challenge. Afterward, I did.

Once you've identified the compliment that was your favorite, ask yourself the following questions to ascertain why it was so meaningful.

  • Was the compliment you received about a quality you highly value?
  • Did it give you confidence in yourself?
  • Did it help you see a way forward with a problem?
  • Or, did it make you aware of a strength you hadn't previously perceived in yourself?

Bonus: Go back to the compliment-giver and tell them how they positively impacted you. They probably have no idea.

2. What's the compliment you're most craving and why?

What's a compliment you'd like to receive but haven't gotten or haven't gotten enough? Since we can't dictate when other people give us compliments, how can you get this need met?

  • Perhaps you need to recognize when other people see your strengths but don't directly compliment you. For example, a customer doesn't laud you with compliments but keeps giving you work.
  • Perhaps you can more confidently assert that you possess a quality, regardless of whether others acknowledge it. Perhaps you can apply your strength in a new way to further validate this for yourself.
  • Perhaps you can ask for that compliment, even if the person you ask doesn't deliver or delivers in a clumsy way.

3. What piece of psychological wisdom most sticks in your mind? How does it help you make better decisions?

Don't overthink this one. I just mean anything that's sticking in your mind lately or right now. An idea I regularly think about is along the lines of, "If you've had a bad financial incident, the way you make the money back doesn't need to be the same way you lost the money."

This isn't about money, it's about cognitive flexibility, choice, and most importantly, that there are generally multiple pathways that can lead to a desired outcome. The statement helps me not be fixated on losses (broadly defined) or on one pathway to recover from failures. There are lots of ways to recover from a screw-up.

This advice also helps me see that one-off expenses don't always have to be optimized. For example, I once paid my immigration attorney $1,400 to complete a form I easily could have done myself. However, since I won't need an immigration attorney again, it didn't really matter compared to if this charge would repeat every year. Sometimes it's easier to find a way to earn more money than to reduce a one-off expense.

Go through the same process for yourself that I've done here. What's one additional way you can use the wisdom you've identified to make an optimal decision? Often, it's easier to apply advice you already buy into in new ways, rather than try to adopt new advice. I write more about this principle and how you can use it in my book, Stress-Free Productivity.

4. When was the last time you felt embarrassed and why?

Often we feel embarrassed unnecessarily. For example, I have a small house because I like having a small house, but I feel embarrassed sometimes when other people see my house, especially if they have a much larger house in a fancier neighborhood. I worry that they won't see me as successful or smart because I don't have a big house.

This alerts me that being seen as successful and having money is a sensitivity for me. I can then make sure that having this sensitivity doesn't lead to me behaving in unproductive ways, or ways that aren't true to myself. I've had a bigger house before and I hated it!

A similar observation is that I know I like dressing casually and not having an abundance of stuff. But I get embarrassed when people comment on, for example, me wearing the same shoes all the time. I can reassure myself that I'm on my own path. Most of the time people don't mean anything by those types of comments. They're just observations, and they're probably mainly driven by the fact I tend to wear flip-flops year-round, so that draws attention.

Take one way you've felt embarrassed and unpack it in the way I've done. Does your embarrassment signal a need to change direction or to stick to your guns but be less sensitive? Having an initial feeling of embarrassment is fine and merely demonstrates a desire to be socially accepted, which is healthy. If you can cognitively work through it, it's not harmful.

Which of these questions most got you thinking? Are you curious how your friends, coworkers, or loved ones would answer these? Why not ask them?

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