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Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Updated on May 31, 2012

Interpersonal Communication is how all people fulfill the needs that they have in their life. Through many different forms, whether it be through verbal or physical gestures. Many philosophers and psychologists have came up with theories to explain why people communicate with each other. For this paper, we will be looking at William Schultz theory developed in 1966. His thought was that people created and maintained relationships with one another to fulfill three basic needs, affection, inclusion and control.

Expanding on Schultz’s idea, Abraham Maslow contested that interpersonal communication covered a wide range of human needs, not just three. He put the different needs into five different categories, Physical Needs, Safety Needs, Belonging Needs, Self Esteem Needs and Self Actuation. According to Maslow’s theory, people could not fulfill the last two more abstract needs until the more basic ones were met.

Physical Needs top Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This needs covers the most basic necessities. A child’s need to eat makes them alert their parents to feed them. Studies have shown that children need interaction to grow and develop. Lack thereof can create a child who cannot communicate their needs to others, making it hard to survive.

As we get older, we continue to use communication to help us to survive. People tell doctors what ails them, where the pain is to be healed. Interpersonal communications of lack thereof will decide if a person can get a job to feed and clothed themselves. Homeless men and women begging for money and food are simply expressing their need through interpersonal communications. Continuing to talk to your children when people have their own, completes the cycle.

Safety Needs is the second most basic of Maslow’s theory. This need encompasses needs met by communication with others. Telling your landlord of a faulty wire or leaking roof can be an example of using communication to help keep you safe. Another would be calling the police if someone was breaking into your house. A person at the gas station yelling through your window that your tire is low.

Communication in this category can be the person themselves asking others to help them or someone helping you. Communications that talk before hand of safety issues can also be a form of this kind of need. Pre talks of sex and protection or maybe smoking around someone who has asthma.

Belonging Needs make up the third type of need fulfilled through interpersonal communication. This is an example of human’s needs to be around people, to socialize. This is achieved through talking to others, writing and even being around other people. Interaction is needed for a person’s survival and peace of mind. Friends will talk for hours on the phone, sometimes with nothing more of conversation than to just talk. To feel connected to someone.

Many groups are probably founded on this very need, the need to belong. High school is merely young people’s desire to feel like they belong to something, thus creating cliques. And just as with shown under the physical needs, people need communications on a social level. Studies and statistics show that people with more strong close relationships have a lower chance of heart disease.

Self-Esteem Needs are a person’s needs to feel good about themselves. The earliest example of communication fulfilling this need is how parents speak to their children. As a young child grows the way their parent’s speak of them will determine how they feel about themselves as they get older. Children that are spoke ill of by their caretakers will will feel ill of themselves. Kids who are nurtured while young usually have a better sense of self esteem.

This need continues into adult hood. The responsibilities and roles of mother and caretaker are now replaced by friends, co-workers and spouses. Women in abusive relationships, not fulfilling this need end up with very low self-esteem which can haunt them for years, if not their lifetime.

The last need and most abstract in Maslow’s hierarchy would be Self-Actualization Needs. In his theory, he describes this need as something that can not be met until the others one are. This is the need a person has to actualize their talents and their personal desires. The drive to perfect what skills you are good at and interested in. A person’s need to grow.

This can be achieved in many ways. One way would be to read an author’s book. One that would expand your mind and your thinking. Even though you are not speaking to this person, as an author writes down his story or message, they are communicating it. Through feedback and comments they can improve their own skill or realize the impact they have had on someone’s life.

Teachers help children and adults see their potential and help tham to achieve it. By positive reinforcement and by the act of teaching them to hone their skills, they are fulfilling many people’s need to grow and learn. Communication to achieve your best self fits in this category.

But I must say, I find Maslow’s theory a bit off and completely missing a very strong need in human nature. Most wars have been fought for people’s needs for religion, yet it did not even make the list. The same studies that are highlighted in the book on health and relationship has always been linked to religion. It may belong in the Belonging Need and Actualization Need, however I do believe it a step of it’s own. Close to the top I believe.

And me, like all other humans, have the same needs to be fulfilled. I do believe that maybe my needs are not as strong as most though due to over a year in solitary and a rare brain disease that causes what the textbook would call psychological noise. My need for belonging to groups is greatly diminished by chronic headaches that plague me daily.

As a single mother of an almost three year old son, he completes my belonging and self-esteem needs. With a handful of friends and my own contemplation I fulfill my own needs. I do believe that people do need to communicate in many situations, I just do not believe that people need communication as adults to survive. Monks live in silence for their whole lives, communicating only with God. In Maslow’s theory this need does not even exist, although they find it completely fulfilling.

I do agree that most people do need communication including myself. I talk to my family and friends when I need a pick me up or to bounce ideas off of. I try to find people that fulfill my all my needs at one time.


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    • Paul Maplesden profile image

      Paul Maplesden 

      6 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Great stuff Kaiyan - I've been interested in these concepts for a while and this hub pulls out all of the important areas and expands upon them; thanks for writing it.

    • ajwrites57 profile image


      6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      kaiyan717--Interesting concepts. I've enjoyed studying Maslow in the past. If everyone could have their basic needs fulfilled, it'd be a better world! Writing for Hubpages can help fulfill Self-Actualization Needs. :o) Shared!


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