Communication: 3 Reasons Not To Impose Your Values On Others 11

It’s the best deal, so just take it.

The woman hobbled up to the counter with 4 books in her arms, each cost a dollar. I was working the cash register and wanted to help her so I said “You know you can get 10 books for $5, right?”

“You have to upsell. I get it, but all I want are these 4 books.” I was a little confused.

“I don’t have to upsell, it’s just $1 dollar more for twice as many books. It’s a way better deal.” I honestly thought I was helping her. We argued about it. After an extended, confusing and frustrating conversation, she left with the four books she wanted. I couldn’t understand it at all.

What’s her problem?

The interaction left me agitated. Why wouldn’t she just take the better deal? What was wrong with her? Why was she being so unreasonable? Did she just not understand or what? Over time I’ve come to realize we simply had different values. Now the real question is, why was I trying to impose my values on her?

We’ve all been guilty of imposing our values on others at one time or another, but it doesn’t seem to do much good. The more we try to force others to share our values, the more disjointed and broken our bonds become. Instead of forcing them into our mold, we have much to gain by simply understanding their view of the world. Here are three reasons against trying to impose your values on others.

1. It can make them feel like you don’t understand them or care to.

Look at my new blue car. You should have gotten green. Never mind that their favorite color is blue. You think green is better and that’s what matters. Or does it? The more you push one of your values, the more marginalized the other person will feel.

By the end of our conversation, the lady from the book store left frustrated. She explained multiple times that she didn’t want more books – those were the ones she wanted. Instead of trying to understand her values, I just kept asking her to change her mind. I’m sure it was a negative experience and I never saw her again.

Would you keep interacting with someone who doesn’t listen to your values and tells you what you want? Probably not. It feels like they’re trying to steal your autonomy and control. No one wants to be pushed around.

2. It’s not an effective strategy to change minds or behavior.

If you truly want a chance at persuading someone, you must first demonstrate understanding of their position. Otherwise, how will they know you’re even on the same page? The woman in the example told me her preferences, but I ignored them. I thought pressing onward would change her mind and eventually she would find out I was right.

The more I pushed her in one direction, the more tense the argument got. I tried to show different angles, thinking it would help. I even said, if I were you, I’d want more books at a better value. What a terrible argument! She’s a completely different person than I am, just because it’s what I would do doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for her. The more I pushed, the further I got from changing her decision.

3. Even If they give in, what does it do for you?

Cut your hair, babe. Cut your hair. On the 500th attempt, your significant other finally complies with the request, but what have you gained? A small victory in terms of your preferences, but at an almost certain cost to the relationship. You’ve communicated that your preferences are more important than theirs for something that belongs to them. This is not a solid foundation to build upon. 

I’ve used a trivial example like cutting hair because these are exactly the type of issues individuals try to impose on others. If you can’t even get beyond the small issues, the heavier ones are going to be a real nightmare. 

Other people shouldn’t need to adopt your values.

The real question is, why do other people have to act in a certain way for you to feel satisfied? If the lady bought those books, what would I have gotten from it? A moment of satisfaction in ‘being right’. What would she have gotten? An awkward, pressured feeling. Trying to force my values accomplished nothing meaningful. What’s the point? The harder you try to make someone else conform, the more damaged the relationship will be.  

In closing, it’s far better to listen to people’s wants and desires and help them achieve those than to impose your own. Once you understand their wants, you can give them your best recommendation based on what they want. If you want to sway their opinion, you’ll need to prove you understand their thoughts before moving on. You might learn something you didn’t know. I hope that helps, best of luck!


The next time you want someone to act a certain way, ask yourself why? Is it what you think is in their best interest? Have you factored in their desires and beliefs or only what you would do in the circumstance?

Think about how pushing your values on someone else will impact your relationships. Have you done this recently? How did it go?


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11 thoughts on “Communication: 3 Reasons Not To Impose Your Values On Others

  • Anonomys

    I find many women in today’s world try to do to men exactly what this article portrays between the lines…
    For example my lady pushes her values on me that dying my hair is wrong, vein, and a desperate grasp for youth which is completely wrong. The truth is my little bit of grey come in patchy and comprises to an odd weird look so i use a bit of toner in some places to even it out… For business purposes alone i know people appreciate a uniformed comfortable look but my lady tries to impose her will I should not color my hair. And when I stated this is my boundary that I have control over my own look for artistic and business purposes she pushed even harder and tried bullying me.
    The truth is, that I think she is very jealous and insecure because I’m a very attractive 38 year old man that when I shave and tone down my grey I literally look 10 years younger and people guess my age mid 20s. Many yonger women stare at me when we walk by them so I understand. But I feel she has no right to tell me if I am to color my hair or not especially when it is semi essential for business, and as a natural artist to have my body as my canvas to interfere with my picture / creation… nnor does she have the right because she colors her hair herself…
    insecurity hidden behind nonsensical imposition of her values and yelling at me to not color my hair is very damaging… Also masking behind statements suck as “I like you just the way you are” negating the fact that the way I am is choices I make for my look to A. bread confidence in business B. artistic expression and C. What man doesn’t like when hot young women look at them? On the last note, I do not respond to the flirtatious smiles nor speak to any other woman as I am a tried tested and true man the doesn’t mess around because I’m simple a good man plus I have a high stress job that demands much focus and too much lose.
    But to my lady my needs do not matter as much as her “values” as she calls them when she cannot handle her own insecurities so she has to bring me down down for my choices when I know they serve not only my self, my business but the both of us…
    I understand where she may be coming from and thats why i sent her the link to this article as I really like this article’s final closing paragraph to help them achieve their happiness. I for one to simply say, my values aside, if you are happy I am happy because that’s how you build relationships by making one another happy.

  • Pamela

    Thank you.I like how simple you made this.I do not try and impose my views on others.I can’t say I never have or haven’t done it unintentionally.But generally I stay quiet.For instance I do not agree with abortion and it is something I would not do but I do not go around telling people who are pro abortion to not be that way.Also I,think that changing your sex is wrong but I do not tell people who do they are wrong or tell men I think they should just be the sex they wer given.I stay quiet.But I really have a problem these days with people telling me that if I do not think that being a,transsexual is wrong then something is wrong with me.To me these days it seems like more and more people who claim to be so pro humanistic and pro diversity seem to be saying that everyone needs to think like them or I am some how a “bad”person.More and more I have to remind my self not to let others opinion of me matter.

    • Janet

      People generally aren’t pro abortion. They’re pro your right to choose. That’s why it’s called pro choice.
      My mother’s doctors gave her the choice to abort me because of possible severe medical complications but she chose not to.
      However, my church going, evangelical mother is pro choice.
      I turned out to be completely healthy and am pro choice, rather pro it’s a decision between a woman her partner, her doctor, her family and not me.

      Most prolifers I’ve come across have never had to make that decision but want to oppose their uninformed will on people whose personal situations they don’t know or care to anything about.

      That’s why they’re labeled “bad” people. As to the “so pro humanistic, pro diversity” crowd; people on every side of the coin put their beliefs and values ahead of other people’s humanity. It stinks when you’re on the receiving end of that.

      • nate

        Janet, whether a person has ever had to make a decision about abortion is a senseless pro choice argument. First, people choose to have children more than they choose to abort them. The choice to have the baby is a choice not to about the baby. Second, people to not have to commit abortion in order to have the right to agree or disagree with it. I have never murdered anyone, but I know murder is immoral and that no one should do it. Third, if a woman chooses to have a baby and day decides to kill it, should she be able to do so? Absolutely not! The only difference between the baby in the womb and the baby outside the womb is location. Your belief that abortion should be kept legal is based on location. The baby’s location is in the womb, you have the choice to kill him/her. The baby’s location is outside the womb, you no longer have the choice. This thinking is illogical. Intentionally killing an innocent human being regardless of his/her location is always murder.

        • Erosmuse

          Nate, I understand how you feel and I respect your right to feel that way. However I must be one of those people who think that you can get someone to change their mind or view with more factual information. But I have found regardless of your fact based reasoning and honest respect for their point of view. There are going to be people no matter how logical or factual you are about abortion they are not going to change their mind. Because they believe in their god given right to think and believe the way they do and it’s that god given right they want you to respect. Now that’s fine but the problem with that is they do hold that same respect when others wish to express there free will. Some how it’s not a free will issue that others can enjoy as having an abortion is not covered. Your feelings about abortion is a moral decision based on your religion. Killing a person is morally wrong that we have all agreed upon and that has to be true about our free will. So in order to up hold the two we must find a middle ground as to when life begins (location) and when we find that middle ground we then can make the moral decision about abortion as we use logic, science and reasoning to allow us to find a moral solution at the same time respect free will. That’s why I don’t see providing more information to pro life advocates as imposing on their free will or anyone else who is making decision based on limited information. The problem comes when you have people stuck on their belief and refuse to take in new or different facts about the issues they hold dear. It’s not that I want them to think as I do, I just want them to have access to all the facts regardless of what their beliefs are. Because I believe we have free will and we can only make the best of it with the information we allow ourselves to know. My suggestion to you Nate is find out a little bit more about abortion and who has them or why. Then ask yourself is it worth giving up your free will for?

  • Dera Johnson

    I have been guilty of trying to impose my values on others, especially regarding politics,if Im honest it’s my ego needing to be right. I have since stopped this useless dialogue.I now have friends on both sides of the aisle. I recognize that we all have many dimensions, and who am I to correct others, in short, Ive learned to SHUT UP more and listen more.

  • Diane Krause

    My husband is OCD and has an obsessive complusive personality. He insists that I do the housework his way and do prep for meals his way. He also insists I limit my mobile device time to phone calls only. If I dont to things his way and in the timeframe he says, he says I am lazy and disorganised. He also states that person close to me told him I need to be told what to do and how and when which I think is a lie as no one close to me has indicated that this was said to him.

    • Jeanne

      I guess I did not realize I was imposing
      My values or religeous ideas on them.
      All of a sudden it makes me realize how
      Vunerable I can make someone feel.
      Just this in my life now ,opens up a can
      Of worms. What else am I hiding behind?