If you want to master people skills you have to understand what they value. You have to determine what motivates people. 

When I meet someone this is all I want to know. It is their hidden side. I call it their value language.

Value Language is what drives someone to make life choices, what gets them up in the morning and informs their goals and actions.

If you want to understand someone you have to know what drives them, what they want and what they cherish. Once you figure this out all of their decisions make sense, you can connect with them, you can engage with them and, if you are in business, you can win them over.

Value languages help you:

  • Predict someone’s behavior or choices
  • Understand why some people drive you crazy–they speak a different value language
  • Learn that most misunderstandings stem from simple differences in what people value
  • Know how to win someone over by appealing to what they value, instead of what you value

I have found there are broadly 10 different value languages. You can use these to identify (and better communicate) with those around you…and don’t forget to see which one you fall into:

The 10 Value Languages


The first Value Language describes people who value image, beauty or aesthetic appearance above all else. These people spend huge amounts of time and money on their appearance either through clothes, plastic surgery or beauty regimes. These people tend to annoy us by spending too much time getting ready and making friends based on appearance rather than experience. They consistently pick romantic partners based on the physical rather than personality, and tend to be vain.


Money is one of the most powerful motivators. Those who subscribe to this value language don’t care how they make money or the consequences of obtaining it; they just want more of it. It’s not just white-collar criminals; it’s also those who irritate us by either being cheapskates during holiday gift exchanges or are “gold diggers” constantly looking for free meals.


Authority, dominance and gaining more power are the biggest drivers for these people. Those who value power like to be able to influence or persuade others to do what they desire. They annoy us by trying to assert dominance in inappropriate situations (commandeering the planning of an event), make power-hungry moves (taking credit for a work project they did not do) or ‘casually’ mentioning their title, education level or awards.


Fame, popularity, legacy and notoriety are the big motivators here. We are seeing a generation of kids who speak this value language as they upload videos of themselves singing, post constantly on Facebook and audition for reality shows. During meetings, they annoy us by always seeking the spotlight when the boss comes in, wanting to be the center of attention at parties and doing anything to get recognition.


This one is tricky, but very important. Some people value being as close as possible to what they deem an ideal. They are also called perfectionists. For some, this might mean playing the perfect “housewife” with 2.5 kids, a golden retriever, a white picket fence and lots of time for bake sales. People-pleasers and perfectionists are obsessed with the “ideal” and having everyone like them and what they do. In the office, ideal-seeking workers put an extreme amount of pressure on themselves to seem like they have everything under control. They never ask for help and they never turn down work projects. They also have trouble showing vulnerability with friends, opening up honestly (for fear of their dirty laundry showing) and never ask for help when they need it.


People who speak this value language are most commonly called know-it-alls; they always have an opinion and an obscure news article they once read to back it up. They often only value others who are “in the know.” They annoy us by never letting anyone else have an opinion, arguing for fun and pompously telling you about all of the books on their bedside table. They tend to collect degrees like fine cars.


These people value exciting and impressive experiences. They constantly tell you that they have been there, done that. Frequent and long-term travelers, eat-out-aholics and adrenaline junkies almost always live by this value language because they value experiences above all else. They can annoy us by bragging about their frequent trips abroad, airline status and superior knowledge of local restaurants.


Those who speak the uniqueness value language love to be brazen, radical and different. We often find them breaking rules, trying to stand out and doing anything that isn’t traditional. They can annoy us by being contrarian, choosing activities and clothing for shock value or protesting any and every cause just for fun. They hate dress codes and being told what to do.


People who live by the relationship value language place importance on relationships. They are often social connectors who have large networks of contacts, and constantly talk about who they know. They believe you get power by people proximity. They annoy us by name-dropping, social climbing and pushing to get into the in-crowd—whether that is in social or business environments. They have an unbelievable amount of friends on Facebook and a huge LinkedIn network–which they update constantly.


The control value language is rare but defines people who want to control both their internal and external environments. People who value control above all else have the constant need to regulate everything from how they look, to how they feel, to how others behave. Women are often teased about trying to control their world and those around them. They annoy us by commandeering collaborative projects, refusing to ever ask for help, and taking on more than they can handle. They might have obsessive disorders or be extreme homebodies for fear of being able to not control what is outside their home.

Now it’s your turn. Here’s what I want you to do:

  1. Think of 3 people you are close with. What value languages are they?
  2. What value language do you think sounds like you? It is extremely hard to acknowledge your own value language. So…
  3. Send this to the three people you are close with and ask them to help you figure out what your value language is.

Send this to three people and ask them to what they think!

It is very helpful to do this exercise because once you understand what you value it will help you see how others use and act upon their value language. I will write about how to use this in future posts!

About Vanessa Van Edwards

About Vanessa Van Edwards

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and behavioral investigator.

I’ve always wanted to know how people work, and that’s what Science of People is about. What drives our behavior? Why do people act the way they do? And most importantly, can you predict and change behavior to be more successful? I think the answer is yes. More about Vanessa.

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