Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a diagram created by Abraham Maslow. Maslow believed that humans communicate to fulfill many of our basic needs. The diagram starts off with basic needs and ends with abstract needs. Maslow felt that our basic needs must be met before we are concerned with the more abstract needs (Wood, 2013). The five stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs illustrate how important communication is for human survival.
Physical Needs: The most basic of the five stages of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This includes air, food, and sex. From the very beginning of human life, human babies cry and show other cues so that adult caregivers know what they need. Without these basic needs met, babies would die. Other examples of this are married people with chronic illnesses living longer than their single counterparts (Wood, 2013).
Safety and Protection: This includes using communication to keep our shelter safe, reporting to authorities if we are in danger, or using communication to keep others from danger. Media reporting unsafe weather, food, or other dangers can be another example of communication to protect our safety.
Belonging: This is referring to feeling included, and having fun. It is important for humans to feel they are part of a group and belong. This can be especially important when it comes to being successful in our careers. We communicate by smiling, eye contact, and conversation to let others know we enjoy their company. Email and phone are tools we use to communicate with each other if we want to arrange to meet up with each other.
Self-Esteem: This refers to the way we are shaped based on how others communicate to us. This means that from the very beginning our parents provide us with the basis of our self-worth by suggesting we are good or bad, smart or stupid. Throughout the rest of our lives we are told who we are by others, whether it is our peers, teachers, or our bosses at work. These things can shape us into who we become.
Self-Actualization: The most abstract on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. This is suggesting that just surviving is not enough, that humans desire growth and to feel that they are at their personal best. This may include seeking a talent, continuing our education, traveling, or other things that can help us to grow as a person. We may communicate with family and friends to discover where we want to go next with our goals. Counselors and therapists also use communication to help us with Self-Actualization.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs shows the many reasons humans may communicate. From the time we are infants we learn that communication is important to receive food, shelter, or to fulfill our need to belong. It is in our nature to enjoy companionship, and to constantly improve ourselves. Communication can mold people into what they become. Without communication, our human needs could not be met, and we would either be unable to survive or unable to lead the fulfilling lives we all desire.
Wood, J. (2013). Interpersonal Communication: Everyday Encounters. (7th Edition.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.