What Is a Need?


The word need may refer to a physiological or psychological requirement for a person’s well-being. For example, a person needs to drink water and sleep in order to survive. A person may also have needs for companionship and love. These requirements are often referred to as the hierarchy of human needs, a theory developed by Abraham Maslow in 1943.

In the context of social intervention, needs are important in identifying opportunities for innovation. The term need is a complex concept, and conceptions of need vary between cultures or even within a culture. For example, a person’s basic needs are different from those of another person living in the same community. The word need can be a noun, verb, or adjective. The noun need is usually singular and has the definite article “the” when used in English, although some words that are uncountable or unmodifiable do not require the article (e.g., the sun, the earth, the Milky Way).

The definite article is typically attached to a noun whose deficiency results in a negative outcome such as dysfunction or death. For example, a person will die if they do not receive enough drinking water or sleep. A person’s needs are distinct from desires, which are things that a person would like to have. For example, a person may desire to read English novels or go on vacation. Unlike the need for food or water, a person’s wants do not have an immediate effect on survival.

If a person has the ability to fulfill a need on their own, they are said to have self-sufficient needs. This is also known as a non-instructional need.

People who are unable to fulfill their own needs must seek assistance. In some cases, the need for assistance is involuntary and may result from a chronic disease or accident. Other times, it is the result of discrimination or poverty.

Needs can be met through education, training, and social support. Educational opportunities are available in many communities, and people with a need can benefit from programs such as tutoring and mentoring. In addition, the use of technology is a way to meet some needs for learning and communication.

The simplest way to identify your personal needs is by writing down your experiences and finding the patterns in them. This will help you narrow down your list to only the needs that are essential for you. Then you can start focusing on fulfilling them. For example, you might find that your need for connection and love is fulfilled through your relationship with your partner. In a healthy relationship, you may also meet this need by reaching out to friends and family members. You can also satisfy this need by connecting with the world around you through volunteering, reading and exercising. Needs can also be addressed in interpersonal relationships through the model of Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. This approach to communicating supports a person in becoming aware of their feelings and using them as indicators for what needs are alive in themselves and others.