Building New Relationships on Cultural Values

Building New Relationships on Cultural Values 
Dr. William (Bill) DeMarco, Ph.D.
Because the only life we personally experience is our own, we tend to think our life experiences are unique.  They are not!  Every generation, since the beginning of time, has been confronted with its own challenges. While the specifics may be relative to each individual and time period, the existence of challenges is not unique. 

Think about it.  Life has always been complex.  Given that, we tend to covet our privacy.  It is safe!

Here’s an illustration. When we meet someone new, what do we ask them?  Most likely we steer clear of questions about politics and religion, but we do ask “coded questions” about the size of their bank account.  You may bristle and think “no I don’t”.  Think deeper.  Why is it more important to find out what kind of job someone has or where they live than what they really value?

Just maybe we have been trained by many generations before us to think that where we sit within the social pecking order relative to the rest of the population gives us a frame of reference about the relative importance of the new person in front of us. 

I agree that a question about what kind of work someone does or where they live can be a safe ice breaker.  But what does it really tell us about the person other than their income level!  Do we get any real insight into what they value, what/who is important in their life, what they hope to still achieve; or is this just an exercise to determine if they are “worth” our spending time with them.  

I know questions about politics and religion can be testy and maybe even confrontational.  Given that, I am not suggesting we lead with questions about a person’s stand on abortion, race relations, migration, gun control, or any other “hot” political issue of the day. What I am suggesting, however, is to reverse the field of questions by saying something like:  

So far, you have said nothing confrontational, but have made yourself more vulnerable to the other person.  Wow!  Now you have given the other person an opportunity to respond in a way which will reveal what they value.  Do they respond in kind or ask you about your job or where you live as their lead question(s).  In either case, it will tell you a lot more about them.  You can then go to a conversation about something you/they value as a discussion point or excuse yourself and move on.

Meaningful relationships are based on shared values. We need to identify our values before we can live meaningful lives with people of common interests. 

Meaningful Reflections!

Dr. Bill DeMarco