Giving Voice to Your Values

 I had the pleasure of interviewing Mary Gentile for the Teaching Teachers to Teach Values program for the International Humanistic Management Association. 

As this involves giving voice to your values and because I am all about giving voice to values - specifically humanistic values, I wanted to share what I learned from her here.

In her presentation, Ms. Gentile pointed out that a lot of what Giving Voice to Values (GVV) is about, is asking and answering different questions. For instance, instead of asking what the right thing to do is, ask how you can do the right thing.  Then, practice saying whatever it is you are going to say.  The purpose is to give people practice at acting ethically in ethically challenging situations.  This is like creating muscle memory through repetition so that when someone is challenged, they will behave ethically even if their mind is scared. 

To teach these, she focuses on clear cut ethical situations. She then poses the question, how do you get the right thing done. This is about behaving ethically, not just thinking critically about ethical behavior.  It is for the pragmatists who want to be ethical, but aren't sure if they can be effective if they speak up and give voice to their values. By helping them practice this, it helps them see themselves behaving ethically and by their values in difficult situations.

This does work cross culturally. She focuses on what she calls Hypernorms, or Super values, that are shared with all humans. The cultural differences are about what unethical behavior is tolerated in each culture and how and whether people tolerate it or speak up about it. The training on this is to help people imagine what they would do if they could to combat unethical behavior. 

When she teaches this in a cross cultural environment she does 5 things.

  • Acknowledge the reality of the local culture and the problems with being ethical in that culture
  • Respect those difference and the fact that most people are NOT thrilled with whatever the reality is.
  • Conduct thought experiments on what if you could do something to change that, what would that be?
  • She provides real life examples from that culture or nation of someone who has confronted the unethical culture successfully. This helps give people a sense of pride and that yes, WE can do it, whoever the WE is.
  • She explains the metaphor of using one's voice doesn't necessarily mean - yelling or ranting. It can be many things. It's about giving voice to YOUR values and encouraging you to think of ways to handle difficult situations with your ethics intact and then to practice them. 

Her websites have free resources 

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