The Satisfaction Triangle holds that people have three interdependent needs that must be considered and addressed if issues are to be truly solved. One side of the triangle represents the substantive needs that people have. It is the what that needs to be solved or resolved. Substantive needs can be material things and issues and can be tangible such as money, time, land, possessions, rights, getting more people on public transport; or intangible such as respect or consideration, s sense of safety.
Triangles as we know have three sides and the Satisfaction Triangle is an equilateral triangle with each side of the same length or ‘importance’. Of the other two sides, one represents the procedural needs people have. It is about how people talk or work together and how they want to talk and work together. It is the how of how people will deal with the what of what they want to deal with. People’s procedural needs include the opportunity to have a ‘fair go’ including the opportunity to put forward their point of view, to listen and be listened to and to having confidence in the fairness, timeliness and integrity of information, protocols and meeting processes.
The other arm of the triangle represents people’s emotional needs. It is about how people feel about the problem, the processes and themselves as they are treated in the process and in response to the issues they raise. It is also how of how people feel about the how and the what they dealing with. Emotional needs are both the emotions people bring to the process about the issues and themselves and those emotions that are generated by the process and the consideration of the issues.
Unless each of these three sides is represented there is no triangle. Accordingly two thirds of what it takes to make something work is not about the what, it is about the how. Simply put if you haven’t gotten the how right chances are that the what won’t work.
In essence if we want to get what we want, we must also recognise and deal with the emotional, procedural and substantive needs that are brought to the table by those we are dealing with and we must treat each of those needs with equal respect and consideration.