Raise your hand if you have you ever found yourself in a discussion with a co-worker, friend, family member over an issue that you both feel strongly about and you’re clashing over it big time. Okay. That’s a lot of hands. When values come into play, things get heated and fast. First let’s make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to what a value is. From the Oxford Dictionary: “values [plural] beliefs about what is right and wrong and what is important in life”. Got it. Okay, so here are some ways to help you navigate through values collisions with another person, so you can continue the relationship and hopefully, even make it stronger.
Confrontive l-Messages and Method III (No-lose Conflict Resolution) are usually effective in resolving conflicts of needs because most people have a strong desire to be helpful, friendly and cooperative. People want to maintain good relationships with others. We are especially willing to modify our behavior or problem solve for a mutually acceptable solution when we understand that our behavior is concretely and tangibly affecting an important person in our lives.
On the other hand, when we feel that our behavior does not have a readily apparent adverse effect on the other, we tend to resist changing or negotiating.
Define Value Differences. When you have a values collision, the first step is to understand the real differences between you and the other person. I-Messages and Active Listening are the best tools for doing this. Then you need to make a choice. Can you accept the differences and let things be, or do you really feel it important to resolve the differences?
Modify Self. If you cannot accept the differences, can you reconsider your values and perhaps move closer to the other person’s? Are you willing to “try out” the other’s values and possibly change yourself?
Influence Other’s Behavior. If you choose not to modify yourself and, instead, try to change the other person, start by attempting to change the specific behavior of the other that is upsetting for you. Use I-Messages and Method III to problem solve the unacceptable behavior (i.e., the specific way the other is acting on her/his value).
You may succeed in changing how the other person acts around you, even though the person’s value has not changed at all (e.g., your co-worker values her/his religious beliefs but agrees to stop talking about them so much when you’re together).
Influence Other’s Value. Even if you’ve succeeded in changing the other’s actions, you may still want to influence the other to change his or her value, usually out of a conviction that the other person will be “better” or “happier’ as a result. If you decide to try to influence the other’s value, the following are two ways that might work:
Modeling. When you have chosen to try to influence another’s value system, one approach is to demonstrate or exhibit openly the values that you want the other to adopt. This “modeling” of your values requires that you be highly congruent in your actions (practice what you preach), strong and clear in demonstrating your values, and highly consistent over time and circumstance. We all generally do this unconsciously.
Consulting. This is a skill which attempts to influence another’s value system by presenting information and benefits of your experiences related to the value that you seek to strengthen or diminish. An effective values consultant gets the facts, prepares and delivers a persuasive presentation, and then shows a willingness to Active Listen to objections and questions from the other person. In most cases, you can only be a values consultant when asked directly or indirectly; otherwise you become an uninvited nag and risk damage to the relationship and a further discounting of your values.
Alter Relationship. Finally, if none of your efforts has satisfactorily resolved the values differences, you can consider altering the nature of your relationship with the other person (e.g., a team member decides to look for another job, two friends decide not to see each other as often, spouses decide to get divorced).
In short, the deeper you move into efforts at resolving values conflict through change, the greater the risk to the relationship. It is thus important to continually ask the question: “Is it worth the risk to our relationship to change the other’s values or change my own?”
Keep in mind that you always have the choice of modifying yourself, rather than pursuing change in the other. Thus, there is always one certain way of resolving a values collision; that is, by accepting the difference.