How to resolve values conflict

Do you ever find yourself pulled in two different directions? Maybe you want to eat healthily, but you also want to be sociable and your friends are heading to the fast food joint. Or perhaps you want to be environmentally-friendly, but you also want new things that you know weren’t sustainably produced. If you find yourself in situations like these, it sounds as though you’re suffering from values conflict.

What is values conflict?

The term values conflict describes situations like those above where you are torn between two competing values. Or it may refer to an occasion when you are in a situation that doesn’t align to your values. For example, you value family but your work involves long hours which cuts into family time.

The values seem in conflict with each other, leaving you needing to choose one over the other.

What are some examples of values conflict?

There are many examples of values conflict. In addition to those mentioned above, you might value freedom and success. Your version of success might require a degree of effort that cuts into your freedom.

In terms of being in a situation not aligned to your values, you may be in a relationship where you value tradition and your partner values originality. Or you may value flexibility but work in an organisation that is rigid.

The values are not always directly in conflict. Often it is the competing demands on our time that creates the conflict. In the example above, freedom and success are not mutually exclusive. But the situation where your freedom is curtailed by the extent of your time spent pursuing success creates the conflict.

What are the effects of values conflict?

When your values are in conflict, you can often feel very stressed. It can be hard to know which path to choose, and you may find yourself obsessing over your dilemma.

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

You may start to feel ambivalent, unhappy, or even depressed. This will often be a signal that your life is at odds with your values. One positive outcome is that it brings clarity to what your values are and which are most important to you.

It may also cause relationship issues. This is especially the case if the conflict is with another person, but it can also be true if the conflict is just within you. When you are conflicted, you are not happy in yourself, and this will affect your relationships with others.

It also has the potential to affect other areas of your life. For example, if the conflict is at work it can affect your home life, or if it is with your family it could affect your friends.

And it can impact your ability to make decisions, including prioritising which goals to pursue.

Your values are at the very core of your self, and so it is understandable that there are strong repercussions when they are threatened.

So how can you resolve values conflict?

How to resolve values conflict

There are a couple of different approaches to resolving values conflict.

Firstly, you could simply choose one over the other. If you choose the more important value, that will often feel acceptable. You could see which value is more important by ranking them, or you could try weighing up the pros and cons of each side.

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However, if you are not clear on which value is more important to you, this can be a risky choice. If you are feeling the effects of values conflict, it is likely that there is no clear frontrunner.

So what other options do you have?

The second option is to change your mindframe around the situation. Rather than focussing on the conflict, work to find a way that the values complement each other.

For example, you want to eat healthily and be sociable but your friends are heading to the fast food joint. There appears to be a conflict here. But, the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. You could see if the fast food joint has healthy options. You could have fast food as a treat in an otherwise healthy lifestyle. Have you checked whether your friends would be happy with sushi? Or going for a walk? Or maybe you skip this catch up with your friends and meet your need to be sociable with a fitness class.

Let’s try another example.

You want to be environmentally-friendly, but you also want new shiny things that are not sustainably produced. Hmm, that is a tough one!

But, I’m guessing the new shiny thing isn’t a value in itself. It represents something, and perhaps that need can be met in a sustainable way. For example, if it represents luxury, there are luxury products that are sustainable. If the draw is the beauty of the product, look for that beauty elsewhere – perhaps even in the natural environment.

In these examples, sometimes the change in mindset means that you can have it all, and other times it leads to some work-arounds. But in those instances, we’ve dug deeper to the underlying values, and that is still being met.

Final thoughts

I was driven to write about values conflict as it is something that I face ALL THE TIME while working on my goals! I want to eat healthily but that pushes my grocery bill up and threatens my financial austerity. My family values conflict with my career in an organisation that values long hours.

We are faced with multiple decisions every day, and our values underpin each and every one of these. If you aren’t clear on your values, grab a copy of Discover your Values today, and take the guesswork out of your decision-making.

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