What does it mean to be valued?

Lake Aasee in Münster

From Friday 30th September to Sunday 2nd October, 10 participants met for a Socratic Dialogue in Münster, discussing the question: What does it mean to be valued?

In order to answer the question of what it means to be valued, the group, which consisted of participants from six countries, chose an example given by Samantha.* The simple version of Samantha’s story was that she had gotten an appendicitis two years ago and her boyfriend had left work to come to the doctors and hospital with her; as a result, not eating for ten hours.

Samantha saw her boyfriend’s not eating as a sign of valuing because it was a change from his usual behaviour, which is to get grumpy and irritated if he doesn’t snack regularly. It was our job as participants of the Socratic Dialogue to understand where the value was in this example, and what the conditions were that led Samantha to interpret such behaviour as being valued.

After writing up and clarifying any confusions in Samantha’s example, each member of the group wrote a conclusion to her story, as we understood it. Samantha concluded that she ‘felt valued because my boyfriend ‘ignored’ his feelings of hunger (which was later changed to ‘didn’t express’) for ten hours, which is extremely unusual for him, in order to take care of me and he made me a priority.”

From this point, Angella, the groups’ fabulous facilitator, gave us a few moments to each think of the question we were working with, and to then, having understood the example thoroughly, to pose a question that we could work with to move forward. There were three questions put forward by the group as viable. These were: (1) How important are the expectations of the person who has or has not got feelings of being valued? (2) What are the conditions of feeling valued in this example? (3) In what way is dismissing basic human needs linked to value? The group agreed that question two would be most helpful for pursuing an answer to what it means to be valued. As such, the group had narrowed its focus and were now looking for the conditions of feeling valued in Samantha’s example.

The group felt that there were five conditions of being valued in Samantha’s example and these conditions will help to build a picture of the story, which I have refrained from giving in full:

  1. Samantha did not expect her boyfriend to give up food for her and not become grumpy.
  2. Samantha did not expect her boyfriend to leave work and join her at the doctors.
  3. Samantha believed her boyfriend had given something up for her (i.e. eating).
  4. Samantha received a text, he held her hand, and he didn’t want a snack when she said he should get one.
  5. Samantha felt, he felt that he needed to be with her and hat made her feel important to him.

Having found five conditions in Samantha’s example, the group then agreed that there were features of these conditions which could be made more general and help us with answering the broader question of what it means to be valued. So, the five conditions particular to Samantha’s example, were made more general and transformed into three conditions of being valued:

  1. Somebody unexpectedly changes their behaviour in a caring way.
  2. Somebody makes somebody else a priority.
  3. There are signs and messages which conveyed that you are important to somebody else.

Reaching the end of the dialogue, the group then tried to apply these conditions to other examples we could think of where we felt that valuing had or had not taken place. What about you? Can you think of a time where you felt valued? Can you see these three conditions in your own example?

The Society for the Furtherance of Critical Philosophy (SfCP) organises Socratic Dialogues throughout the year. The educational society exists to encourage the practical application of critical philosophy. Visit SfCP’s website at www.sfcp.org.uk to find out more.


* I have changed the name of the example-giver to protect the privacy of the individual.

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