Honored Values Elicitation

There’s nothing quite like experiencing heartfelt values. 

A deep experience of values is inspiring, energizing, and galvanizing. To help a client experience this requires a kind of “deep listening” for the subtext that implies and leads to such values. 

This version of the experience uses deep experiencing in order to not only prime the client to resourcefully move into experiencing values in this heartfelt manner, but it also makes for a more compelling experience that lends momentum to treatment. 

Once your client makes such connections, you are able to begin connecting their values with actual needs and objectives. This is a crucial and powerful turning point in the treatment. It empowers any number of interventions. 

For example, clients can learn to communicate in a much more compelling manner when their expression of vision and ideas is infused with heartfelt values. As you interact with your client, construct the best sense of their values as you can. Do not be distracted by the primitive or negative constructs that the client expresses. Even the most vulgar expression of opinion can yield information about a client’s higher values. In addition, their level of consciousness and irrationality can provide vital clues as to how they may be disorganized as a result of specific cognitive impairments, mood disorders, trauma history, impaired early bonding, or even significant signs of mental illness. 

A middle-aged Jewish couple were able to think like this about a young man who was hounding them with anti-Semitic attacks. They saw that he was desperately trying to gain meaning and self-esteem by aligning himself with something that was larger than him and conferred a kind of power. They discovered that they were able to connect with him and bring out his intense and unfulfilled developmental need for emotional nurturance. They ultimately filled that need by making him a part of their family. This is not to imply that every bigot just needs a little love from the people they are terrorizing, but most people who align with sources of felt authority in a zealous manner have developmental and cognitive issues that can be viewed from a mental health perspective. 

This story shows that the values you are looking for are connected with actual needs. If the needs are primitive because of problems such as poor early bonding with parent figures, then the work will almost certainly need to begin at a fundamental level. 

Odds are that this will require a psychotherapist with a good deal of patience and an excellent understanding of cognitive and developmental remediation.

In any case, once you have your collection of values that are “up” for the client in connection with his or her current issues, you are ready for the next step. But remember that, since values are ultimately universal, you’ll have no trouble coming up with values. 

The objective here is to get a sense of which ones the client is frustrated in expressing and perhaps having difficulty fully connecting with. Help your client connect their values with the feelings or behaviors that are at issue. An excellent way is to: 

1) Ask them about the outcomes that they would most like to see. 

2) Then ask them about the values that the outcomes would support. You can help them find the words and ideas if they are unsure how to express themselves.

For example, a man who was told to see a counselor if he wanted to keep his job was very angry at feeling coerced into treatment. He tended to be too rough with other employees, saying things that sounded too hostile, judgmental, and controlling. 

The client was able to say that he wanted to be free to express himself in his own way, that some of the employees were stupid, and that he really wanted them to do their best (which included not getting in his way), and that he wanted the business to prosper. With a little help, he connected these things with the following values: 

1) Freedom of expression and embracing diversity; 

2) Being tough enough to give and take feedback;

3) The realization of human potential; 

4) Cooperation for constructive work; 

5) Allowing others to do their work without interference; and…

6) Profit.

The counselor now has six “handles” with which to bring out more behavior and agreements that are in line with these values. 

Every potential goal can be framed in terms of one or more of these values: Freedom, Composure, Potential, Cooperation, Independence, Profit, __ yours choice___. 

For example, with a little help, the client was able to see why his boss would feel it was good for profit to send him in for counseling, since the “weaker” employees could not handle the client’s demeanor. 

Also, he could see how the “weaker” employees could function better if he was more “manipulative” of them be being a bit more gentle. If you’re a parent, isn’t it true that your son or daughter would learn more if you “allow” them to fail a certain school assignment, instead of jumping in and doing half (or 99%) of the work for them? 

Yes, of course you want your 8 years old to get straight A’s, but getting the grade is not as important as the process that the child must go through, on their own, to own the competency to get an A.

A side note: 

One of the most crucial life skills you could ever help a child achieve is to turn failure into feedback. 

We, as NLP learners, know the importance of such skill. We “know” because we look back (in anger? 

There’s another intervention required here) at our past failures and at our false self-contempt and unfair self-criticism right after, and we do not wish to re-feel like that ever again. So “feedback” is suddenly a good idea. 

But did you consider installing that desire to learn from failure as if it’s the most valuable experience, to your children? 

The client was from New York, and had recently been relocated to Denver. The counselor commiserated with him a bit, recognizing that people from the east coast tend to be misunderstood by mid-westerners. 

In this context, they were able to agree that making the cultural transition was a meaningful challenge, even if it was inconvenient. It was also kind of like a game, in which you learn to play along with the strange rules of the Midwest, such as not confronting people in a direct, immediate, spontaneous way.

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