Values are important ingredients in a meaningful communication


Be it in the workplace or in educational institutions, what constitutes a successful communication depends largely on the values that one holds and the values that others hold as well as the ability for the communicating parties to strike a consensus when it comes to the differences in the values that they hold so dearly. In most communications, things go smoothly because our values are seldom placed under scrutiny or come under attack. However, there are times when this happens. Consider the following situations:

  • Teachers whose strong values in discipline have resulted in the use of an authoritarian approach are asked to coach their classes with a more nurturing approach.
  • A child who values altruism is asked by his parents who value dignity to explain to his younger siblings why giving money to able-bodied people in the streets might encourage them to continue to depend on other’s monetary contribution instead of working.
  • A manager who values work productivity through total focus on task management has to work with a fellow colleague who believes that work productivity can only be raised through building amicable relationships with team mates.

Conflicts will often result from the abovementioned scenarios since there is a clash of values. Communication becomes difficult when this happens. This is made worse by individuals who seek to define their stand when they feel that their values have been violated.

However, this need not be so.

Good communicators are able to understand the values that they hold and yet they are very receptive to other’s values as well. The important thing to do in this situation is to make clear to the other party the values that we value and inform the other party that we are at a dilemma in the things that we are asked to do. It is important to note that most misunderstandings result because there is minimal or a total lack of clarification on the part of all parties. Thus, by making clear our stand from the outset, we can avoid or minimise misunderstandings.

However, we should not stop there since the issues still need to be examined and addressed. There is no right or wrong way of going about doing things.  Successful communication in the abovementioned scenarios depends substantially on the receptivity of either party to see things from the other party’s point of views.  Being accommodating is very important in resolving such conflicts. 

Personally, I feel that being accommodating is insufficient though. Consider the case of the teachers relenting and adopting the nurturing approach. If their personalities do not fit this teaching style or class productivity falls because of the change, being accommodating does more harm than good. I feel that besides being accommodating, agreement should be reached between both parties to allow each other time to see if the proposed idea works. If it works, that’s great. If it does not, then it might be good not to change the state of things.  Consider the second example. If the child stops his acts of altruism and felt bad about it, it’s detrimental both for his or her psychological well being and outlook in life. In such cases, the parents should allow him or her to continue to engage in acts of altruism.

It’s not easy for us to determine the values that our loved ones hold but it’s important that we understand these values as it facilitates our communication with them. If we are observant and examine the ways that individuals go about doing things in their daily lives, we can gain a grasp of the values that they hold. It’s even more important that we understand the values that we hold since these values will determine the way we lead our lives.


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