On Standards

By Chris Chittenden

“A culture is not an abstract thing. It is a living, evolving process. The aim is to push beyond standard-setting and asserting human rights to make those standards a living reality for people everywhere.”

… Mary Robinson (1944 - ) Irish political leader

One thing we know about all human beings is that they have opinions and are continually in a process of making assessments of their experiences and the people they know or know about. Our assessments and opinions are not baseless rather they are steeped in standards often seen as the values, preferences and prejudices we hold in life. Hence whenever we hear an opinion or an assessment we can also infer a standard. Given that our opinions and assessments are very personal in nature, it follows that our standards are also personal in nature. Yet even though our standards are based on our own experience they are also born out of the standards of the communities in which we live. From the time we are born, we are observing the standards of those around us and using this as a basis for understanding the world in which we live.

One of the breakdowns we regularly see in issues between people lies in a difference of standards that show up in different assessments of a situation leading to some sort of conflict or disagreement. More often than not people do not consider the standards on which their assessments are based but enter into an argument to force their point of view. If standards form the basis of assessments and these assessments are then used to make decisions, it follows that the more consistent the standards within a group of people, the more consistent will be their decisions. This is not limited to technical standards and includes standards associated with performance, behaviour and relationships. Yet conversations to establish shared standards are often foregone.

Consider these questions.

How well do you know your own standards? If you are not able to easily articulate your own standards, you will not be able to articulate them clearly to others. If you are not able to easily and clearly articulate your own standards, what can you do to do this? A good place to start with this is to look at key opinions or assessments you hold. These will point to some underlying standards.

If you are aware of your key standards and can easily articulate them, how often do you communicate these to others and, if needed, generate a shared standard to deal with situations? You might consider your work situation here, particularly if you lead others. Here you can look to points of conflict and you will almost certainly find differences of standards. What can you do to better develop shared standards?

Ultimately shared standards will always provide a much better platform for more effective group interactions and outcomes.

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© 2008 Chris Chittenden