Communicating Emotions and Needs: A worksheet


This handout supports individuals/couples to understand their emotional processes, their needs and how to communicate them.

It outlines a sequence where a:

  • (i) a situation leads to an
  • (ii) emotional reaction which leads to
  • (iii) a behavioural reaction which hides a
  • (iv) deeper feeling and an
  • (v) underlying need

Understanding this sequence and being able to communicate the information it provides is vital, I believe, to: 

  • (i) cultivate intimate relationships
  • (ii) to manage conflict well
  • (iii) to understand what your needs are in particular situations
  • (iv) to own your experience and hence your part in an interaction.

On reading the diagram:

Read the diagram from left to right.

Get a sense of the sequence of situation, experience, reactions and underlying emotions and needs.

-Then read the general and specific boxes, try to get a sense of your own emotional reactions to situations and interactive responses and how they could be improved by following the communicative sequence outlined below.


Emotional Reaction

Behavioural Reaction  Deeper Feeling Underlying need Underlying Need
Category A. Frustrating patterns B. Secondary feelings C. Reactive patterns D. Primary emotion (fear, shame, sadness, anger) * E. Needs global E. Needsspecific
General When you… I feel… And react by… This hides my… What I really want is…  
Specific are late. angry. criticizing. anxiety and feeling rejected to feel important to you. for you to call.


* Behind anger often is a hurt, and accompanying each hurt is an unmet longing or need.

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