I’ve been doing a lot of professional development lately, and I keep coming across the word value. Programs talk about providing value for a customer or crafting an article that contains valuable information (not fluff). On the surface, value seems like a simple enough word and I’m sure you can easily think of a definition or two, but, when you look closer, it’s a difficult concept to pinpoint.
It comes from Middle English through the Anglo-French word Valoir, which is based in the Latin word Valere, “to be well, have strength.” Its definitions are many and include:
The regard that something is held to deserve; the relative worth, importance, or usefulness of something
The material or monetary worth of something
The worth of something compared to the price asked; a fair return of goods or services for something exchanged
A numerical amount, magnitude, or quantity calculated or measured
The meaning of a word, letter, or linguistic unit; the tone of a spoken sound
A principle or standard of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life
When we dig into these definitions, we see that value is based on belief, which leads us down a slippery slope since beliefs are changeable and not universally held. Most people agree that the value (meaning) of a smile is to express joy and pass happiness to others, but the value (importance) of a smile to someone would differ from person to person.
Context can also change value. A person out shopping would find the value of their money useful in exchange for goods and services while a person marooned on a deserted island might only value the bills in their pocket for their usefulness as kindling.
Even mathematical values (while not changeable) are based on belief. After all, we created the words, symbols, and systems of math and assigned them meaning. If we were to suddenly disagree on that meaning, math would get a lot harder than it already is. Even the values (principles) people hold are not universally accepted.
So, if we can’t really define value, how do we provide it?
First, stop thinking WIIFM–what’s in it for me. If you are trying to win people to your side or convince them to use your service or buy your product, you need to stop thinking about yourself and start considering what you can give to the other person.
Next, you must give with no expectations of return. If value is the perceived worth of something as compared to its price, then getting something for free will always be an excellent value. Being honest and sincere in all that you do will also maximize value.
Whether you’re selling a product, writing a blog article, networking, or planning your next business venture, remember that people value themselves first. If you put the human above the profit, you will find yourself with loyal customers and friends.