I've always been fascinated by FBI profilers. Those are the folks who get inside the heads of criminals to try to figure out why they do what they do. There is a great deal of power that comes from being able to analyze someone to determine what they are all about, and there are numerous tools and techniques for doing so. Popular methods include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and the DISC Assessment, both of which try to classify someone's personality. Then, there are numerous books on interpreting body language, analyzing eye movement and even decoding handwriting.
The most accurate method I've discovered for assessing what drives another person is based on "human needs psychology," a theory of human behavior developed by Tony Robbins. Yes, that Tony Robbins -- the one who has directly impacted more than 50 million people through his books, tools and live events.
Obama, terrorists, yourself and everyone else.) And here's the best part -- because we all share these same needs, once you can decipher which top two needs someone values more than the others, it instantly gives you an edge in knowing what drives them and how to influence them.
Here are the six human needs according to Robbins' theory:
1. Certainty. The need for stability, security, comfort and to feel confident that you can avoid pain and gain pleasure.
2. Uncertainty/variety. The need for change, new stimuli and for the unknown.
3. Significance. The need to feel important, special, unique or needed.
4. Love/connection. The need to belong and to feel closeness with someone or something.
5. Growth. The need to expand, learn and grow.
6. Contribution. The need to give beyond oneself and to support others.
Do you think you should communicate differently with someone whose No. 1 need is "certainty," as opposed to someone whose top need is "significance"? If your goal is to build rapport, nail that interview or get funding for your venture, I sure hope so.
The question becomes, "How can you discover someone's top needs?" To answer that, we go to Mark Peysha, CEO of Robbins-Madanes Coach Training, an online company that teaches leaders, therapists and others how to quickly and efficiently create lasting change with their clients or employees. The training is based on a framework created by Robbins and Cloe Madanes, a renowned teacher and one of the originators of the strategic approach to family therapy.
According to Mark, there are three basic ways to understand another person's top needs:
1. Ask them. This is obviously the most straightforward approach. People are fascinated by the concept of the six human needs, and they love an opportunity to talk about what matters most to them and how they perceive what's important.
2. Observe what they focus on. Is the person focused on safety and comfort, or are they more driven by the need to stand out? Do they seem to crave connection, or do they crave variety and entertainment? Listen to what they communicate, and watch for what they value. You can learn a lot by the process of elimination.
3. Contextual. It's best to observe someone in more than one environment. When people go into certain situations, you can learn a great deal from how they respond -- their top needs will often rise to the surface.
So, how can you use human needs psychology? Practice profiling people you already know. Look at their communication and behavior through the lens of these six needs. Ask yourself which needs are most important to this person. Practice by looking for and identifying needs in others so it becomes a habit and so you can get the edge in knowing what drives people and how to influence them.
(Robert Pagliarini is a CBS MoneyWatch columnist and the author of "The Other 8 Hours: Maximize Your Free Time to Create New Wealth & Purpose" and the national best-seller "The Six Day Financial Makeover." Visit YourOther8Hours.com.)