Communication 3: Values (Part 1)

Communication 3: Values (Part 1)

Date: 4/1/2000

In the first two newsletters we discussed principles of pacing and leading and levels of abstraction. The third step in your developing effective communication is becoming aware of your listener's values. Values are useful in other areas as well. What is the definition of a value? Simply, a value is whatever is important to a person.

Very often we are unconscious of even our primary values. Become aware of your values in different areas of your life and you will understand what motivates you and how you make decisions. Furthermore, once you know which values motivate you, you can find ways to introduce them in areas in which you are not yet motivated.

For example, let's say you want to know your values in shopping. Ask yourself this question: why do I shop for clothing/groceries/books in a particular store? Perhaps you are interested in economy: saving money, looking for bargains. Or, maybe you like convenience: you don't like making a whole big trip to the store. You don't like standing around on lines. You just like to walk out of your house, buy, and come home. Or, courteous service..... cleanliness.....organization......honesty.....comfort. Not all stores can satisfy all of these values and you will choose based on what is most important to you. Stores that include many or all of these values appeal to a broad spectrum of customers. Similarly, in public speaking you will appeal to most of your audience if you refer to different values relating to your subject.

Let's say that economy turns out to be a primary value for you. That may be a good value for you when it comes to basic household expenses. You may decide to introduce economy into other similar areas. However, there are areas when you will want to push financial considerations aside and base your decision on other values. Being aware of this tendency towards economy will contribute to your making the correct decision.

Because our life circumstances change it is important to periodically reconsider if your values are supporting your goals or not. I have a friend whose son was doing very poorly in a Yeshiva where I was teaching. We discussed the need to develop a stronger bond with this boy and spend some time learning with him. "The problem is that I just have no time", he explained.

There are many people living in Jerusalem who buy their fruits and vegetables in the Machane Yehuda market because they save money. About two weeks after I spoke with this friend about his son I met him on the bus near Machane Yehuda carrying two shopping baskets full of fruits and vegetables. I asked him if he really found that he saved money shopping in Machane Yehuda. His answer: "No, not really, but I find that for the same money you can get nicer fruits and vegetables."

It is pretty safe to say that for most people "nicer fruits and vegetables" is not as important a value as the success of their children in school and I am sure that this person would agree. Why, then, was he spending time shopping for nicer fruits and vegetables when he could have used that same hour to be with his son? What probably happened was that he had developed a routine of shopping there when he was first married. He didn't pay attention to the fact that his life circumstances had changed and that now he should reconsider which values are really more important to him.

How do you elicit other people's values? One way is to just listen carefully; during the conversation their values will surface. Another approach is to ask them a question like "what is important to you about________?" Their answer will reveal one or more of their primary values in that area.

For example: if you would ask someone "what did you like about going to the wedding?" They might answer "it was great seeing so many friends" (being with their friends is one of their primary values). Or, they might say "I really enjoyed having a delicious meal" (eating well is one of their primary values). Or, "rejoicing in front of the Chosson and Kallah" --Bride and Groom--(performing this kind of Mitzvah--good deed--would be one of their primary values).

Once you are aware of what their primary values are you can then utilize this in your communication with them. For instance, you notice that your listener always talks about the opportunity to "get out of the house and be with people" in relation to attending weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. and now you want to encourage them to attend a certain social function. You wouldn't try to persuade them by talking only about the great meal, or the chance to do a Mitzvah, or how terrific the music is going to be. You might say something like "Oh, I think you will really like it. It's really a wonderful opportunity to get out a little and see friends."

Some of this may seem pretty self-evident. The mistake that many of us make when talking to other people is that we inadvertently emphasize our own values. We do not always take into consideration that our listener may have completely different values.

Let's say you need to persuade a child to go to a Summer camp and they really do not want to go. You might begin reminiscing about when you were a child in camp and how much you enjoyed playing games every day. Then, you start telling the child about how wonderful it will be to play games with all of his friends. The child looks uninterested and you try even harder to describe how fantastic playing with his friends is going to be. The child apathetically mutters "I don't know." He might be thinking "playing with my friends I do every day in school." Perhaps this child values going swimming or going on hikes in the forest. It may not have occurred to you to mention these because they were the things you did not like about camp.

Societies have values. Neighborhoods have values. Families have values. By being aware of these values you will know what influences are surrounding you. In today's Western world pleasure, comfort, convenience are certainly primary values. Zionism was one of the primary values in Israeli society after the six day war. What are the primary values in Israeli society today?

Please email me your personal experiences relating to this article.