Communication 4: Values (Part 2)

Communication 4: Values (Part 2)

Date: 7/1/2000

After eliciting your values or someone else's values you will notice that they will either be moving towards or moving away from their values--or both.

For example, a friend of mine came to Israel to learn in Yeshiva. When I asked him why he decided to come he answered "to get away from all of the distractions of America." Distractions was a primary value in his decision and he was clearly moving away from it.

How strong a value distractions is for him became evident in the follow up. He rented an apartment in a residential area of Jerusalem and learned for four years in a small Yeshiva a few minutes walk from his house. Recently he decided to go back to the United States to teach. Out of the various offers he chose a job in a middle sized, out-of-town community.

It is important to be aware of your values' directions (towards or away from) in different areas of life. Some people do not achieve their goals because of this. There are areas where towards strategies will be more effective, other areas where away strategies are better, and others where a combination of the two is the ideal.

As a general rule, you can use away from strategies for short term tasks. You need to put some money into your bank account but you really don't feel like going out and standing on line. Thinking about some of the consequences of your checks bouncing may expedite getting you to the bank.

For long term goals, moving towards strategies are usually preferable. People who use moving away from strategies over long periods of time risk burning themselves out since moving away from strategies are harder on the person ("I've got to________ or else!!"). Furthermore, they may find that they don't reach their goals because the more they move away from whatever bothers them, the more they lose their motivation. Things seem to come out half-baked.

Do you know people who are always on a diet? One reason they never get down to and maintain their ideal weight is because they don't use a moving towards strategy. Typically, perpetual dieters do not like how they look or how they feel. These are moving away from strategies. Moving away from strategies work like a jump start to get things going.  However, once they have lost some weight they may not have the motivation to follow through.  They're thinking "It's really not so bad anymore."  They go off their diet until they don't like the way they look or feel and then the strategy starts all over again.

What is the secret of people who are successful in losing weight and keeping it off? One factor is that they have a goal to move towards. They may have a mental picture of how they want to look. Or they imagine how they want to feel. This can help them follow through until that goal is reached. At the same time they may also use the moving away from strategy in combination with their goal.

If you are not getting where you want to go in some area of your life, examine what kind of motivation strategy you have. How do you talk to yourself about doing this task? There is a good chance that it is purely moving away. Try adding a moving towards strategy and see what happens. Or, vice versa.

Let's apply this to communication....Pretend that you are a real-estate agent and you want to rent an apartment to the fellow mentioned earlier who wanted "to get away from all of the distractions of America" You could say "I would like to suggest an apartment in a nice, quiet neighborhood" and that would be somewhat effective since you are alluding to his primary value. However, this way of saying it is moving towards quiet whereas he was moving away from distractions.

It might be more effective to use a moving away from wording such as "I would like to suggest an apartment in a neighborhood where there are very few distractions to disturb you." This way you would be including not only his primary value but also his value's direction.

On a conscious level this may seem to be insignificant since the basic message is so similar. On an unconscious level the little nuances of the wording do make a difference because you are aligning yourself more precisely with the person's way of thinking.

Some advertisements use moving away language...."one pill relieves pain for up to 8 hours." Others use moving towards..."Have a good Time," the Israeli cigarette ad beckons. Some advertisements use both: "No artificial flavorings or additives. All natural ingredients."

You can be sure that advertising firms carefully consider which wording will best get the message through to the most people. Bonus tip: when speaking to a group consider using some moving away language and some moving towards language.

Some final thoughts on values ......Be aware that the people with whom you associate may have values different from yours. This can mean values conflicts. Being prepared in advance for this can prevent unpleasant encounters and help to resolve matters peacefully.

Several years ago there was a disagreement in a Jerusalem neighborhood about the building of a playground. Some people wanted a recreation area for children to play while others did not want the noise it would bring....In a different incident the tenants of a building had a disagreement about how many times a week the stair-case and entranceway should be cleaned. Some felt it was better to clean fewer times in order to save money whereas others felt it was worth the extra expense not to have a dirty building. What are the values and the values' directions in these two stories?

People can have their own personal values conflicts. One of the more common ones is economy versus convenience. You want to save money but you are only willing to inconvenience yourself to a certain extent. Perhaps your neighbor is willing to do more than you in order to save money. Don't let this bother you because everyone's circumstances are unique and what works for one person may not work for the other. Even better, don't think of it as a "conflict" at all. You can value both economy and convenience and decide what is the right combination and balance of values for you. When, where and how much to use each.

What is important is that in the big picture your values help you achieve your goals----if achieving your goals is a primary value for you...