213: Need or want? What’s the difference?

Do you need something, or is it more accurate to say you want it? Do you need the person in your life to do something, or do you want this person to do something?

It is often helpful to distinguish between needing or wanting.  Knowing the difference can help you prioritize the needs before you focus on the wants.

To distinguish between a want versus a need, I’ll look to Abraham Maslow’s work with the hierarchy of needs. According to this American psychologist, we basically have five kinds of needs: physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness needs, self-esteem needs, and at the highest level, self-actualization needs. (Note there are various publications of this hierarchy; however, the concepts are similar.)

Maslow arranged the five human needs in hierarchical order. (You can see the visual below.)

The most basic needs are at the bottom. For example, physiological is the most fundamental need. Once a lower need is perceived as fulfilled, we are propelled to meet the next level of need. For example, a person who has a strong physiological need, such as hunger, will be motivated by little else; however, when this need is fulfilled, he will move on to the next level, that of safety needs, and when these are satisfied, he will move on to the third level, and so on.

Naturally, the majority of us desire to achieve our highest potential, we desire to become self-actualized. And, according to Maslow, the self-actualization is an intrinsic need deep inside all of us. We all have a deeper need to know we matter and we add value to the lives of others. Individuals who are ‘self-actualizers’ are described as people who are healthy, creative, and resilient. They are constantly working on being their best self … figuring themselves out!

The self-actualizers can do that because they are taking care of their physiological needs, safety needs, belonging needs, and self-esteem needs … in that order.  Self-esteem, the need right below self-actualization, will be low most likely because a lower need has not been met. (By self-esteem, I mean a person’s overall subjective emotional evaluation of his or her own worth).

So ask yourself: At what level do I NEED?

At the basic level, you NEED food, water, air, sleep, and shelter. These are the fundamentals of life. Not a want, but a NEED.  Now you may want more food than you need, or you may want a better home than you currently reside, but do you or anyone close to you NEED any of these physiological needs? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you NEED to do something about this. This must be a high-priority NEED.

If your physiological needs are met overall, now consider the human NEED to feel safe and secure. Maybe it’s better to ask in what areas of life do you feel unsafe or insecure? If you can identify someone or something that causes you to feel unsafe or insecure, then you NEED to do something about this.

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212: We all TELL well – and poorly – because that’s life!

I’ve been studying and developing the T.E.L.L. message for close to 10 years now. Before T.E.L.L., I had been studying interactions between adults and children. All in all, I have been studying interactions – for better and for worse – for close to 30 years now.

In the last post (Show & T.E.L.L. Post 211), I mentioned how people do not think deeply about their every day interactions, and it won’t be until people become more aware of their interactions that they realize how well – or poorly – they are are T.E.L.L.ing.

Whenever I make this statement, I get a variety of responses:

About 1 in 4 people – around 22 percent – say something like this one man stated: “I just say what I say and I let others do the same. I hate to think I have to sugarcoat everything that comes out of my mouth just to make sure I don’t upset someone. Just take it, or leave it.”

About 2 in 4 – or 54 percent of the people – talk about it being difficult to T.E.L.L. in a positive way when so much depends on the person with whom they are interacting.  As one woman said, “If I’m interacting with a person who T.E.L.L.s poorly, I have to choose to either walk away or if I try to interact and T.E.L.L. them better, it rarely works. We both end up T.E.L.L.ing poorly.”

And, slightly 1 in 4 – around 24 percent of people – genuinely pause and think deeper about their words and actions; they become curious about how they T.E.L.L. They want to talk further and figure out how they might possibly T.E.L.L. better. In other words, they look inside with heart and mind to consider why the words they use may do a poor or good job of teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving.

What about you? Will you respond, ‘I just say what I say, etc.’ or ‘If only others would interact with me that way’? Chances are, if you continued reading this post, you are starting to consider how your words impact – at times positively and at times negatively –  no matter what the other person says.

The truth is, we all experience both positive and poor interactions. That’s part of life, and every poor interaction can help us learn to T.E.L.L. better.

You would think after 30 years of intently studying interactions and 10 years of explicitly studying and developing the T.E.L.L. message that I would be decent at T.E.L.L.ing. Well, I am better than when I first started; however, I admit there are always interactions to conclude ‘poor T.E.L.L.ing’. And it is in these moments that I seek to give myself spiritual, mental, and emotional nourishment. I T.E.L.L. myself to know better. I need that nourishment so I can learn more about T.E.L.L.ing – and I can continue to share valuable lessons learned with others who also want to T.E.L.L. better.

Today, notice which of your interactions go well – and ask why is that? Notice which of your interactions go poorly – and definitely ask why is that? You may not be able to clearly state the why, but you can become more aware of evaluating your interactions.

No interaction is neutral, but that is for another day!

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211: ‘TELL’ helps you remember and understand

Growing up, how many of you heard – and used – the phrase “Roy G Biv”? Do you remember why “Roy G Biv” was significant?

Roy G Biv wasn’t an actual person. This was a memory aid, a mnemonic, for recalling the order of the colors of a rainbow. The order being Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Mnemonics are often used to help us remember and use material without much conscious mental effort. It’s much easier to recall Roy G Biv than to remember the actual colors.

Other common mnemonics you may have heard:

  • The names of the Great Lakes are: Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario. The mnemonic Super Man Helps Every One is one of the phrases used to help remember the order of the great lakes from west to east. Do you remember using this saying, or something similar?
  • The names of the planets (to date without Pluto) are Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Teachers often use mnemonics to help students remember this, such as My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Noodles. If you look online, you will find a number of them. One that I remember is My Very Easy Method Just Speeds Up Naming Planets (including Pluto) or the similar more to date phrase My Very Excellent Method Just Speeds Up Naming (not including Pluto)

Two of my personal favorites:

  • To help remember the musical notes in the scale (E,G,B,D,F) using Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge. As well as F.A.C.E….
  • Righty tighty, lefty loosey’  to help remember to tighten a screw, nut, bolt, etc, you turn to the right. And to loosen, you turn toward the left.

From an educational point of view, the best mnemonics help not only to recall information (like Roy G Biv) but also better understand and apply that information (Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge). Hearing the mnemonic helps to involve higher-level thought processes. The best mnemonics are not just an aid to memorize by rote but to help build deeper understanding.

TELL could be considered a mnemonic. Not only can it be a reminder that every interaction you tell a message, but more specifically in every interaction you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love by your message. Thinking ‘T.E.L.L.’ or ‘How can I T.E.L.L. right now?’ allows you to remember you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love by your words and actions.

Thinking about the mnemonic ‘T.E.L.L.’  can also help you understand your interactions at a higher-level. The more you think about, practice, and understand why and how you Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love in every interaction, the more you learn to create stronger – more nourishing – messages.

I T.E.L.L.

You T.E.L.L.

Let’s all T.E.L.L.


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210: Seriously, the going is getting tough

The last post (#209), was about giving and receiving mental and emotional nourishment – especially in a challenging moment. The post ended with, “When the going gets tough, the tough find and receive themselves in the challenge.” Click here if you’d like to read this post first.

We are used to hearing, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This phrase T.E.L.Ls me to not stop, keep working through any momentary challenge that lies before me. If only I Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love myself to keep moving, be more intentional, I should in time become wiser and stronger. And eventually as I get through the difficulty, I can be in a better position to T.E.L.L. others facing similar challenges. Sounds reasonable on the one hand, but on the other hand….

In today’s society there are many challenges, and the majority of us are doing the best we can to work these challenges. But just because we work through them does not mean we are learning to lead others through challenges. That is, working through challenges may, or may not, allow you to help others.

It depends on the attitude you use to approach the difficulty. If you focus on fixing what is wrong or asking yourself how this could be prevented, then you may get yourself through the difficulty; however, this same attitude is not the one you use to provide emotional and mental nourishment to others.

You nourish another by allowing him or her to find him/herself in the challenge and letting him/her be a part of his/her own victory. Your focus is first on protecting his/her emotional, mental, and physical well-being. You stand by him/her while s/he hurts; you help him/her face and resolve the challenge before him/her.

Sad teenage girl being comforted by her mother

Most people don’t tend to think of protecting another person’s well-being first and foremost. Nor do we think to give spiritual, emotional, and mental nourishment. There is a tendency to jump right in and fix the problem or let it be known why this is happening. The “let me tell you what I think about this and let me tell you what I think you should do” response. Or there are some people who respond by turning away, not having the respect or time to give you and your challenge.

Don’t we all have the friend who is a lot of fun but also is the last person you would seek for advice? You enjoy being around this person. It is fun spending time together, but when any challenge arises, this friend barely – if at all – listens. When the going gets tough, s/he hides from you. S/he tends to ignore you as you go through the challenge (especially if it involves him/her), waiting until you are ready to have fun again. I feel safe in saying we all have that friend because this reaction tends to be the more common practice these days. It’s more rare to have someone who will give the time and respect to protect and nourish our challenges.

Why is that? Well, there are many ways and reasons to answer this question, but the bottom line is not enough people T.E.L.L. using mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the foundation their of interactions. Not enough people:

Teach using positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the foundation of their interactions.

Encourage using positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the foundation of their interactions.

Listen using positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the foundation of their interactions.

Love using positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the foundation of their interactions.

Not only do people not T.E.L.L. using positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the foundation of their interactions, the majority of people do not even think about their everyday interactions. It is a known fact that people tend to only pause and think about their interactions if something very good or bad happens, or if something we didn’t expect happens. The truth is we think about our interactions as much as we do walking and eating!

It won’t be until people become more aware of their daily interactions that they begin to realize how well – or poorly – they T.E.L.L. every day. How about you? Do you stop and think about your daily interactions? Do you T.E.L.L. others with positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the base? Today just might be the day to seriously think about how well your interactions Teach, Encourage, Listen, Love.


The Tell Our Children vision is to create a world where everyone (especially children) has at least one person in life who T.E.L.L.s them unconditionally.  This can happen if it becomes more common that parents, teachers, and other caregivers of children learn to T.E.L.L. using positive mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment as the base of their interactions.  Our younger generations desperately need more nourishing interactions. (We all do!) When more youth experience mental, emotional, and spiritual nourishment in their interactions, they learn to do the same for themselves and others.

The world is becoming more negative every day because of the lack of nourishment given and received all around us. Today, nourish yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically in a positive way – and T.E.L.L. others the same – especially while interacting with the youth in your life. Eventually our vision may become a reality; we all learn to positively T.E.L.L. one another.

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