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Value of values


ExplanationsValues> Value of values

Evolution | Shared values | Right and wrong | Decision | EvaluationSo what?



Values are one of the human ideas that has evolved alongside such skills as hunting in groups and living in tribes. It has proved useful and so has survived along with us.

It may even be that we have the need for values programmed into us, just like the ability and urge to speak. Certainly, all people and groups have values, even though they may be different. The rules of street gangs may be harmful to others, but within the gang, heaven help anyone who transgresses their values.

Shared values

In social environments from families to companies, values, or norms, provide the unwritten rules which allow us to trust one another and work together. If we share values then we can predict one another's behaviors and thus feel safe and know what to do.

Members of a group will thus share an often-unwritten set of values to which adherence is a condition for belonging to the group.

Right and wrong

Values is a confusing word that often gets confused with 'value' as in the value you get from buying a cheap, but well-built house (see Values types). Values are, in fact powerful drivers of how we think and behave. They tell us what is good and bad, right and wrong. They tell us the shoulds and shouldn'ts, musts and can'ts of life. They also help us decide which is more and less important.


Values thus help us make decisions. When we are formulating intent and choosing from alternatives, our values say 'that would help us reach our goals, but it would be socially unacceptable' and so we do not choose it. They also help us decide what is more or less important (which is necessary, as values often conflict with one another).


When we evaluate, we are using our values to judge a person or situation against our values, thus deeming it good or bad, right or wrong. Judging other people is a favorite pastime for many people, although the basis for this can be complex and based in our own damaged self-esteem.

We also evaluate our own potential decisions as we weigh up what to do in various circumstances.

Justifying sacrifice

When I work late, help a stranger or otherwise give more than I need, the values that I have enable me to feel good about what otherwise might be seen as wasteful or pointless activity.

Values create heroes, enabling the heroes to feel good about themselves. They also give reason for others to admire the person who stuck to their values even though it was clearly against their personal interests.


So what?

When you are talking about 'right and wrong' be sure that these are in the other person's values. Generally work from their values, not yours.

Also understand your and their decisions, and how you are filtering in and filtering out choices based on values. Spot these values by analyzing their decisions and evaluations.

If you act in a way which supports their values they will increase their trust in you. 

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