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  • Writer's pictureRyan Mayfield

3 Helpful Questions To Discern A Person’s Motivation

We’ve been talking about the core motivations of people and why that’s important for both your team and your clients. Knowing these 3 core needs can help you connect with others in a much deeper and more meaningful way than normal. It’s also a bit like a relational shortcut!

Let’s review. The 3 core needs are practicality, image, and security. While most people would say they need or value all 3 of these, each one of us has one particular need that motivates us more than the others.

But when you are trying to discern a person’s core motivation, how do you do it? While there is no sure-fire way to 100% know someone else’s motivation, here are 3 helpful questions you can ask anyone on your team or any one of your clients:

What would your ideal _______ look like?

This question is great! You can basically fill in this blank with anything: home, job, family, vacation, etc. You’ll be amazed at what people will tell you! You can also reword the question to best fit your situation without making it awkward.

What things right now have you excited?

Open-ended questions like this can lead to some very revealing and important information. Some things that I dread might really excite someone else, but we naturally assume that what we like is what everyone else likes! And if you want to take this question to the next level, ask the world’s best follow-up question: “And what else?” Then shut up, and let them talk.

What are you hoping to see happen in your life in the next ______ years?

Again, fill in the blank with whatever makes the most sense. The “next 50 years” might be too big for some people to think about. But you can ask about the next 10, 5, 2 years, or even the next 6 months. Some people will struggle with forward-thinking questions like this, but that’s okay. It’s a good exercise for everyone to think through.

The Key That Unlocks All Doors

There are probably a million questions you could ask to learn about someone’s core motivations. But none of them will matter if you don’t learn to do one very important thing: Listen. Listening is the key that unlocks all doors. Most people are used to others telling them things. Few people are used to being listened to. In fact, lots of people pay lots of money to simply have people listen to them!

Listen for words connected to the 3 core motivations we discussed: practicality, image, and security. As people share with you about their hopes, dreams, and ideals, you’ll begin to pick up little clues they drop along the way. When you hear one, press into it and ask a related question.

“What does your ideal home look like?”

“That’s interesting. What about that neighborhood/city is attractive to you?”

Don’t be afraid to repeat something back to someone that they just said. Again, people are used to others telling them things, not listening. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Network International, says this, “We’re often too focused on being interesting, and we come across as not interested.” You may think you need to come across as interesting, but an even better strategy is to make others feel as if they are interesting! Good questions paired with good listening can make that happen, and in doing that, we can help uncover a person’s core motivations.

When we know someone’s core motivations, and especially if we can help someone discover their own core motivation, we can better meet their needs.


Does your team need training on how to discern their or their client’s core motivations? Evrgrn provides training and services to help teams understand themselves and each other, communicate better, be more productive, and love their jobs. Find more info at


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