Tuesday, November 4, 2014


What defines value?

Interestingly, value is an action that we place upon something. That action can come in the form of a word, a deed or and action. By the same token, we can devalue in a converse response.

Some years ago I was in Africa on a speaking engagement when I was taken into the village to meet people and eat. During this time, I was taken aback by a group of children who were playing with an old discarded motorcycle Tyre. Twenty of so children had gathered with sticks and had devised a game, where two sides were engaged with rolling the tyre from one end of the dusty track to the other, in an attempt to gain points by reaching the oppositions “goal line.” Fascinated by this total engagement by all and sundry, it became clear that the tyre was “public property”, all sharing equal ownership, responsibility and favour towards it. It was a community resource of great value and mutual respect. 

Something that we would consign to the organic rubbish collection was in this context, of immense value and worth tor the community. My first reaction was to improve their game with a soccer ball, only to be advised that it would likely be frowned upon as this tyre had been with the community for generations.

The intrinsic value of an object or person is defined by those around it. We can improve any perceived value by the way we respond to it.

This response is threefold:

1.       By our actions towards it

2.       By our language about it

3.       By the priority given to it

One only needs to visit an auction to see this in motion. Those bidding, determine the perceived value which equates to an increased perception of the object on offer. The highest bidder places a greater value than those who don’t. A person’s action has placed the value, whereas others have diminished it.

The same principle applies towards those we love or hate. One cannot remain neutral, for to not act, places a value just as activity does. We establish the value on relationships daily, and we choose to increase or decrease that person’s worth by acting in a way that places a higher or lesser value. A derogatory word, a demeaning conversation, a slap or a punch, or lowering the priority the individual gets, are all ways of placing value.

Not everyone perceives the same value and in fact, many would see their time as the most precious of all commodities and yet, one of the key ways in which we can show a person we value them is the time we are prepared to give to them. Others will rarely value your needs higher than their own needs and wants. It is imperative therefore that we must first determine ones own value, thus ensuring that others don’t devalue it. I don’t subscribe to the ethos that I am more valuable than anyone else, but I am no less value either.

So how can we ensure that we act in a way that increase the value of another, whilst ensuring that we don’t devalue ourselves in the process? I believe the key is found in the threefold factors mentioned above.

1.       Our actions determine what value we place

     The old saying of “actions speak louder than words” is inaccurate. Our words can devalue someone or something in a heartbeat. To say our children’s school activity is important to us and yet we turn up late or not at all, has already devalued the individual and event in the child’s mind. To say you will look after a loaned object and yet use it in a way that devalues it, speaks volumes. To bully, lush, flick or annoy someone is devaluing the relationship and the person.

2.       Our language and conversation places a value

      He’s rubbish, that team are ****, and comments on social media can do irreparable damage. Bullying with words is the latest craze and it robs people of worth and value. Even if something is true, the way we communicate it can have serious consequences to that person’s value within a community. Language is such a throw away resource. Often the words used have long term consequences and rob an individual of self-worth. We all do it, but we shouldn’t as each word either adds or detracts from the total value.

3.       The priority we give to a person or event determines what value we place.

      I recently sold an item and the buyer arranged a day, time and place in which to pick it up. I confirmed the event with him and it came and went. Days later, I was still trying to communicate with him about his purchase and finally told him I would re-list the item and thanked him. His response to me was a clear indication that he believed my time was worth less than his. He had devalued the transaction. Ironically, his website advertised himself as “Reliable, honest and punctual.” Our priorities determine the value we hold on the event.
      What I hold as great value, other may see as junk. Just as the motorcycle wheel in Africa, it held little actual value, yet to the community it was priceless. 
      Our world may be full of inventions and resources which many place high value upon, yet the greatest value we can ever instill in another is how we act, how we speak and how important we hold the activities of another. 

      You see, it’s within everyone’s capacity to place added value on humanity. And its cost? Very little!

      Value – What defines it?