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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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What Happens When Someone Treads On Your Corns?

Aligning your relationships with your values ...


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 13/12/2023 @ 8:00AM

That's a lovely expression and it comes straight from my mother's own mouth. In case you haven't got it, it's about what happens when someone doesn't honour your values ...

What sort of transgressions do your values allow in your relationships?

What sort of transgressions do your values allow in your relationships?

copyright: stocking / 123rf stock photo

Our values are those principles that are important to us in how we live our lives, our ethics and standards of behaviour. Psychologically, they underpin our sense of our own personal identity.

"That sense of self is buried deep
in our brains!"

It's built up over our childhood from our experiences as we pursue our goals and relate to other people. We internalise these values until we 'own' our self rather than having it imposed on us. Then we simply 'feel it' rather than being able to put it into words.

I've lost count of the number of people I have met who said they left their job to set up their own business because "It just wasn't me." This makes honouring our values an emotional experience rather than a rational one.

No wonder we get upset when someone doesn't honour them the way we do! When they 'tread on our corns', they are punching right to the heart of what we hold most dear.

If I produced a list of positive values, most people would recognise them as sound principles with which to live your life. Yet when you try to honour them, we quickly find that they conflict with each other. We then place them in order of their importance to us.

This makes us interpret those values in relation to each other. Hence we come up with our own set of principles that influence our behaviour and therefore, what we expect of others.

When you think of it, it is a good survival strategy. Relate with those who most closely share your values, tolerate those who transgress a little and react against those who transgress too far. This leads us to another point: we each judge the level of others' transgressions in terms of our own values.

In other words, the value of 'tolerance' is higher on some people's values list than it is for others and we therefore tolerate more transgressions on values that are lower on our list.

"What amazes me is how we maintain
any relationships at all!"

Whenever I do an exercise with people to identify their values, the first one that usually pops up is honesty. It's pretty universal yet few of us exercise total honesty all the time. Go on, be honest, do you?

We each have a different degree of latitude about being totally honest and that latitude is influenced by another value superseding 'honesty'.

Let's look at some examples. If you get a visceral response to any of these ask yourself what other value is more important to you in being totally honest.

  • Total honesty - is giving a full and detailed account of the truth as you see it, whatever the occasion and consequences. No lying by omission. At first glance, it appears that honesty tops your hierarchy of values. Alternatively, the honesty may be driven by values around intellect, self-expression or even spirituality.

  • The little white lie - when a casual friend asks you about her new haircut your fib may be born out of courtesy or sensitivity to her feelings.

  • Saying yes when you want to say no - self-preservation or status might be the reason.

  • Keeping quiet - when you see a colleague breaking the rules. Maybe loyalty?

When we're building relationships for business, the match to the other person's value hierarchy is important. If you get that gut feeling about someone, just check if they are matching your values or not. Everyone is unique and few will match your values in all circumstances.

I'd like to make a plea here for you to raise the value of tolerance up your hierarchy a bit alongside a value about seeking evidence and ask yourself a few questions.

  • How important is that value to you?

  • Does it play out in other ways?

  • Are you prejudging this person without really getting to know them?

Someone who was tactless on your new hairstyle might be driven by the desire to stop you looking like your grandma. Their value around helpfulness may supersede your hurt feelings.

On the other hand, someone who is less than truthful - driven by a value of self-interest - might not be someone you want to introduce to your best client.

And my last point is simply this: the better you know someone the more you will realise that you irritate them sometimes too! Don't take it too personally, just pay attention to respecting their values and stay off their corns.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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