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Four As of Social Needs


Explanations > Needs > Four As of Social Needs

Acknowledgement | Acceptance | Admiration | AgreementSo what?


Within the 4S Needs Net, as well as many other needs models, a critical dimension is of social needs. For example:

Another way to understand it is via four 'A's. These can be understood as a hierarchy, with acknowledgement as the most basic need and agreement as the highest need.

Acknowledgment (existence)

When we seek acknowledgement from others, we are simply asking them to notice us, to confirm that we exist. In social situations, if people ignore us, they are effectively denying that we exist, which can be very distressing. Indeed, punishments such as ostracization and solitary confinement can lead to serious mental illness.

Acknowledgement plays to Alderfer's 'existence' need, and perhaps more generally to a general need for continuity, where we perceive ourselves as the same person through time (and even surviving after death). As an example, when people pray to their ancestors, they acknowledge not only the continued existence of those who came before them, and also are expressing the hope that their own descendants will acknowledge and sustain their existence, if only in memory.

Acceptance (belonging)

After people acknowledge our existence, we want them to accept us, letting us join their group. This boosts our sense of identity as we take on the culture of the group, sharing values and feeling that, as Maslow highlights, we truly belong somewhere.

Groups include families, friendship circles, work teams, political parties, religions and nations. Group leaders promote the value of the group and fiercely defend these. Indeed, a group can have a complete personality of its own.

Admiration (esteem)

Once we belong to a group, feeling a connection with others, we next want our peers to like and admire us. This plays to Maslow's esteem needs, where other people not only acknowledge and accept us -- they also admire and hold us in esteem.

Agreement (power)

A factor about esteem is that it leads to social hierarchies and efforts to climb this ladder. This can, to some extent, be a zero-sum game where for me to feel esteemed, I need people below me. In other words, I want higher status. To achieve this, I need to influence and control others, which leads to a concern for power over others so I can get them first to obey (agreeing to act) and then to truly agree (sharing beliefs) with me.

Effective wielding of power to gain agreement is not always that easy, as competitive seeking esteem and status can lead to others disliking you, and even seeking to ignore you or eject you from the group such that all previous As are lost. Even if you seem to be making headway here, others may secretly be plotting to remove you (and perhaps install themselves). This helps explain the Shakespearian quote (Henry IV, Part II, Act III, Scene 1), 'Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown'.

So what?

Persuasive methods can work at any of these levels and power often is used to shake all levels. This can be instinctive, such as when a child deliberately turns their back on parents who are seeking to persuade them. You can of course be more deliberate in this. Be careful also when using power, that it does not cause revolt that bounces back on you.

See also

4S Needs Net, Acknowledgement, Connect, Status, Power


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