Communication: Scripts aka Mad Libs for Life

The Gottman books and NVC (Non-Violent Communication) are both good for giving alternative ways to express things.

The simple way is this script:
I feel: emotion or sensation
when: very specific action observed, include only the direct observations, not judgements or assumptions
I need:

This is the hardest part, being vulnerable and expressing what you need.

Basic human needs:

Sensations (interoception)

Observation words: noticed, saw, heard, watched, was looking, spotted, felt (touch)

Judgement/opinion words: good/bad, positive/negative, ugly/beautiful, yucky/yummy

Instead of:

  • This food is gross!
  • What is that terrible smell?
  • Ew!
  • That looks yucky.
  • It tastes bad.


  • This is not to my taste.
  • I’m not a fan.
  • No thank you.
  • I have food/sensory sensitivities, and I want to enjoy your company, is it ok if I just have something to drink?
  • I’m not sure I’ll like it, but I can try a bite.
  • I feel uncomfortable, I’m not used to this type of food.
  • It was one bite yum, I liked it, but that was enough for me.

Instead of advice or commiseration (me too!), try to restate what they said in your own words – focus on the emotion.

  • Let me see if I understand what you’re saying…
  • It sounds like you’re feeling really….
  • If I were you I would be <emotion>…
  • I think I hear you saying….
  • Before the conversation moves on, do you feel like I understand things?
  • Is there something I missed?

After they feel heard, then you can add something like:

  • Do you want to vent or are you looking for advice?
  • I have some ideas if you’re interested.
  • What advice would you give me/someone else in that situation?

Conversing is hard. It is ok to ask the other person what they need or want – comfort, commiseration, to bounce ideas off you, to inform you, advice, connection, entertainment, etc.

You can also try for some humor when someone uses one of the socially expected greetings like “How are you?”:

  • Insert small talk of your choice.
  • Socially acceptable reply.
  • Greetings and salutations.
  • Mutual acknowledgement of existence.
  • Within normal limits.
  • Fine, for certain values of fine.
  • Do you want the real answer or the expected answer?

Instead of:

You are so mean!


You make me so <feeling/emotion>!


I feel so <feeling/emotion>!

Some examples: angry, frustrated, annoyed, irritated, furious, impatient, mad, hurt, disappointed, exasperated.

Converse | Living with Asperger syndrome (