The Question Everyone Should Be Asking Each Other
“How are you?” “Good, you?” “Good.” has not once been a fulfilling conversation. I’m bored just typing it out.
To increase the likelihood of having a meaningful interaction, the question everyone should be asking each other is: What values are most important to you?
Getting past small talk to real talk requires genuine interest, which is why this question is so good. It invites people to speak about what’s most dear to them, their core values.
Bonding over values connects us in a deeper, more meaningful way than only talking about the “what” and the “how.” Absolutely, our “what” and “how” are important, but merely a component of what drives us to act the way we do. Values are our “why.”
Undoubtedly, we all have overlapping values; we also have differences. That’s why everyone has something to teach us. In life, absolute truth is unknowable and change is the only constant. Learning about what people value with their most sincere self is full of lessons for how to react in an ever-changing world, even if you ultimately don’t share the same beliefs.
When asking people about something as close to them as their core values, trust is required.
Ask sincerely. Be sure to really listen to the answer and you may likely make a friend. As Dale Carnegie wrote in How to Win Friends and Influence People, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Simply put, people find interested people interesting.
Don’t be shy… ask yourself about your values often as well, so that you may better know thyself.
Considering your core values continuously is essential to self-knowledge and personal growth. If you’re unsure what yours are, you can utilize the Personal Values Card Sort resource developed by University of New Mexico scholars. The exercise provides 83 values, although feel free to include additional ones if inspired, and asks you to sort them into 3 categories: very important, important, and not important. Next, consider which are your top 10 values. How about your top 6? Challenge yourself to see whether you can put your top 6 in order of importance.
When I first did this exercise at the end of my senior year of college, the 10 things I deemed most important to me were, in no particular order, being loved, loving, genuineness, creativity, contribution, humor, adventure, beauty, achievement, and purpose. Years later, I wonder if and how my values have changed, so I’ll be sure to repeat the exercise soon.
After all, the values most important to us and to others possess invaluable information.