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  • Paul Fogarty

What's your hierarchy of values?

Try a fun experiment to better understand why you have conflicts with certain individuals or groups. 

I have noticed an interesting patter over the last twenty years of helping people better understand and engage in, leave or resolve their conflicts.  This rather obvious insight has been reported widely in academia, sociology, psychology and popular books more over the past few decades.  The insight is that while we all share common human values, the way we prioritize those values differs from person to person.

Values themselves are not “wrong” or “bad” but it is clear that sometimes we mis-apply our values or push them onto others without bothering to understand that person’s or group’s values. Just like “emotions” (sad, mad, joy, fear and shame for simplicity) most people judge some values as better than others. Some people even have a hard time admitting to themselves that certain core human values are inherently good or even human until I give them examples that defeat what I call their “allergy”. That kind of behavior seldom leads to understanding and harms respect and civility. 

Some people have a very negative view of patriotism (“love for or devotion to one’s country”) seeing it solely as being bad or any-humanitarian. To be sure Patriotism has had a negative history at times and been used to rally populations to do horrible things (Think Holocaust – Jewish, Armenian, Native American, Mongolian Kahns…) but the value is also been the driving force that allowed people to band together beyond the more excluding kin and tribal loyalty that preceded it. 


Do you think of “purity” as a ‘negative’ value?  Then would you find a surgeon who was unconcerned with purity to be an acceptable option for you? The truth is any core value can be misapplied, abused or harmful in excess. Power ( the ability to do something or act in a particular way, especially as a faculty or quality) is another value that some people think of as ‘bad’ and yet without power literally nothing could be done at any scale.  If you find some values on the list offensive, consider where you learned that and think of a few examples that represent positive use of them (Ghandi used power as did Christ and the Budddah!)

Try a simple and fun game with a friend or even a group of friends?  Take the list of core values found here and put them in order them from most to least valuable to you. Do it quickly so you don’t have to think about it too much.  Hand or send the same list to a friend (spouse, co-worker, family member) that you have frequent disagreements with and ask them to do the same with the list.  When you are done with this compare your lists together.


Rather than trying to change

how the other person holds certain values, ask them how they came to see certain the values as more or less important.  You may find yourself in a very rich discussion of values…one that will influence your relationship for the better.  Good luck and keep listening deeply….

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© 2018 Core Values Matter, by Paul W. Fogarty

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