It’s Not All About You - Proteus Leadership | 3 examples of ego needs
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It’s Not All About You

You don’t become worked up because of what people say. You don’t become emotionally charged because of their tone.

You don’t become drained because of their aggression or intimidation. These things happen because you take people’s comments personally!

Demanding clients, insistent stakeholders, and intimidating colleagues can leave you feeling worked up or washed out.

Emotional tension can result in you making impulsive decisions, irrational responses, or unnecessary mistakes. People behave according to their needs, not yours.

When someone is aggressive, defensive or making accusations it is because they are trying to meet their needs, achieve their goals and satisfy their emotional drivers.

You may be aware of the 6 needs documented by the humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow (known as ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’). Maslow believed that we have a series of needs to fulfill, being: pyschological needs (food, water, shelter), safety, love and belonging, self esteem, self actualisation. When the lower needs are satisfied, people will look to satisfy the next level of needs.

However, you also have ‘ego’ needs, being, the need to feel good about yourself.

People’s behaviour (what they say, how they act, how nice/nasty they are, etc.) are all driven by their ego needs. That is why behaviour is not about you, but about them.

Here are three examples of ego needs:

1. The need to win

It is often in professions/roles where people need to be ‘right’, accurate or correct all the time do they thrive on the need to win. They will fight and argue to show that they are right so that they can get their way.

If you fight them, they will fight back and often use anger, accusation or intimidation to help win the battle. Instead, help them to see that they can ‘get what they want’ if they work more collaboratively, and calm down.

2. The need to look good

The saying ‘Your impression of me means everything’ typifies the need to look good. When you have a strong need to look good, your priority is preserving your self image and looking good (competent, confident, etc.) in front of other people. You won’t show or admit to weakness, and you often place attention on yourself in conversations.

If you are in confrontation with someone with a need to look good they will whine and whisper about you behind your back (or in front of you) because they see you as a threat. Therefore, it is important to reaffirm that you are not a threat to their goals, and that you are not questioning their competence or ability.

3. The need to fit in

‘Children are to be seen but not heard’ defines those who have a need to fit in. They are likeable, hard working and competent people who like being part of a team.

They are appeasing, believe in fairness, and dislike conflict and tension. If you end up in conflict with someone with a need to fit in, they will take it to heart and feel personally attacked. So, always ask their side of the story, ask about their feelings and thoughts. Ensure that they have been heard before responding.
If you think that this sounds a little like how little children behave, then you wouldn’t be far wrong. Many of your ego needs come from childhood when you were trying to find ways to feel good about yourself.

Whether you are working in sales, customer service, or perhaps you manage staff, clients or colleagues, then realise that what people say to you (and the way they say it) is simply them trying to win, look good, or fit in.

When faced with challenging people, take a deep breath, step back, try to work out what need they are trying to fulfill.

Remember, it’s not all about you.

By Michael Licenblat

Published with permission from the International Institute of Directors and Managers (IIDM) –


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

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