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NLP and Your Values

Values are central to motivation, behaviour, relationships and happiness. Values are sometimes called criteria in some factions.

One dictionary definition is that values are the principles and beliefs which a person or group think are important. Most often values are unconscious, and have been inherited from our parents or culture, or decided upon at a young age and never re-evaluated, so we can end up with values that are not congruent with who we really are. If you simply ask a person what their values are, you will usually get a list of admirable qualities such as honesty, love, peace, community and so on, and yet observation frequently informs us that people’s actions are not consistent with these stated values.

Why is this?

One reason is because people will say what they think their values should be, or what they think other people expect. In other words people have moralistically ideal values. These are not real, they have no authenticity, they are born out of survival and are simply there to portray an image to others. There is no blame sanctioned by saying that truth, it has come about from thousands of years of persecution where people were bullied into spurious belief systems for fear of death. It wasn’t a good idea to say “no” to the Spanish Inquisition!

So how can we find out what our real values are?

In NLP we can work backwards from actions to values. If you were to write down everything you do in a week, that will show you what values are actually motivating your actions. For example, if you leave work every day at five o’clock so that you can meet your friends at the pub, that would indicate that friendship is one of your core values. It could be that your love of drinking is also inside that value, yet let’s take it that bonding (whatever the fluid that increases that bond), is the highest value. Being on time every day, taking the time to ensure your clothes are clean and ironed – these kind of actions suggest it is important how you appear to other people: You value community and respect.


Values can be both “Towards” and “Away From”. A person who has grown up in a very poor family might have a strong “away from poverty” value, while another person may have developed an equally strong “towards financial success” value, and although superficially similar they are not the same and can result in very different behaviours. Someone motivated towards money might be willing to take high risks, whereas someone trying to avoid losing money may act much more conservatively, or fail to take opportunities because of a perceived loss of money.

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When a group’s values are similar or aligned, they will usually experience harmony, a sense of belonging and rapport. On the other side of the coin, I have been into many companies, who ask their employees to adhere to a set of values that a few people in the boardroom have put together to please the inspectorate. These values hardly ever are successful and cause resentment within the ranks. Personal values are a high level of motivation and will even supersede beliefs! For example, if a stranger approached you for money and you had a belief that it’s wrong to give money to strangers you wont, obviously. Yet if the same stranger appealed to you on behalf of a crippled child who needed immediate assistance to survive and you could see it, then your values may well kick in to override the belief.

You may already be aware how important it is to find out a persons values early on in a relationship. In fact I would say it’s the most important information you can possibly discover about someone. Once you know their values, you know how to motivate them and how to bring them alongside forever! Being able to elicit values easily, and to change them when they are not providing you with the results you want is an essential part of NLP Training, and is one of the most useful skills you will learn in the NLP Master Practitioner Course or our NLP Online Practitioner course

NLP and your Values by Terry Elston

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