Working with Belief Clusters – Part 3: How Values Form Chains

Working with Belief Clusters – Part 3: How Values Form Chains

Previously, I demonstrated how beliefs and values are related and how beliefs form chains. In this third part of the series, I show you how values also form chains – but only if you elicit them correctly…

Working with Belief Clusters – Part 3: How Values Form Chains

There is a completely different way we can track the formation of chains – this time through the connections between values.

However, it’s really important to elicit the person’s values without imposing any sort of order on them.

In this instance, we’re just modelling the value structure and relationships that currently exist.

There are, broadly speaking, two formal values elicitation questions and both have different functions.

1 – “What’s important about X?”

This question identifies the values in a particular area of life, X.

For example:

“What’s important about relationships?” will tend to elicit a value in the context of relationships.

So far, so good. One way to progress from there is to keep eliciting values connected to relationships. The formal way to do this is to ask:

“What else is important about relationships?”. This will tend to elicit another value in the context of relationships. Then keep repeating this question until you get a list of values.

However, if this is the only type of question you ask, you will get a long list of values relevant to the context of relationships, but you will not have any information about how those values are connected to each other.

So the classic thing which is done in this situation (especially by life-coaches) is to impose a hierarchy. This is done by asking:

“Which one of those values is the most important?”
“If you had to do without one of these values, which one would it be?”
“List your values in order of importance.”

(It’s quite common to advise people to do this – just Google ‘NLP values hierarchy’ to see some examples.)

However, if you do this, you’ve just lost something really important and re-structured how the person perceives their values. This is bad.

I know – some of you may be thinking:

“But I’m sure values form a hierarchy. What about the ‘hierarchy of values’? and what about Maslow’s hierarchy?”

Firstly, the hierarchy of values. We made it up and it has lasted because it appeals to our need for simple order. That’s all. Elicit values cleanly and you won’t find a linear hierarchy. Just test it out and see for yourself.

This is not to be confused with a ‘hierarchy of criteria’, which imposes order on criteria (which includes, but is not limited to, values) in order to leverage aspects of that order.

Secondly, Maslow’s work has nothing to do with values whatsoever. Read up on that if you’re still not sure about it.

So you have a list of values and imposing a hierarchy is not going to show you how the values are naturally linked together. What do you do?

You ask a second type of values-elicitation question:

2 – “When you have [value] what does that give you?”

Or simply

“What’s important about [value]?”

This allows you to identify direct relationships between values and therefore you travel down the values chain, rather than across the surface.

For example:

“What’s important to you about work?”
– a sense of accomplishment

“ok, so a sense of accomplishment. When you have that sense of accomplishment, what does that give you?”
– it gives me satisfaction

“Ok. So when you get that satisfaction from your work, what does that give you?”
– a feeling of well-being

So far, we have identified the linear chain [accomplishment -> satisfaction -> well-being] Is it a hierarchy? It looks a lot like one until we keep going.

“What does that well-being give you?”
– a sense of accomplishment

What we really have here is a simple loop. This is not uncommon, by the way and there are other structures to be found too, if you elicit the values chains cleanly.

[By ‘cleanly’, I don’t mean use the ‘clean language’ approach, necessarily. Just stop assuming how the system is ordered and find out what is really there.]

Access the next part of this series to find out:

  • What other structures do values chains form?
  • What strengths and weaknesses does each structure have?

Working with Belief Clusters - Part 3: How Values Form Chains by

Leave a Reply