One of the perks of doing what I do is that whenever you tell someone what I do, they tend to just go ahead and tell me their problem. This is true in every setting, whether it be in a quiet room, or whether it be after the third beer at 11 at night in the pub. While sometimes this is very unwelcome, it does give me a chance to really explore and see the maps of my friends. Among other things on the map are not only their beliefs and decisions, but also their values. Knowing other people’s values not only gives you unique insights into their psyche, but also let’s you fully appreciate how all of us are different, and are motivated by completely different things.
The book of knowledge (i.e. wikipedia) writes that “each individual or culture has certain underlying values that contribute to their value system (see value in semiotics). Values are subjective and may vary across people and cultures”. From this we can immediately extrapolate two things: firstly, values are unique to cultures and people, and secondly, values are not lone ranger entities that just float around, but are organized in a value system, or value hierarchy. Hence, even among values, some are more important than others.
So, how do you find out about a person’s values? One simple question: “What is important to you about X”. X might be work, or life, or maybe relationships, as all these have different values attached to them. Upon asking that question, you will get some answer that contains a word that just stands out by the way the person talks about it. This word will be more emphasized by voice tone, feelings and body language. Once you have that one word, ask about what else is important.
This style of question not only works with others, but also with yourself. So, what is important to you about work? Ask yourself that question again and again, until you have a nice list of about 7-10 things. Then start ranking them. if you could just have one of them, what would you choose? As a result of doing this, you will then have what is known as your very own values hierarchy. This is not only pretty on paper, but once you compare that hierarchy to your current job and life, you will find out if what you are doing really is what you should be doing.
Where do values come from. Well, there are several theories, and here is the point where I could start talking about different life periods (imprint period, socialization period, etc.), yet that is not too thrilling. What is important is that values, more than being set in stone, are changeable, and are influenced by everything around us. From parents, to friends, to television, and who knows what else.
Now, once you know what is important to someone, you can then begin to use that in your communication, and it will establish great rapport, and give you a chance to positively influence the other person. These values, these single words, mark sign posts in our map of reality. Signposts by which we can measure ourselves as compared to our ideas, dreams and ideals. Listen our for other people’s values, and notice how different things are important to different people, and you can then fully appreciate how unique we all are.