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Recognition of Needs / Wants / Values

In most situations, the best (and sometimes hardest) thing you can do is recognize the other person's underlying need (or value). Here are some examples of use of language that recognizes needs:

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"Are you feeling annoyed because your need for respect was not being met?"   "Are you annoyed because you didn't get the respect you wanted?" [the need/value here is respect]
"Are you feeling content because your need for connection is being met?"    "Are you smiling because you feel deeply connected right now?" [the need/value here is connection]
"Are you feeling angry because your need for safety was unmet?"   "Are you pissed off because you felt unsafe?" [the need/value here is safety or security]
"Are you feeling excited because your need for being heard was met?"   "Are you excited because you were heard?" [the need/value here is to be heard]
"Are you feeling embarrassed because your need for privacy was not met?"   "Are you wanting some privacy right now?" [the need/value here is privacy]
"Are you feeling frustrated because you want to find a way to get your needs for understanding and clarity met?"   "Are you frustrated because you want to better understand what is going on?" [the need/value here is understanding]

Note the pattern: "Are you feeling ______ because you need/value/want ______?"

The full NVC structure is "[observation] [feeling] [need/value] [request]". For ease, we are focusing on only [feeling] and [need/value] here.

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Saying something like this can be hard for many reasons. For one thing, from your perspective, they were being respected and they are just misinterpreting your intention. But that is the point here is that you are not talking from your perspective. You are talking from their perspective. Part of this process is to temporarily let go of your desire to defend yourself. This simple - but not necessarily easy - exercise can transform you in a powerful way!

Something else very important to notice about the statements above. We don't include ourselves in those examples. We don't say, "... your need for respect was not met because I..."

Another common mistake is for people to confuse wants or strategies for needs. Someone may want another person to do something for them. That is not a need. It's a strategy to get a need met. The need is deeper. "I want you to eat meals the same time I do" is not a need. The need(s) in that case are for connection, nurturing, and/or efficiency. When we identify the underlying need, we open up the possibilities because there are many actions that will fulfill any given need. The list below is a condensed version of the list at

Condensed Need/Value List
 Contact Scott Swain for mediation and Emotional Intelligence Tools training for business, love, and parenting.