Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How to Discover Your Values

How do we discover values and deeply held belief systems? Why is it important to discover values? Because what we truly believe affects everything we do. Our behavior patterns change when we change our beliefs by discovering values.

Do you ever find that the same kind of conflict with another person keeps reoccuring? Does the same argument tend to surface on a regular basis?

Have you ever thought about why such is the case?

There's probably more than one reason why a conflict remains unsolved.

Let me share one principle based way you can solve a conflict once and for all, and then move on in the relationship. The secret lies in discussing the core issues; the underlying subjective values.

Moving Away From the Core - Fighting Meaningless Details
When two people are quarreling, they tend to fight about everything but the core problem. (Typically, arguments end up arguing about how we argue.) Here's an example:

"You're always late", she says. "And you're always so impatient. You have no empathy for other people", he responds. "Well, why can't you get organized so we can be on time and keep our commitment", she continues...

The first rule we break is not listening. Instead we agressively list every possible argument to support our own views. As a result the conversation branches outwards away from the core. We end up fighting over meaningless details and frustration increases. The relationship decays.

Moving Toward the Core - Discovering Important Details
Instead of fighting your ground, adopt wiser behavior. Listen and restate. Ask questions to better understand, and especially ask WHY? He might ask her: "I really want to understand, why is it so important for you to be on time?" She might ask him: "I really want to understand, why is time sometimes less important than other things?"

Once we're really listening we can objectively try to find the subjective need that's driving the way the other person thinks, acts and speaks. As a result the conversation goes deeper toward the core of the matter. We end up exploring important details, discover deeply held beliefs and gain a greater appreciation for the uniqueness we each bring with us. The relationship grows.

Behavior Improves When Values Are Defined
The essence of what we're looking for are values. Why? Because values govern our thinking, our actions and our words. Once the values are on the table (and it helps to write them down), we begin to truly understand one another. We become empowered to change and influence each others' views - for real. Continuing our example:

  • He may understand that she values friendships by showing respect for their time and keeping promises.
  • She may understand that he values their relationship by putting each other first, regardless of when they're behind schedule.

By sharing these needs, by recognizing the value they have and their validity, he and she, over time, will grow to appreciate the importance of both aspects. When values are shared conflict evaporates.

Three Ways to Discover Values
Thus, knowing how to discover values is critical. We need to discover our own values and the values of other people to truly "know ourselves" and others. How do we discover values? How do we uncover deeply held belief systems?

Discovering values takes time and dedication. In my experience, mapping out values is best done as part of every-day life:

(1) Scarcity
The first of three ways to discover values is any situation in which you find that there's scarcity. It could be limited resources like money or food. It could be when you're in a hurry and out of time.

When feelings get tense, and feelings are a direct reflection of values and unmet needs, there's an opportunity to discover what people are really about.

(2) Reactions
The second way in which you may discover values is when a person is challenged by something that is bigger or different from what they believe or might expect.

(3) Risk
The third way in which you may discover values is when asked to take risk. Sometimes this might be a helpful scenario to purposefully induce a value oriented conversation: "Would you risk your life for..?" If the answer is yes, ask why and begin your journey to a fruitful discussion.

Mapping out and discovering values is the best way to build a relationship and prevent future conflict.

1 comment:

  1. great article! Reminds me a bit of the article 'building your company's vision' from harvard business review. that also talks about how to find your core values.