The queen is telling the king something that is important to her. The king does not get it, which the queen notices immediately. She raises her voice more and more, because she wants to be heard. The louder she talks, the more the king retreats, and eventually he walks away. Meanwhile, the queen is getting increasingly venomous. Finally, she stands alone, shaking with pent-up anger.

''Once upon a time, there was a woman who wanted her husband to hear her when she spoke. She talked more and more because she could tell she was not being heard.''

The notion of being heard

The need to be heard is just as important as other needs. It is a difficult need to fulfil, however, because it requires something of another person, who may not ­always be willing to meet it – especially because it often arises as part of our normal ­day-­to-day communication and is less easily identifiable than certain other needs, such as thirst. That is true both of the person who has the need and, in particular, of the person who is the object of it.

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As with other states of tension, the need varies in intensity – sometimes it is more pressing than other times. When we are heard we achieve a deeper contact and ­understanding, and that forms a basis for the continuing development of the ­relationship. That applies not only to our contact with others but, at least equally, to our contact with ourselves. When we are heard, our inner tension is reduced, and we are able to engage in self-reflection and in external mirroring, which ­supports our personal development. The process also helps us clarify the value of the ­relationship, now and in the future, and what we can expect of it.


The right conditions make it easier to be heard. In the illustration, the king clearly has not understood the queen’s need to be heard. The queen has positioned ­herself in a way where she talks down to the king. Because she has not established ­proper contact with him, she also has not matched her need with the king’s interest in hearing her at that particular time, in that manner and on that particular topic. ­Talking louder and louder is rarely a good recipe for being heard – although it may ­occasionally be helpful, it rarely is.

When you are the object of someone else’s need to be heard it is important that you express your understanding. One way of doing that is to first recap what you heard, including the other person’s perceived emotions. Next, after considering what the person said, it is helpful if you demonstrate an understanding on a deeper­emotional level, for example: ‘Given what you just told me I can certainly ­understand how that would be tough for you – it would be tough for me too.’

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