Discover important values with these simple questions

discover important values

Values remind us of what we consider to be important and are a guideline to determine which actions are good. Values say something about the needs, expectations and ideals we have.

People have quite a few differences in the needs, expectations and ideals, and these differences often lead to discussions and conflicts.

Discussions can keep on going because we don’t know exactly what the disagreement is.

It’s not always easy to discover important values underlying the conflict.

You could check a list with values to check what values are being challenged, but that’s not workable, because there are so many values.

But it’s especially difficult to discover important values, because the values aren’t always clear, not even for those involved.

To discover values you sometimes have to dig.

Ask questions. Over and over again.

I made a list for you with basic clarifying questions and in-depth questions to discover important values.

The basic questions are intended as a first exploration of values that lie on the surface or just underneath the surface. Try to be explicit about which value is involved.

Then when the value is made explicit, use the in-depth questions to dig deeper and discover values that might even be more important and more essential in a discussion.

Don’t answer the questions too quickly, thinking you already know it. That’s a sign you should actually dig deeper. Keep asking why.

You can use these questions without thinking about specific situation, but you can also apply it in a discussion on specific problems and issues.

Basic Questions


  • What needs must be fulfilled? What is missing? What are the needs or desires? For whom? According to whom?
  • What fulfilled needs are defended?
  • What needs are be considered universal?


  • If someone is fighting for something vigorously in a discussion, what are their expectations? What do they really want?
  • Why is someone disappointed, angry or frustrated? What happened? Describe the situation and explain why.


  • What are someone’s ideals? What does someone want to change? Why?
  • When will people get angry? When do people react violently? What triggers people when they watch or read the news? Why do they react so violently?
  • Why does someone care about certain initiatives, movements or organizations?
  • Is the work that someone does something he likes to do? Why or why not?
  • Why does anyone chose a certain hobby? Which element is so attractive?
  • What would someone never let go of?
  • What will someone lose if he would give up a certain battle?

In-Depth Questions

If you have discovered the values on the surface, use this value for the following questions.

  • What is the significance of value X for someone? Why?
  • Is value X the most important value, or are there other values that are more important?
  • If [insert other situation] would happen, would value X still be important?

Once you understand what values underlie a conflict or discussion, you can work on the differences, but you can also work on the similarities. What exactly is the discussion about? And for which similarities can you start working on a solution? Try to find solutions for the similarities, and check if the differences are really so opposed and incompatible as you think they are.

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