"Dig-down" skill, continued
from p. 2
See where you stand with these ideas. A
= "I agree;" D = "I disagree," and ? = "I'm not sure," or "It
depends on (what?)"
is answering these questions now.
If not, I know which subselves are answering. (A D ?)
I can clearly explain
and illustrate the concept
of surface needs and underlying primary needs to a high school
freshman now. (A D ?)
I accept that every
able adult is responsible for identifying and filling their own primary needs. (A D ?)
I accept that adults and kids
communicate to fill (satisfy) their primary needs. (A D ?)
I can clearly define what
is now. (A D ?)
I can explain the concept of
"digging down" through three or four levels of perception, to a typical early teen. (A D ?).
I'm motivated to (a) forge my own
list of primary human needs now, and
to (b) try digging down with various people and situations to see if my
helps to identify primary needs. (A D ?)
I'm interested in alerting other
adults to effective-communication
them to the young people in my life. (A D ?)
effectively is among my top life priorities now.
(A D ?)
Pause and reflect - what did you just learn
"Experience is the best teacher," so put these ideas to work now with
this skill practice when you can....
A Dig-down Practice Exercise
Get the most from this skill-practice by doing these
Option - Find a partner who shares your interest in
improving your communication effectiveness,
and is willing to practice some skills with you. Whether you practice
alone or with a partner, do the following:
Both of you read and discuss this
introduction to effective communication,
including a summary of seven valuable skills any motivated person can
Invest time practicing communication
together. You'll use these skills in this
Review this article on giving effective
feedback to other people, and
experiment with doing so during the practice.
Test your understanding of the dig-down concept by explaining it to an
adult or older child who has never heard of it. Ask the person to say
back their understanding of the concept to see if they "got it."
Find an undistracted place and time period
(say 30" or more), and bring something to take notes with;
Each of you decide whether your
If not, guesstimate who
Option - have an inner
dialog with any subselves who are
your Self (capital "S"), and ask that they relax and allow
your Self to do this learning exercise. If either of you is skeptical
about personality subselves, read this
letter when you're not disytracted.
Two Practice Options
can practice digging down...
By yourself - focus on several recent needs
you experienced, and dig down below them without a
With a partner - Each of you focus on a recent interaction
between yourself and another person, and help the other dig down to
guesstimate the primary needs of each person involved.
all the steps below first, and tailor them to fit your levels of knowledge and
your needs. The goal of this practice is to gain experience at identifying
typical primary needs underneath surface problems. Stay aware that
"problems" are unfilled needs, and that identifying your primary needs is the
first step in effective problem-solving.
can do this by yourself or with a helper.
If you use a helper, his or her
role is to ask you the questions below, and possibly affirm your answers
not to comment or suggest solutions. Helpers can also practice
and non-judgmentally notice and report your behavioral responses to the
Recall a recent common or special personal need ("problem") that had
some urgency. Pick one that you're comfortable describing to your
practice-partner, if any. Examples: "I needed to call a plumber / go grocery
shopping / call (someone) / make a dental appointment / plan a trip /
research something / figure out how to ____. / confront (someone about
something) / update my will / etc.
Say your need or problem out loud, in no more than one sentence.
Finish this sentence: "I needed to ____ because..." Option - your
helper can ask you "Why did you need ___?" Example: "I needed to call my
dentist for an appointment."
Ask this question with the answer you got. "Why did you need to call for
an appointment?" ("Because I haven't had a checkup in almost a year.")
Coach yourself not to compute,
assume, edit, or judge the answer - just accept the first response that
occurs to you.
Repeat this question with the answer you got. "Why did you need a dental
checkup?" ("Because I was worried I might have cavities or gum disease."
Repeat this question with the answer you got.
"Why are you concerned
about cavities and gum disease?" ("Because I don't want to get sick, lose
any teeth or have major oral pain, or incur major dental expenses later.")
Repeat this question with each of these answers. if you need to - e.g.
"Why did you want to avoid major dental expenses?" ("Because I don't have
dental insurance, or any savings.")
Repeat this question with the answer you got. "Why do you need dental
insurance or financial savings?" ("Because I need to feel financially
Repeat this question with the answer you got. "Why do you need to feel
financially secure?" ("Because I'm afraid I won't be able to provide for the
kids, and they'll suffer.")
so on. When you feel you've dug down far enough, sum up what you discovered:
"So my primary need is
an effective financial plan to reduce my anxiety about my kids'
welfare, Making a dental appointment is a surface need.
this point (in or outside the practice), you can shift into
- e.g. "What's in the way of making an effective financial plan?"
any stage of this process, you may get "I don't know why I need that." If
so, ask something like "What might happen if you don't get ______?" Another
option is to recheck whether your Self (capital "S") is still
your other subselves. If not, consider options like
and retry the question.
Option - after this practice, compare this dig-down process to what
you normally do with filling common needs
problems). Does it make sense to you that
without digging down in
important (not all) situations, your primary needs will remain unfilled and
probably cause more surface problems (discomforts)?
Reciprocal (Two-person) Practice
The goal here is to objectively identify
person's current primary needs, to facilitate
effective problem-solving. Option - affirm that each person's
needs, rights, and dignity were of equal importance
in this situation. If you didn't feel this, suspect that a false self was
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Pick a recent non-emergency interaction you had with an important adult or child that you want to practice
digging down with. The situation can be any kind of "problem" by your
definition. Choose a moderate problem you're comfortable discussing with
your practice-partner, and describe some or all of the inter-action to him or her.
Your partner will do the same after you finish digging down in your
Be yourself, and your partner will role-play the other person in your
chosen situation. If s/he needs more information about who s/he's
Ask your partner something like
"So what do you need from me, right
now?" Your partner responds with something appropriate from your
problem-description, like "I need you to stop smoking (gambling / using
pornography / coming home so late / being rude to my sister /..." etc.
Use the same repetitive questioning as in the solo practice above,
optionally affirming what you hear each time with brief
Do this until you feel you've uncovered the other person's primary need/s
(there can be more than one) that caused the surface need.
Now have your partner help you dig down below your surface needs
in the two-person situation.
When you feel you've discovered both person's primary needs, then your
practice-partner should ask you things like...
"Who's needs did you each give priority to
in this situation?" The best answer is "We treated each other's needs
as equally important."
did each of you have in this situation? Did they
"Where were each of you focused during this
situation - i.e. what kind of
did you each create - 1-person, 2-person, or no-person?"
"Did you each try to identify what the other
person needed in this situation?"
"Did each of you get your primary needs met
"If not, why?" This is not an invitation
to blame, but to discover factually what prevented filling your needs.
"If you could re-do this situation, what
would you change - and why?"
"What did you just learn from this
(Ask anything else that seems useful)
When you feel done digging down with both people in your situation, take a
break if needed, and then repeat this process with your practice-partner's two-person
Discuss how the practice felt to you each, and what you learned. Would
you do anything differently the next practice?
+ + +
your practice is fresh in mind, try digging down for real. Coach yourself to
"needs" are normal, inevitable emotional, physical,
and/or spiritual discomforts.
whether pleasant or not, all emotions are helpful indicators
of current needs. There are no "negative" emotions.
There are harmful ways of expressing some emotions.
all personal and social "problems" are
unfilled surface and/or primary needs.
personality subselves have
surface and primary needs, just like
communication - including thinking - occurs
to fill current needs (reduce current discomforts).
communication is most effective when all
participants (a) regard their and others' needs as being equally valid
and (b) want to know what they are.
you) can learn to communicate more effectively, with
with several different partners. Option - as you do, keep a
notebook or journal
to record your learnings and affirm your progress.
Awarenesses / Notes