Published on July 20, 2021

5 Reasons Why Affiliation Motivation Is Important

5 Reasons Why Affiliation Motivation Is Important

“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”

Have you heard of this quote before? Social behavior is contagious. Maybe you want to believe you have your own will and you’re completely independent of the people around you, but the truth is that we are human beings, and we want to belong. It’s called affiliation motivation. It’s the urge to have personal relationships with other people and to feel like you belong to a group or community.

Even though it’s hard to admit when our ego gets in the way, we want to be liked, and we’ll often go along with whatever the group is doing just for that feeling of belonging. It’s often not a conscious thing. We don’t actively think: “I will do what they do because I want them to like me.” No, it’s our subconscious need for affiliation that drives us to automatically copy the behavior of the people around us.

The “Three Needs Theory”

David McClelland expounds on this subconscious need for affiliation in his “Three Needs Theory,” especially in the context of a workplace. Here, he categorizes these needs into three:[1]

  1. The need for achievement
  2. The need for affiliation
  3. The need for power

You might think it’s obvious that we want to achieve our goals in life and track our progress, that we want to feel somewhat powerful like we have things under control, and that we enjoy winning. But it’s the need for affiliation that happens most subconsciously.

  • Did you ever cross your arms during a conversation with your friend, only to realize he’s sitting with his arms crossed as well? Whoops, affiliation motivation.
  • Did you ever just follow the crowd when trying to find the exit of a building but you had no clue where you were going? Whoops, affiliation motivation.
  • Did you ever decide to be kind to someone who belongs to the team while you actually couldn’t stand this person? Whoops, affiliation motivation.

We all feel these three types of needs, but one might be stronger for you than the others.


Do You Have a Strong Need for Affiliation?

You have a high motivation for affiliation if you recognize yourself in the majority of these statements:

  • You love working in groups.
  • You seem to easily blend in.
  • People tend to like you from the start.
  • You prefer collaborating instead of competing.
  • You avoid high-risk situations and uncertainty.
  • You like spending time socializing and networking.
  • You might feel a strong desire to be liked and loved.

Are you feeling like this is a bad thing? Like you want to be more independent and unaffected by others? Let me show you five reasons why affiliation motivation is actually important. We wouldn’t be able to survive as a society without this need for affiliation. Read on to learn why.

5 Reasons Why Affiliation Motivation Is Important

Here are the five reasons why affiliation motivation is important and how it actually benefits you.

1. Affiliation Motivation Is Necessary for Teamwork

When you have a high need for affiliation, you will automatically fit well into any group setting. You’ll be more adaptive, and you won’t try to stand out, be the leader, or be different. People will call you ‘the glue’ of the group because you think of everyone’s good. Being the middle man comes naturally to you as you know how to take everyone’s needs and wants into account and make sure everyone’s getting along well.

We all want to feel involved in some way, to feel part of a community, and to feel like we get our team’s approval. We are social creatures, after all. So, whether your need for affiliation is high or low, you will find it important to feel like you bring value to a group.

If you are higher in the other needs, don’t worry. Every group needs a leader who has a higher need for power to take the group in the right direction. If your need for achievement is the highest, you will be the team player who encourages everyone to create an efficient plan to reach the group’s goals and measure the group’s achievements.


2. You Develop a Higher Social Intelligence

Bonding with others and maintaining good relationships requires a higher level of social intelligence. You create this ability to almost feel what others are thinking and adapt to them. People with a high need for affiliation often have a more advanced level of empathy. You just know how to talk to people and make them happy. And more importantly, apart from easily making new contacts, you know how to sustain them.

If your need for affiliation is high, you’ll feel very good at networking events. You’ll also be the perfect employee for jobs in customer service or any other job with a high level of social interaction. People naturally feel good around you. You know how to maintain a healthy relationship.

If your need for power is higher, people will tend to look up to you, respect you, and see you as their leader. You will naturally act more from a place of authority. If you have a high need for achievement, people will see you more as the competitive person of the group, which can negatively influence the feeling of connectedness.

3. Affiliation Can Affect Your Healthy Habits

Research shows that increasing similarity between spouses in their health behaviors after marriage positively affects their marital satisfaction.[2] The reason both spouses are happier when they copy each other’s healthy habits is that they’re satisfying each other’s affiliation needs.

The same counts for your group of friends, your colleagues, family members, or roommates. If your friend is a heavy drinker, you’re more likely to increase your intake of alcohol as well. Luckily, the opposite is also true. If you’re eating healthy and taking good care of yourself, you’ll see you will positively influence the people who are close to you.

Our need for affiliation can be so big that we are willing to adopt unhealthy behavior just to belong to a group, even when we know it’s not good for us. Our subconscious mind and our instinctual drive to belong are bigger than our conscious thought process.


Whether you have a very strong need for affiliation or not, this advice counts for everyone: Choose wisely who you spend your time with.

4. Bonding With Others Is a Natural Remedy Against Anxiety

During stressful situations, our need for affiliation increases. Think of the biggest world events and how people all of the sudden take initiative to come together, create a new hashtag, gather donations, and support one another.

When stress is high, we tend to put our differences aside and look for that feeling of unity. We come together and find security with one another. Anxiety decreases when you feel connected to others, knowing they are going through the same situation, feeling the same fears, or understand what you’re going through.

When you connect to a group, you somehow forget about the racing thoughts and fears rushing through your head because you’re part of a greater whole. At that moment, you are the group, not just your own being.

5. Affiliation Makes Us Want to Give Back

It’s the connection and trust we feel towards others that makes us feel like we want to give back whenever they do something nice for us. This sense of reciprocity builds more trust, confidence, and fairness in the relationship, and it’s deeply ingrained in our natural reactions.

Without our need for affiliation, we wouldn’t enjoy it so much when others do something nice for us, and vice versa, we wouldn’t feel that instant urge to give back and be liked and loved by others. Giving makes us happy because we know we’ll be accepted, appreciated, and loved by the other person.


Start to Fulfill Your Need for Affiliation!

Now that you understand that affiliation motivation isn’t just about fitting into the group or wanting to be liked by others but about teamwork, social intelligence, physical health, anxiety, and reciprocity, how can you actively fulfill your need for affiliation?

Here are eight quick tips you can start implementing today!

  1. Do something nice for someone.
  2. Choose wisely who you spend your time with.
  3. Dare to share your fears with others. They might feel the same way!
  4. Join a community that has the same interest like a book club, a language exchange, a hiking club, etc.
  5. Play a game that involves teamwork with your best friends like a treasure hunt!
  6. Find a healthy buddy and team up to change your eating habits, or start exercising together, or start a meditation course.
  7. Tell your friends and family why you appreciate them. Try to get comfortable with mentioning your appreciation more often.
  8. Give hugs!

Follow these tips and start to fulfill your need for affiliation!

Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via


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Maya Lombarts

Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and founder of Healthy High Achievers

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What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

What Is Fear-Based Motivation And Does It Work?

If you’ve ever thought or said something like this, then you are using fear-based motivation:

  • “If I don’t get that promotion, I’m going to be seen as a failure so I better stay up all night to work on this proposal.”
  • “If I speak up for school reform, the internet trolls are going to get me, so I better be quiet even though I care a lot about this issue.”
  • “If I don’t exercise enough, I’m going to look like crap, so I better go to the gym six days a week, even if my body is killing me.”

Fear-based motivation is exactly what it sounds like—getting yourself and others to do things out of fear of what will happen if you don’t do it and do it well.

What you might not know is that while fear-based motivation might work in the short term, it can have long-term detrimental effects on your performance, relationships, and well-being.

Is Fear-Based Motivation Helpful?

If using fear as motivation comes naturally for you, you aren’t alone. Our brains use fear to keep us out of trouble. Normally, you want to move away from what feels harmful towards what feels safe.

This brain function is important when there is a genuine threat to your well-being, like if there is a rattlesnake on the hiking trail. Your brain will use fear to motivate you to move away from the snake as quickly as possible. But when you use fear-based motivation to accomplish your life and career goals, the constant state of fear puts unnecessary stress on your mind and body and can end up working against you.

The Darkside of Fear-Based Motivation

Take, for example, when your trainer at your gym motivates you during your workout by yelling things like, “Bikini season is coming! You don’t want your cellulite to be the star of the show!” or “Burn off that piece of birthday cake you ate last night!”


Sure, you might be motivated to do ten more burpees, but what is going on in the back of your mind? You probably have an image of a group of people standing around you at the beach laughing at you in your bikini, or you feel guilty about eating that piece of cake and criticize yourself for not being able to control yourself.

Reliance on Negative Thinking

For most of us, this type of thinking causes stress and can bring down our energy levels and mood. The reliance on negative thinking is the problem with fear-based motivation. It forces us to put our attention on what is wrong or what could go wrong instead of anticipating and celebrating what is right. This, in turn, narrows our focus and prevents us from seeing the bigger picture.

When your brain senses a threat, whether it’s a rattlesnake hiding in the grass or the possibility of being laughed at in your bikini, your brain will move you into a protective stance. Your vision narrows and you prepare to fight, flee or freeze.

You can probably imagine what this looks like in the case of a rattlesnake, but how does this impact your bikini experience?

The High Cost of Fear-Based Motivation

Imagine that you plan a beach vacation with your friends three months from now. The first thing you picture is sitting on the beach with your tummy rolls and cellulite. You immediately sign up for three months of boot camp classes at the gym and banish all sugar and booze from your diet. You are determined not to make a fool of yourself on the beach!

Will the fear of not looking like a supermodel under the beach umbrella motivate you to get in shape and eat better? Possibly. But at what cost?

For three months, every time you picture yourself looking “less than perfect” in your bikini, you feel fear of being ashamed. Shame makes you want to hide, and that makes it harder to find the motivation to go to the gym instead of sitting on the couch eating ice cream.

You become so focused on how you are going to look on the beach that you lose out on all the fun and joy of life. You pass up on going shopping with your friends for new outfits because you aren’t at your goal weight yet. You stop doing the things you love to do to spend more time at the gym. You avoid family gatherings where you will be confronted with tempting food. You over-train to the point of hurting yourself.

The Healthier Alternative to Fear-Based Motivation

Now, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel good in your bikini! If that’s important to you, keep your goal in mind but change the way you motivate yourself. Instead of using the fear of feeling ashamed to motivate you, try using love-based motivation.

Love-based motivation uses love instead of fear to lead and inspire you. It comes from a different part of your brain than fear-based motivation. Love-based motivation comes from the part of your brain that is responsible for joy, creativity, and passion.

5 Questions of Love-Based Motivation

There are many ways to deploy love-based motivation. The trick is to use one or all of the following to motivate you towards your goal: empathy, curiosity, innovation, vision, and heart-centered action.

Here are five questions you can use to motivate yourself using love-based motivation.


1. What Would You Say to a Friend?

Chances are that you talk to your friends in a much kinder way and with more empathy than you talk to yourself. You wouldn’t tell a friend, “you better starve yourself and hit the gym three times a day to look good in that bikini!” Instead, you would probably say something like, “I’m so excited to go on this vacation with you! I can’t wait to spend time catching up while sipping margaritas on the beach.”

Talk to yourself the way you would talk to your friend.

2. What Are You Curious About Learning That Might Help You Get to Your Goal?

More often than not, achieving our goals is more about the journey it took us to get there than the goal itself. Curiosity makes journeys more fun. Perhaps you are curious about doing a triathlon but you don’t know how to run. If you spend three months learning to run, you would get into better shape and learn something new.

3. How Can You Get to Your Goal in a Way That Feels Good?

Using the “Yes, And” game is a great way to come up with innovative ideas for working towards your goals. If your first instinct is to go to the gym six days a week but you aren’t jazzed about it, find something that you like about that idea and make it better.

For example, if what you like about going to the gym is that you work up a sweat, what if instead of the gym, you join a dance class where you can learn some new moves to show off on your vacation?

4. What Is Important to You About Your Goal?

When you dig into your goal, chances are that you’ll find a deeper meaning. If your goal is to “look good in a bikini,” ask yourself why that’s important to you.


For example, “I want to look good in my bikini because I want to have fun on vacation.” Then, ask yourself how much having fun on your vacation depends on how you look in your swimsuit.

5. What Heart-Centered Action Can You Take That Will Help You Reach Your Goal?

Whether your goal remains bikini-focused or changes to ways of having a good time on your vacation, choose an action that you can take that feels like it is coming from a place of love instead of fear.

For example, suggest to your friends that you take scuba diving classes as a group before vacation. It will get you moving and bring your friends together.

Long-Term Happiness and Satisfaction

Fear-based motivation may help you achieve your goals in the short term, but it won’t lead to long-term happiness and satisfaction. Fear isn’t designed to be used for long periods, and you will eventually tire of the fear and give up on your goals. Love, however, is designed for longevity.

Finding your motivation in a place of love will fuel you to reach your goals, whether your goals are about feeling good in a bikini, getting a promotion at work, or speaking up for what you believe in.

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Featured photo credit: Jeremy Perkins via


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