Making guesses for the other person

When we’re in conflict with someone, we tend to see them as either more powerful than us (so we feel helpless) or less than us (because they’re bad, because they hurt us). We don’t see them as “the same as”. And that makes it almost impossible to find solutions that work for all … or indeed, solutions that work at all!

By making needs and feelings guesses for the other person in the situation, we humanize them. We put ourselves in their shoes, and notice that they have needs, just like us.

In my experience, I’m sometimes resistant to move to this step, especially if I’m angry at the other person – “Why should I care?!” The thing is, I almost always feel a whole heap better once I’ve done this process – it helps make that person “right size” again in my mind.

Give it a go – you might be pleasantly surprised.

It doesn’t matter if we guess right about their feelings and needs. If we later choose to express our guesses to the other person, they can immediately see that we’ve spent some time considering them, and that often breaks down walls and puts us into connection. It puts us on the same side of the issue, not fighting against each other. The point is not necessarily to guess RIGHT, but that making guesses about where they might be at, puts us in some kind of connection with them.

    What might the situation look like from their perspective?

    Just as a camera would see it - not with all their stories around it. It might be the same as your observation, or it might have looked different for them.

    What might they be feeling?

    You can't know for sure, of course, but have a look through the lists and makes guesses about how they might be feeling in this situation. As before, make sure you read all the way through the lists, not just stopping when you find the first feeling that fits. We want to uncover all of them. It's the ones that surprise us that hold all the power. (See here for more info)


    What might be going on in their body?

    Any others?

    Feelings when their needs are met

    Feelings when their needs are not met ...

    What thoughts come up for you, as you wonder about their feelings?

    What might they be needing?

    Again, read all the way through the list to consider ALL their possible needs that are relevant to this situation. (See here for more info)

    Subsistence and Security


    Connection / interdependence


    What thoughts come up for you, as you look wonder about their needs? What do you think is their loudest need here?

    Get to know THEIR need(s)

    Ultimately, we all have the same needs, but different people may have each with different intensities. Some people may crave safety, for example, and others may prioritize freedom. It can be hard to relate to someone else's feelings and needs when they don't match your own experiences. Try to keep in mind, however, that the intensity they have around their own core needs, is probably exactly the same as what comes up for you around yours.

    What might they be wanting

    Do you have a sense of what they might like, in order to meet those needs? (These may have nothing to do with you, OR they may be things you could contribute to.)

    Do I want to talk to them about this?

    If so, what might I like to say? There some suggestions here about how to do that.

    What would you like for the subject of the email (so that you can find it again!)

    (If you can't click on this, make sure you've checked the "Email me" box above)