Different Values: Accepting Values That Are Different Than Our Own

Dealing with difficult people often means dealing with people whose core values are different than our own values. Much like behavioral styles, if we can figure out the other person’s core values and show that we respect them, our communication with that person will be much more effective, and we will have a much better chance of getting through to that person.

In my book, “Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Human Behavior,” I discuss in detail the six core values identified by researcher Edward Spranger. The values are: utilitarian – maximizing value; individualistic – driven by ego; theoretical – love of learning; social – doing good for others; traditional – believing in the “right way” to do things; and aesthetic – looking for beauty in the world.

Each of us tends to feel strongly about 2 or 3 values, feel indifferent to 1 or 2, and sometimes ignore or even actively object to the rest.

If you and I are trying to make a decision together, I am focused on my two top values, and you are focused on yours. If we happen to share values, we will easily reach a mutual decision. But if our top two values are different, we are going to have a hard time communicating, and we might even label each other as “difficult.”

For example, if feel very strongly about maximizing value for the company, but you feel that priority must be given to the impact of corporate decisions on employees and how they might “feel,” then it can be very difficult for us to reach mutual decisions.

Similarly, if you deeply care about aesthetics and are willing to spend money in order to make the office look nicer, but I worry about our firm’s financial difficulties and feel we should not be spending on “frivolous” purchases, then we may find ourselves with serious communication problems.

I assume you are reading this blog, and my book, because you want to learn how to deal with difficult people and how to communicate more effectively. I also assume you want to do this because you realize that learning effective communication skills will serve YOU and help you reach your own goals.

To become a better communicator, you have to accept that some people have different values than your own and that you cannot change those values. You also need to accept that while their values may seem wrong to you, they are not inherently wrong – they’re just different. Finally, you need to open yourself to the possibility of incorporating other people’s values into the decision making process while not giving up your own values.