Getting clear about other peoples' values is difficult when they don't even know what an awareness-guiding personal value is. You need to get them to talk about the right things. I'll introduce you to seven "wisdom moves"—questions that foreground values and get your interviewee to start sharing ways of being that inspire them.
Instructions. Read the interview example. Then read the questions to get that person to talk about values. Note: These questions are likely to start the right conversation. They probably won't deliver the value straight away.
Interview Example: Yoga Class
👩🏼🦲 Maxi. I was in yoga class, and my ex-boyfriend walked in. He went to the other side of the studio, and didn't even acknowledge that I was there. For the whole class, I was trying to do my practice. But I'm heartbroken, and have just been an insecure messy slob since the breakup. I've been thinking about him a lot, and I kept glancing over at him hoping for some attention. Even just a quick smile or something... Usually I feel great after yoga, but I ended up going home feeling deeply frustrated.
Wisdom Move #1: Self-Image Flip
What is your __(opposite)__ self like?
Often an internalized image of "who I ought to be" (expectation) guides awareness away from who I could be (value) in a situation. That's especially true when the value isn't supported.
Can you identify a negative self-image in the story above? Ask about a positive one!
Awareness of values can get crowded out by awareness of internalized expectations. If you notice a negative self-image, perform a Self-Image Flip by asking what the positive reversal of that would be.
Example: I just felt so weak in that moment...
What is your strong self like? How does that self (approach things/treat people/act/keep things/live life)?
Example: I'm completely incompetent...
What would it look like for you to be capable? How would you be able to (approach things/treat people/act/keep things/live life)?
Wisdom Move #2: System Fix
How would you have been able to ______ if it weren't for _______ ?
Generally people aren't aware of how outcomes and expectations can crowd out their awareness of values. Fixing that problem (even in a magical abstract way) can help them see a value.
Can you identify a pressing outcome and/or expectation? Ask a question that removes it!
Values can also get crowded out by external factors. In that case, find a question by performing a System Fix — getting rid of the problem.
Example: I was scared to say anything because I might lose my job.
How would you have been able to (approach things/treat people/act/keep things/live life) if you knew that you couldn't lose your job? What would you focus on?
Example: The deadline was coming up, and I was just getting more and more frustrated...
How would you have been able to (approach things/treat people/act/keep things/live life) if you knew that you had all the time you needed? What would stand out as important?
Wisdom Move #3: Bad Times / Better Times
Are there other times when you felt ______? // Are there times when you didn't feel ______ ?
People can get so zoomed in on the dynamics of a story that they lose track of what is important to them more generally. Zooming out can help them see a pattern.
Are they stuck chewing over the same details? Ask for more stories!
Sometimes people have trouble seeing that their values aren't tied to certain circumstances. In that case, invite them to think about similar Bad Times or Better Times.
Example (Bad Times): I just got so frustrated by the whole thing.
Are there other times that you have been frustrated like that? What way of (approaching things/treating people/acting/ keeping things/living life) is difficult in those moments?
Example (Better Times): I felt like it didn't even matter if I was there.
Can you think of a time when it seemed like it mattered that you were there? What were you focusing on? How were you able to (approach things/act/treat people/keep things)?
Wisdom Move #4: Interviewer's Values
For me __(broad value)__ is like this ... how is it for you?
When someone doesn't know what values are, they tend to drift around to various things that happen to stand out (just as they do in values-blind designs). Bring them back to the point.
Are they having trouble seeing throught the fog? Reference your own values!
You want to make sure that you don't only see your own personal value in another person's story. But saying what that value means for you can give them something to push against.
Example (Self-Reference): I guess it's a kind of authenticity.
When I'm being authentic, it's about sharing my feelings in a way that immediately resonates in my body. Is it like that for you too, or do you notice other things when you're authentic?
Wisdom Move #5: Self-Advice
What advice would you give to yourself when you struggle with this?
One way we recognize values is through reflection. The person you are interviewing might not have reflected about this situation yet, so get them to try.
Are they struggling to talk about values? Ask them to give advice to their former-self!
Some aren't very self-reflective. Or maybe they just haven't taken time to reflect on this specific situation. In that case, ask them for some Advice they would give themselves.
Example: It was all just so hopeless...
What advice would you give to yourself in that situation if you could go back? What way of (approaching things/treating people/acting/ keeping things/living life) would be important to remember? What should you pay attention to?
Wisdom Move #6: Admiration/Appreciation
Can you think of someone who handles these situations well? How do they approach it?
[CAREFUL: you might get an image they are pressuring themselves with here. If so, bring it back to a value or use another move.]
Do they wish they could be like someone else in these situations? Ask what they admire about how that person does things! (hint: fictional characters also count)
Sometimes people's more easily recognize values they Admire or Appreciate in others.
Example: ...and then I just felt horrible about the whole thing...
Can you think of a person who would have handled that situation really well? How would they have (approached things/acted/treated people/kept things)? What would that person focus on?
Wisdom Move #7: Love, Love, Love (Reggie's Move)
Where is the love in this situation?
Reggie Luedtke came up with this. I'm not exactly sure why it works, but it's got a pretty solid track record. What wasn't being loved/is worth loving in this situation?
Don't know what to ask? Try putting love in charge!
Example: ...and then I just felt horrible about the whole thing...
What would it look like if love would have been guiding your choices? How would you have been (approaching things/ treating people / acting / keeping things)? What would stand out? Alternately: What's worth loving in this situation?
🇨🇿 Czech Your work!
Three "concept-level" values that I imagine are possibly blocked in this situation are connection (with the ex-boyfriend), safety (from being emotionally overwhelmed), and/or focus (on the yoga practice). The frustration would lead my intuition heavily toward safety or focus. If we focused on the heartbroken feeling, we would probably get to a connection value that they had to give up on.
Here is the interview again:
I was in yoga class, and my ex-boyfriend walked in. He went to the other side of the studio, and didn't even acknowledge that I was there. For the whole class, I was trying to do my practice. But I've been heartbroken and insecure since the breakup. I'm thinking about him a lot, and I just kept glancing over at him hoping for some attention. Even just a quick smile or something... Usually I feel great after yoga, but I ended up going home feeling deeply frustrated.
So I could try to begin surfacing values with the following questions:
Note: Some of these questions are intentionally vague, so the person can tell me what is important (i.e. connection, safety, focus, or something else entirely).
Bad Times/Better Times: Do you remember other times you felt frustrated like that? Tell me about those! // Do you remember a time that worked better for you? Tell me about that!
Advice: If you could consider things now with a calm mind, how would you go back and tell yourself to approach that situation? // What do you wish you would have kept in mind?
Admiration/Appreciation: Do you know someone who would have handled that situation well? What would they have focused on? How would they have approached it?
Love, Love, Love: Where is the love in this situation? // What would this situation have looked like if everyone were being loving? How would you have acted? How would you have been freed up to approach things?
Remember: We're looking for a value, so we want to steer whatever answer someone gives toward telling us how they want to be / show up / live life. We want a pure, awareness-guiding value (and we'll probably have to do the hard work of phrasing it that way).
🚧 WARNING 🚧
When emotions seem "outsized" or "too big" for the events they are connected to, they indicate an earlier trauma. Point this out to your interviewee, and make sure they are open to exploring that right now. If so, use the "Trauma Move", then the other moves as needed.
Ask them to think of the earliest time they remember feeling this way. Then ask them to tell that story as if it were about someone else. Listen carefully and hold space for insights (let them interpret it). Help them discover how that person is having trouble living/being/showing up.
Make sure you tune in to the other person. If it feels like they want to stop, make sure they know that is totally fine. I've seen this be a very healing moment. It's fine to also get vulnerable and share your experiences, but don't offer advice. Just be there to hold space for them to feel their own feelings.