Values work in a way that’s as complex and delicate as anything we’ve talked about. Remember that when we use words, we’re using a map and the map is not the territory. If I tell you that I’m hungry or that I want to take a ride in a car, you’re still working from a map. Hungry might mean ready for a big meal or wanting a small snack. Your idea of a car could be a Honda or a limousine. But the map comes pretty close. Your complex equivalence is close enough to mine that we don’t have too much trouble communicating. Values present us with the most subtle maps of all. So when I tell you what my values are, you’re working from a map of a map. Your map, your complex equivalence of the value, may be very different from mine. If you and I both say that freedom is our highest value that would create rapport and agreement between us because we want the same thing. We’re motivated in the same direction. But it’s not that simple. Freedom for me may mean being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, with whomever I want, as much as I want. Freedom for you may mean having someone take care of you all the time, being free form hassles by living in a structured environment. Freedom for someone else might be a political construct, the discipline needed to maintain a particular political system.
Because values have such primacy, they carry an incredible emotional charge. There’s no closer way to bond people than to align them through their highest values. That’s why a committed force fighting for its country will almost always defeat a group of mercenaries. There’s no more traumatic way to drive people apart than to create behaviors that put their highest values in conflict. The things that matter most of us, whether it’s a sense of patriotism or a love of family, are all reflections of vales. So by constructing precise hierarchies, you develop something you’ve never had before – the most useful map possible of what someone else needs and what he’ll respond to.
We see the explosive power and delicate nuance of values all the time in relationships. A person may feel betrayed by a failed romance. He told me he loved me, she says. What a joke. For one person, love may be a commitment that lasts forever. For another, it may be a brief but intense union. This person may have been a cad, or he may just have been a person with a different complex equivalence of what love is.
So it’s absolutely crucial that you construct a map that’s as accurate as possible, that you determine what the other person’s map really is. You need to know not just the word they’re using, but what it means. The way to do that is to ask with as much flexibility and persistence as you need to construct a precise complex equivalence of what their value hierarchy is.
Very often, ideas of values vary so much that two people who profess common values may have nothing in common, and two people who profess very different values may find they really want the same thing. For one person, fun may mean using drugs, staying up all night at parties, and dancing until dawn. For another person, fun might mean climbing mountains or shooting rapids – anything that’s new, exciting, or challenging. The only thing their values have in common is the word they use for it. A third person may say his most important value is challenge.
To him about fun, and he might dismiss it as frivolous and unimportant. But he may mean precisely the same thing by challenge as the second person did by fun.
Common values form the basis for the ultimate rapport. If two people have values that are totally linked, their relationship can last forever. If their values are totally different, there’s little chance for a lasting, harmonious relationship. Few relationships may be classified in either of those extreme categories. As a result, you have to do two things. First, find the values you have in common so that you can use them to help bridge the others that are not alike (Isn’t that what Reagan and Gorbachev tried in common that would support their relationship – like survival?) Second, seek to support and fulfill the other person’s most important values as much as you can. This is the basis of a powerful, supportive, and lasting relationship whether it be business, personal, or family.