How Do You Survive a Values Clash?

May 22, 2017   //   by Gail Barker   //   Previous Blog Posts  //  No Comments

How Do You Survive a Values Clash?

Values are a topic that I’ve often written and spoken about.  Indeed in my most recent book, I talk about values a lot, as I know the importance of honouring values when it comes to living and leading the way we truly want.

The challenge with values is this: sometimes, they clash.

I know you’ve been aware of times in your life when you feel like the things that matter to you are doing battle with the things that matter to someone else.  Perhaps more challenging is when two of the things that matter to you are fighting with each other for space in your life.   By way of illustration, let me offer this example:  imagine an individual who values family time and professional responsibility – otherwise known as meeting job expectations.  On a night when this person has a meeting at work scheduled as well as her child’s school concert, she’s dealing with a values clash.

Or, think of a time when you were having a conversation with a friend.  In the course of the conversation, you hit on a topic where your perspective is drastically different from that of your friend.  In this context, the root of the issue is likely a values clash.

In either of these cases, how do you handle it?  What do you do when two values – whether they’re both yours or not – go up against each other?  The situation can be challenging, no doubt about it, and there is a solution.  Simply put, you decide what matters (which is, essentially, the core of the title of my book: What Matters Now – for very good reason).

Let’s start with the case of two personal values coming up against one another.  In the example preceding, I talked about “family time” and “professional responsibility”; in this case, two strong values are competing.  When it comes to deciding which to honour and how to move forward, the key question is “what matters most?”  It can be hard to answer, no doubt about it; I mean how do you choose between family and work?  But when you allow yourself to get still and hold the question, considering implications and outcomes, what happens is that you connect with your priority in the moment.  In other words, you get to decide which value to honour NOW, knowing that it’s not necessarily the one that you might honour at another time.  So, if the meeting is dealing with a crucial topic with relevant implications for your job, you may well choose to attend the meeting over the concert.  Or, you might request that the meeting be held at a different time, or that you be allowed to leave early or arrive late.  In other words, holding the question of “what matters now” will allow you to a) know what matters to you and b) explore options to facilitate the honouring of all your values.

In the case of your values being pitted against the values of someone else, the same question holds.  And likely what will happen as you hold the question is that you’ll notice another value of yours start to rise to the surface.  When you ask “what matters now” when you’re in the midst of a values clash with another person, you might realize that what matters is being honest, or agreeing to disagree, or letting go of toxicity.  Whatever this “third value” is, that becomes the one to honour and provides the way out of the clash.

As a leader, no matter what clash you’re experiencing, the fact remains that in order for you to have the richest experience of your life and leadership, and for you to live and lead with few regrets, the honouring of your values is what truly matters in the end.  This isn’t about being selfish or ignoring the needs and ideas of those around you.  Instead, this is about finding your path and following it in a way that allows you and others true freedom, and ultimate joy.  As a leader, modeling this capacity to identify and follow what matters is highly compelling.

Bottom-line:  values clashes happen, there’s no escaping them.  And, you can move through them.  The crucial question to hold at all times is “what matters now”?  When you know the answer to this question, you’ll always find your way out of the clash and into the flow.

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