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Status Values

 

Explanations > Values > Status Values

Personal status values | Group status values | Underlying beliefs | So what?

 

The esteem that others have for us and the consequent social status that we are afforded is very important to both individuals and groups. In groups (including families, companies, teams and groups of friends), group norms and consequent processes are often based on the principle of preserving and enhancing the status of the group in comparison with other groups. Status values also legitimize individual status-protecting and status-enhancing actions.

Here are typical values that guide how we behave in ways to maximize our status and that of our family, friends and colleagues.

Personal status values

Personal status values give rules by which a person feels superior and legitimize their personal actions to protect their own status and to enhance it, both in their own eyes and also in the respect afforded by others.

I must maintain or advance my status

The first value about status is that the one that drives all others: that status is important and must be protected and enhanced. Without this, status would not be important to us. Many social values are about being kind to others. Status-enhancing values are about gaining status and so permit challenge and even unkindness to others. This can cause inter-values conflict, which in practice is often resolved with the status enhancement winning out.

Higher status people must be obeyed and admired

When another person is higher status, then the basic rule is that their superiority gives them power and that they must be obeyed. Power is one of the key aspects of status that makes it desirable, as it enhances our sense of control. There is also identity-enhancing value as status leads to others admiring you.

Higher status people may also be envied and denigrated

Gossiping about people of higher status a common activity. While we admire them, we also envy them and many of us would happily trade places with them. Gossip and criticism is a form of release that lets us let go of some of the tension of feeling inferior.

Lower status people must be kept lower than me

A part of maintaining one's status is keeping those lower down the ladder than us. We hence need a value that permits the rather unkind things we do to keep others down, even if we secretly believe they deserve to be higher.

Kindness and altruism may be found in the reversal of this rule, where the alternative 'be nice to people' social value takes precedence.

Group status values

Groups has status as well as individuals and hence have values that guide action to support group status. They also internal rules to control potential status-based conflict.

Members must advance or maintain the status of the group

One of the main rules for people within a group is that they should actively be involved in supporting the continuation of the group, and the group status with respect to other groups is important. One of the main rules within a group is hence 'the group comes first'.

People may join groups in part to enhance their own status, so they can say to others 'I belong to X' and hence gain admiration that is afforded group X. This means they easily buy into a value that supports high group status.

Members must respect those of higher status within the group

Groups succeed with a relatively stable hierarchy and rocking the boat is often not appreciated. Group values hence are set to support this. Sustaining their higher status is important for those in high position, particularly when there is competition for such roles, and they may use the power of their position to sustain their status and enforce the 'respect your betters' rule.

Members can enhance their status within the group by using specific rules

Groups recognize the need for individual status and may give particular opportunities to gain status, for example by acting to support of the group. Heroes are those who are afforded their status because they have helped the group while putting themselves at risk. Status can also be given by the attentions of those higher up, for example for work done well or as reward for obeying other group values.

Status may also be gained by going up the hierarchy when spaces appear. The rules for this often include formal competition with other contenders. There may also be formal rules for challenging the status quo, although activities such as whistle-blowing may well be severely frowned upon.

Underlying beliefs

Values are rules for what people should say and do. These are often based on underlying beliefs. Beliefs about include:

  • People are not equal. Some are superior; some are inferior.
  • Superior people deserve advantage and high status.
  • Status gives power.
  • I have a right to high status.
  • I am superior to others / others are inferior to me
  • I am superior in ability, including intelligence

So what?

Understand your own need for status and what you do to achieve this. Note what values you have that encourage and permit status-gaining actions. Change your beliefs and values if they are not helping you.

Understand this for others too and use this in persuasion, for example by offering status as a reward. You can also work on underlying beliefs or group values to get the effect you seek.

See also

Status, Group Norms

 

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