If you don’t like the answer, the question is wrong.

If you don’t like the answer, the question is wrong.

"Why would I do that?" When you question yourself about something you did, and you don't like the answer, the question is wrong.

Do these answers sound familiar: "Because I was stupid," "Because I was selfish," Because I was irresponsible..."?  You probably learned answers like those when you were a child. You didn't like them, but you believed them because you thought you had to in order to avoid rejection. Adapting is a survival skill for a child.

That's how we pick up adaptive beliefs about ourselves that we don't like.

Language of Listening® Coaching reverses those beliefs by asking the right question, "Why would a great person like you do that?" That question gets an answer you will like:

You were unconsciously meeting one or more of the Three Basic Needs for Personal Growth - experience, connection, power. This is always true.

As humans, we're not satisfied with survival alone; we want to live! Put a block (like an adaptive belief about self we don't like) in the way, and we will return to it over and over in order to break through and discover who we really are! We must. Personal growth is encoded in our DNA.

Understanding human behavior is actually as simple as this:

Everything we do meets one or more of the Three Basic Needs. We innately know what we need and either meet those needs unconsciously, in ways that we may or may not like, or we do it consciously, guided by what we like. The latter is the key to a fulfilling life.

Meeting your needs is your unconscious natural strategy for growth. It is sometimes called your survival instinct, but it goes well beyond that. It is actually designed to have you reach your full potential and experience your STRENGTHs. What it is not designed to do is to create a life you will love. Your conscious direction is required for that.

Unconsciously here's how it works:

Say you are low on money, feel frustrated about it, and instead of saving every penny, splurge on something "frivolous" like a name-brand grocery product that costs a little more than the generic brand. (Anybody else feel guilty over little things like that?)

When you look to the Three Basic Needs for the explanation of why you would do that, the answer is never "Because you were stupid," "Because you were selfish," Because you were irresponsible..." Instead you look at how buying the more expensive product worked to fill your needs for experience, connection and/or power.

How did it? The purchase might have helped you suspend your scarcity view of reality for a moment. Since staying in a frustrated or helpless state is unhealthy, you were right that you needed to do something to meet your need for power, and right that even a moment of envisioning yourself as someone who could afford it or someone who could have what you want would help you feel more powerful.

If you had been denying your "wants" a lot lately, a tiny splurge might have even have helped you feel like you were "worth it" or that "what you want matters." Those are the thoughts and feelings your unconscious actions are designed to create in order to meet your need for power and move you back to the truth of who you are...a great person who matters just because you exist.

Rather than kicking yourself for the little splurge later and undoing all of that important growth (which means you will have to do it again), understanding how you work lets you evaluate your actions further and discover your STRENGTHs.

Look at how your intelligence, generosity, and responsibility showed up in buying something that was not crazy expensive but still felt like a gift. 180° from stupid, selfish and irresponsible. Plus that one little splurge could meet your needs enough to keep you from spending even more and getting in real financial trouble...IF you recognize its value.

Recognizing the unconscious brilliance of what you did (and what you always do) in terms of meeting your needs, opens up the world of conscious choice.

Consciously, here's how it works:

Now that you know why a great person like you would splurge, are there any other ways to spend your money that would meet your need for power even better? That question could consciously guide your actions based on what you really like and what you want in the long-term.

For example, if you don't really care that much about brand name grocery products, but just like the feeling splurging gives you, are there any better small splurges that would amount to an investment or help you feel better about yourself in a bigger way? Is there anything you could afford that could make you even more productive or allow you to start asking to be paid more for what you already do? Or would you benefit from saving up the small splurges for an even bigger and more self-affirming splurge?

For me, buying flowers for myself once a month (which would bring a smile every time I saw them on my table) would do much, much more than buying a dozen name-brand products. Lots of new CAN DOs open up when you understand that everything you do is about personal growth and recognizing your STRENGTHs.

Change the question, change the answer. Try it: "Why would a great person like you do what you do?" and let me know what happens.



  1. Elizabeth |

    Sandy, excellent blog posting. I have always see the positive behind retail therapy. A trip to Anthropologie to browse the beautiful and creative designs, then picking a few items to take home makes me feel like a new woman! It is often just what I need to feel like myself again. And new clothes make me feel lovely. It is the experience and the power, as well as the connection to myself that is the best.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • So Succinctly said! I was trying to explain this premise to my sister -in -law just yesterday (in Italian no less!) and this makes it even clearer….also sounds like you’ve had some breakthroughs around money ?… 🙂

  2. Diane B |

    Sandy, this is a great post! I love the concept of the three basic needs for growth. I can work more on identifying those and then, like you said, finding the best way to meet my need once I understand what the need REALLY is.

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