This game makes empa­thy eas­i­er. Humans share uni­ver­sal needs. All behav­iour is a strat­e­gy to meet human needs — ours and oth­ers.

Research shows that peo­ple often find it dif­fi­cult to artic­u­late what they are feel­ing and need­ing.

With­out a lan­guage to under­stand and com­mu­ni­cate, it’s hard to meet our human needs, or design prod­ucts and ser­vices that meet the needs of oth­ers.

Our tool makes it eas­i­er for peo­ple to iden­ti­fy and com­mu­ni­cate their needs and make help­ful requests to meet their needs. This leads to health­i­er inter­ac­tions between indi­vid­u­als and groups, and prod­ucts, ser­vices and poli­cies that bet­ter meet the needs of those involved.

The Empathy Game cards name over 80 human needs and 60 feelings, drawn from the work of clinical psychologist Dr. Marshall Rosenberg and his body of work on non-violent communication as well as Māori models of mental health Te Whare Tapa Whā and Te Wheke.

When we know what we need, or what oth­ers need, it’s much eas­i­er to dis­cov­er strate­gies to meet everyone’s needs and design solu­tions that are win-win-win — good for you, good for them, good for every­body.

Scenario 1: nobody has the Empathy Game

Man­ag­er: “There’s no way this report can go out”

Staff Mem­ber: “This is use­less, I’m use­less, I can’t do this”
“My man­ag­er is such a dick”
“Ahh, I hate this place. I can nev­er do what I want”

Staff mem­ber immo­bilised by inse­cu­ri­ty. Man­ag­er angry and help­less to get a report over the line.

Scenario 2: the manager has the Empathy game

Man­ag­er: “I’d love to have a quick chat about the report you just sent through. I need to get it out by tomor­row, does now work for you? [A cou­ple min­utes lat­er] It’s real­ly impor­tant for me that you feel sup­port­ed and ener­gised and empow­ered. I know auton­o­my is impor­tant to you and I real­ly want to meet that need. I’m feel­ing anx­ious because for my integri­ty I need to deliv­er this report tomor­row and I don’t think it cur­rent­ly meets the needs of the Min­is­ter”

Staff mem­ber: “Thanks for shar­ing that, I’m real­ly hap­py to chat now. I wasn’t total­ly clear on the ini­tial brief­ing, but you seemed busy and I didn’t want to inter­rupt you. I can see now that it would have been ben­e­fi­cial to come and chat to you soon­er. So now we’re here, what are the needs of the min­is­ter, and the changes you see are need­ed to meet her needs?”

Both the man­ag­er and staff mem­ber feel clar­i­ty and are ener­gised and empow­ered by the dis­cus­sion.

Scenario 3: the staff member has the Empathy game:

Man­ag­er: “There’s no way this can go out”

Staff Mem­ber: “Are you frus­trat­ed because it’s not meet­ing your needs?”

Man­ag­er: “Yes. The Min­is­ter is expect­ing this report tomor­row, but it needs to reflect her pri­or­i­ties. This needs major revi­sions.”

Staff Mem­ber: “Ok, so you’re feel­ing ner­vous because you’ve got a lot on and you don’t know if we can get this report out in time and in a way that meets the Minister’s needs?

Man­ag­er: “Yes, I want to sup­port you and pro­vide clar­i­ty so you can do effec­tive work. I guess I also feel a bit vul­ner­a­ble because I need your skills and ener­gy to get this out in time.”

Staff Mem­ber: “Thanks, I want to meet your needs and get this to the Min­is­ter for tomor­row in a way that meets her needs. Do you have half an hour to work on it togeth­er so I can get clear on the changes you see are need­ed? I’ll spend the rest of the day fix­ing it up. I’d love to take an hour when this is done to dis­cov­er how we can bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate”

Both the man­ag­er and staff mem­ber feel clar­i­ty and are ener­gised and empow­ered by the dis­cus­sion.

Scenario 4: Both people have the Empathy game:

Man­ag­er: “Hey, I real­ly appre­ci­ate your con­tri­bu­tion to this report and I’m feel­ing a lit­tle anx­ious because it’s due out tomor­row and I don’t think it’s going to meet the needs of the min­is­ter in the cur­rent state. I’d love for this work to meet my needs for beau­ty, effi­ca­cy and com­mu­ni­ca­tion. And, I want to hon­our my integri­ty about the qual­i­ty of what my team is deliv­er­ing. I feel some urgency.”

Staff Mem­ber: “Thanks for acknowl­edg­ing my work. I’m feel­ing a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed to hear the report isn’t meet­ing your needs. I’m also hear­ing your need for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and that you val­ue meet­ing the needs of the min­is­ter. I’m real­ly hap­py to take some time now to under­stand your spe­cif­ic needs and make the changes before tomor­row.”

Both the man­ag­er and staff mem­ber feel clar­i­ty and are ener­gised and empow­ered by the dis­cus­sion.

Playing the Heartwork Game Meets Human Needs:

Wha­tu­manawa — the healthy expres­sion of feel­ings — is a key ele­ment of well­be­ing in the Te Wheke mod­el. Heart­work cards put people’s feel­ings back into their hands (lit­er­al­ly), enabling them to acknowl­edge and express their feel­ings to each oth­er while tak­ing 100% own­er­ship of them in an empow­er­ing way that devel­ops self-lead­er­ship.

Con­nec­tion — The game catal­y­ses shar­ing sto­ries that touch human feel­ings and psy­cho­log­i­cal needs high­lights shared human expe­ri­ences that can dis­solve iso­la­tion.

Authen­tic­i­ty — mak­ing a space for peo­ple to say what is true for them enables them to feel authen­tic to them­selves.

Self-knowl­edge & Integri­ty — this game cre­ates a space for peo­ple to under­stand their expe­ri­ences and sup­ports them to take the actions they need to take to stay in or return to integri­ty. Learn­ing the lan­guage of our human feel­ings and needs through play­ing the Heart­work cards enables peo­ple to artic­u­late their feel­ings and needs to them­selves and oth­ers through­out their lives, rather than shut­ting down, exit­ing or blam­ing oth­ers.

Under­stand­ing — Play­ing this game across your organ­i­sa­tion will cre­ate a shared lan­guage to enable ease­ful, clear and kind com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Touch — the game is phys­i­cal­ly stim­u­lat­ing as it involves sort­ing through cards with your hands, hold­ing, plac­ing, mov­ing and point­ing to cards. The touch and move­ment is calm­ing and helps pre­vent peo­ple from get­ting into unhelp­ful thought cycles.

Being heard & acknowl­edge­ment — The cards are prompts for impor­tant sto­ries. The need for being heard is met when the sto­ries and key points are reflect­ed back by the lis­ten­er — the sto­ry­teller knows they have been under­stood and acknowl­edged. Hear­ing their sto­ry and key points reflect­ed back, often from a slight­ly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive also often leads the sto­ry­teller to deep­er under­stand­ing of their own expe­ri­ences. The cards pro­vide help­ful prompts for the lis­ten­er to recall and reflect back what they have heard, mak­ing this reflect­ing ease­ful.

Heartwork Card Game