‘Need’ and ‘want’ are funny words. Sometimes they can be used for the same goal, other times they are strictly one or the other.

Sometimes people use one when really the other is more suitable. I think modern life has a part to play in that: we’re so used to getting what we want when we want it that we don’t often stop to ask ourselves if we actually need it.

People’s attitudes, patience and tolerance has a part to play too. One person’s emergency is another person’s slight niggle. I used to work for a company that maintained thousands of properties and we took all kinds of calls for repairs. Obviously they couldn’t be done immediately, so we had to decide which jobs were urgent and which could wait for the next available all.

This decision was taken by the call handler and although there were set guidelines, it was very much open to interpretation. Some people can put up with a lot more than others.

One thing I noticed is that I seemed to class a lot less as ‘urgent’ than many of my colleagues, and I’m fairly sure I know why.

When I was growing up my dad was always doing work on our house; at different points of my childhood there were times when we had stairs missing, walls missing, no heating, trenches dug into the concrete floors – you name it, we had it!

Then later, when I was married, at different times I lived without stairs, heating, an oven, finished walls – even without a waste pipe under the kitchen sink at one point! I’ve known lots of home inconveniences so I know first hand how much of a big deal they are.

So, when tenants called in ‘needing’ a new kitchen just because 2 cupboard doors have dropped, I simply booked a non-urgent appointment for a carpenter to do a basic repair .

When they reported a light fitting not working in their living rooms and they ‘needed’ somebody to come out that day, I simply asked them if they had a lamp they could use, before making an appointment for the following month.

Of course, it worked both ways. Some people called in wanting someone to come out whenever we had a minute, to have a look at their immersion heater as they’d been without hot water for several weeks but they didn’t like to make a fuss. These calls I interpreted as urgent, and despite the tenant claiming they didn’t ‘need’ the repair straight away, I did my best to send an operative out within 24 hours.

I guess the point I’m making is that people’s perception is relative to their upbringing, lifestyle and patience.

There is no right or wrong.


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