Saturday, 20 October 2012

How our values get in the way!

I wonder if you recognise any of these statements that you may have uttered about others in the past:
  • They're lazy
  • They just don't respect me
  • They're dishonest
  • They're just not focused enough
  • They treat some people so differently
  • They're selfish
  • They're too wishy washy
  • They just never finish anything
  • They talk all the time
  • They don't talk enough
These statements may or may not be true. What I find interesting is that our judgement of others, such as those made above, are impacted by our values. Other people with different values may not even understand such a statement made about someone, never mind agree with you, and may often ask "what do you mean?"

Values are what drive our behaviour. For example someone with a value of achievement might work late on a Friday night to finish a piece of work, whereas someone with a value of affiliation might instead leave work on time to go to the pub with everyone and finish the work on Monday. Their behaviours support them meeting their values - that is they do what's important to them. What your values are will determine which of these individuals you'd join on the Friday night and how you'd judge each of them.

The issue when we get annoyed with others is we forget that it's our values that are supporting the judgements we're making. We act as if the judgements we're making are true, factual and objective statements about the person. They're not - they're simply our view of the world.

Let's take "They're dishonest" as an example. The factors that might make someone utter these words depends on their definition of honesty which might be any one of the following:

  • They tell the truth
  • They tell the truth at work
  • They tell the truth when asked
  • They don't keep secrets
  • They don't tell lies
  • They only tell white lies
  • They do what they say they're going to do
  • They're true to themselves even if that means breaking a promise to someone else
With this list demonstrating as much about my definition for Honesty as anything. I was watching a film this weekend and realise I could also add:
  • They're honest about their feelings
  • They don't steal
I'm sure this list could be expanded further - please let me know what I've missed.

Even if we have the same definition (ie mix of the above) we might have different criteria for determining if someone meets the definition.
  • Assumed to be honest until proved otherwise (how many times would they need to get it 'wrong'?)
  • Assumed to be dishonest until proved otherwise (how many times do they need to prove it?)
In actual fact there are as many definitions for honesty as people having a view on it - each subtlety different from each other.

Next time you rush to judge someone why not explore the value that's impacting this judgement and understand how others might judge that behaviour differently. Perhaps more importantly if it's one of your core values recognise that the 'emotion' attached to your judgement is more to do with your relationship to the value than their behaviour.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Sowing the seeds for understanding in procurement teams

'I love honesty' picture source: via Alison on Pinterest

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