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The Need for Acceptance


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Acceptance

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




To be accepted by others, just for being ourselves. To not be rejected or ostracized (which is the opposite of acceptance).

We have a particular need for acceptance by those in authority and those who we want be our friends.

Being accepted leads to being treated with respect and afforded status of some kind.


A teacher accepts all of her pupils as learners whatever their history of behaving.

A wife accepts her husband as he is, including all his strange little male foibles. Likewise her husband accepts her ways. They have a good, long-term relationship. 

Related to


Part of Includes Related to
Identity Respect








We have a strong tendency to evaluate other people, comparing how they behave against values and consequently judging them good or bad, right or wrong, competent or incompetent. We are more likely to accept people who pass this social test.

The opposite of acceptance is rejection, which is a form of identity destruction. If a person does not pass the tests and evaluations we place on them, we will reject them or socially downgrade them. This can vary in strengths, from simply ignoring them to public criticism and ostracization. Fear of such treatment often drives us harder to seek acceptance.

Some people are better able to accept than others. Those who are highly judgemental easily reject other people. Those who accept many others often have greater compassion, both for others and also for themselves. They forgive and learn rather than blame and reject. (Note that you can accept people while not accepting how they behave.)

There is a sequence of acknowledgement (recognizing the person), approval (evaluating the person) and acceptance before a person is admitted to a group and so achieve the need for belonging. With further approval they gain respect, esteem and consequent status, in which they gain power and consequent control.

Acceptance is related to liking and we are more likely to forgive our family and friends certain transgressions, although because they are closer, serious breaking of rules can lead to greater anger and rejection.

So what?

Use your acceptance of others as a part of changing minds. Acceptance can be a reward for behaving well and rejection a punishment for doing the wrong thing.

If you accept everything about them too easily, you may be seen as too soft or needy, and people will not accept you in return, nor will they value your acceptance.

A very effective way of creating social bonds with others is to always accept the person but accept or reject what they do. This sustains their respect as you do not attack their identity while motivating them to improve how they behave in order to gain acceptance consistency.

See also

Alignment principle, Consistency principle


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