The Value Exchange

EVERYTHING is a value exchange, and therefore understanding how value is exchanged is the key to successful communication, relationships and business.  I speak often about how fundamental perception is to our understanding of the world and each other, and Value Exchange is directly hooked up to perception.
The most common and easily understood method of exchanging value is money.  A concept we’re all familiar with from an early age, and yet it takes many of us years to truly understand that money is not a solid and known quantity, but an exchange of value.  If a loaf of bread costs $1 today, and tomorrow it costs $1.25, what changed?  The loaf of bread remains the same.  The physical $1 note in your hand remains the same.  It’s the value of the money that changed.  The $1 note that was worth a whole loaf of bread yesterday, today is worth less.  Not because the physical note changed, but because the perceived value of the note changed.
In Zimbabwe, trying to keep up with the perceived value of money is an hourly task.  The value of what’s in your bank versus what’s in your hand, and what form the money in your hand takes are all factors of the Value Exchange and at the mercy of daily opinion.  We have websites devoted to tracking these values and if you’ve ever tried to explain it to someone outside of Zimbabwe you can literally see their brains start to take strain and smoke come out of their ears.  At the end of the day, it’s a simple value exchange.  It depends what makes people feel safe on the day and what their primary needs and priorities are.  This is the core of the Value Exchange.

It depends what makes people feel safe on the day and what their primary needs and priorities are.  This is the core of the Value Exchange.

That statement above is the very heart of the matter when it comes to exchanging value.  We do it every day in a million different ways – sometimes successfully and sometimes not.  There are those who’ve mastered the wizardry of sales by explaining how their square peg will fit into the round hole you’re trying to fill.  There are those who guard themselves furiously against a world that asks more than they’re willing to give.  And there are those who have truly mastered the ability to listen and perceive the value exchange needed to enable relationships to work for both parties to maximum strength, productivity and joy.  This is leadership, and it’s no mean feat. 
Mastering Value Exchange requires listening so that you can hear what the other person needs and prioritises.  It requires empathy so that you can respect how important another person’s needs are.  It requires the willingness to create mutual respect by talking through what you need versus what they need, and it requires integrity in the delivery of those mutual needs.  A tall order?  It’s actually easier than you think.  And considering it forms the core of everything we do, it’s worth a shot!
For those of you who wish to experiment with and improve on your Value Exchange skills, look for the pointers of discomfort, awkwardness, frustration and discord to figure out where to work on your value exchange with another person.  Here are a few “simple” considerations for the week ahead:


Time is our most valuable commodity – it’s the one thing we can’t get back.  No matter whether you’re Richard Branson, the Queen or you and me, we all get the stock standard 24 hours in a day.  It’s what we do with that time that counts.  Children are well aware of the value of time.  If you’ve ever tried to form a new relationship with a child – there’s really only one way to earn yourself any genuine depth – and that’s exchanging your time with them.  Not only your time, but your focus and your input on whatever level they need to feel it on.  Children don’t accept shortcuts here, and yet somewhere along the line we’ve all learned to take and accept shortcuts.  We don’t value our own time or others like we should.  Not only do we waste our own time and other’s, but we attach odd values to what we do use our time for.  We have warped ideas about what’s valuable to spend your time doing and what you should feel guilty spending your time doing.  This skewed perception is responsible for burnouts, heart attacks, and many arguments about whether jobs that don’t have dollar signs attached to them are as valuable as those that do.
This week, reassess the value of your time and who you give it to and see what results you get.  Don’t give your time to those who don’t respect it.  Rather invest it in those who desperately need and value it – and that includes yourself.  Seek out that person you know is pushing for understanding from you (remember the frustration, discord etc pointers) and make an effort to sit with them to determine their needs and make a mutually beneficial value exchange.  You may find they know something you need to know. 
Make it a point to be 5 min early for every meeting to allow yourself time to get in the zone and to show others that you respect your own time and theirs.


Communication is a Value Exchange.  The problem is that most of us are speaking slightly different languages because we all come from our own perception of the world, and we all have different needs and priorities.  How we all communicate and how to get on the same page is a huge topic on its own, but let’s take it right down to its basics this week.  Assume that the way you perceive the world is slightly different to every other human being around you and make it your mission to ensure that the correct value is exchanged in as many of your communications as you can.  You’ll know that true and mutually understood value has been exchanged when you see the light go on in the face of the other person.  Until that light goes on, you aren’t on the same page.
If you work in a team of people, I guarantee you that there is someone who thinks in a completely different way to you.  This is the person who it never feels like you’re completely on the same page as – your conversations are always a little uncomfortable and frustrating and it literally feels like you’re speaking different languages.  Perhaps you see things in pretty pictures, and they see all the details.  Perhaps it feels like you’re dealing with logic and they….just aren’t.  At the core of this exchange is the fact that you can’t truly exchange value with each other if you can’t understand each other.  And you can’t understand each other if you don’t take the time to ascertain what that person values and give it to them.  Perhaps they need you to understand the importance of what they’re doing, but you think the intricacies just aren’t of interest to you.
I challenge you to pick out this person and go and exchange your time with them.  Find out what it is they value, and then talk about what it is you value, and see if you can’t arrange an exchange that makes you both feel heard.  Invest in creating a more comfortable rate of exchange that allows productivity and ease.


When fair exchange of value has not been made, you’re likely to get or feel an ego reaction.  I spoke about the concept of Fair Exchange in a previous article, (in fact I wrote a series of 4 articles on it) and the Value Exchange is not that far removed from it.  When you give more than you take, you feel resentful.  When you take more than you give, you feel guilty.  If you’re getting an ego reaction from someone else, or you’re feeling one yourself, then your exchange of value is off.  This week, focus on this indicator when you see or feel it and have a look at how you can renegotiate.
Our ego jumps around when our sense of self-worth is challenged.  Maybe you’ve blown someone off because you didn’t have time to understand their value – they’re going to have a reaction to that.  Perhaps someone has disrespected your time or your input – you’re going to feel that mis-exchange.  If you see or feel the indicator, your job then becomes to access what you value and find out what the other person values and negotiate a fair exchange.
If you’d like a massive hint at what it is we all value, here’s a link to The 6 Basic Human Needs.  They’re not as complicated as you’d think, and very few of them have anything to do with money!
Hopefully after reading the above, you can see how intertwined the three considerations I’ve given you are.  Balancing time, communication and self-worth in our exchange of value is the art we’re trying to refine. 
Once you start to see the Value Exchange in a few scenarios, you’ll start to see it everywhere.  Once you start to focus on practising negotiating fair value exchange, you’ll notice that your success in all your relationships increases drastically – whether that’s at home, in your team, or with your clients.  You may also realise why teaming up with people who share common values is so imperative. 
EVERYTHING is a value exchange.  Look out for the warning signs when fair value has not been traded – powerful people renegotiate until everyone is strong.  Remember the key:
It depends what makes people feel safe on the day and what their primary needs and priorities are.  Yours and theirs.

by Christen Killick

June 10th, 2019

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