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Motivation Informs -
Behavior Confuses

Conscious Communication: bringing communication up from "auto-pilot" and reactive, to thoughtful, responsive, and above all, intentional.

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Motivation Informs / Behavior Confuses
(click for podcast)


One of the most common things to block our ability to connect with each other starts with trying to explain “why” by observing “what” people do.

Observing behavior can be done with very little interaction or commitment. There’s a sense of safety and self-protection served by not getting into the mix with someone. You don’t need to be involved to merely observe. You get to avoid uncertainties and emotions, and you don’t have to expose yourself either.

On closer inspection this means that the image you want to portray is interacting with the image that they want to portray, and neither of you is really present. It’s a blind “Punch and Judy” puppet show, which isn’t the most effective way to communicate.

If it works at all, it’s pretty much by accident. Nevertheless, like a bad habit, we continue to do this detached observation, to avoid the potential discomfort of being exposed or having to deal with another person’s issues. Somehow we convince ourselves that we’re getting better results than we actually are.

Aside from the lack of real information this process produces, a form of conflict gets built-in to the interaction. This conflict is the battle of perspectives masquerading as empirical truths.

"What We See" on the Outside Doesn't Equal
"Why We Do It" from the Inside

Some things work both directions and some don’t. Our behavior is driven by our motivations, but our motivations are not driven by our actions. The motivations come first, and behavior follows. The order of events is very important when we look at a process.

Let’s look at each event in the order they take place to better understand our process. First, we take in the world around us through our perspectives, or to put it in colloquial terms, “where we’re at.” Those perspectives are directly linked to our motivations and our focus of attention. Our perspectives, motivations, and focus of attention define who we are, and that’s what steers our behavior.

This means we could do the same things given different motivations as easily as we could do different things given the same motivation. This is really important, so it bears repeating: we could do the same things given different motivations as easily as we could do different
things given the same motivation. So our behaviors can’t define who we are; they’re just too many steps removed from the “why.”

Motivation, perspective, and focus of attention are what define who you are. If all I work with is observing what you do, I can’t possibly understand you, because I don’t know “why?” If I can’t understand you, how can I expect to interact or work with you effectively.

Strategic Implications
What people do actually only tells you about their survival strategies; by definition their most defended positions. These are learned strategies that are more about circumstances, and have nothing to do with who the person really is. Trying to work with that defended behavior is basically communication’s version of storming the walls; not the most effective approach.

Unfortunately it’s an extremely common approach. So many people are looking for better ways to storm the walls; more effective weapons, better armor, and so on.

“How can I get them to do what I want?” is almost a catch-phrase in management. The short answer of course is that you can’t “get” them to do what you want. At least you can’t do it in any kind of sustainable way. Being whipped, cajoled, or manipulated into action usually results in most of the person’s energy being expended toward escaping to freedom.

You can, however work with people to a common goal. By understanding their motivations, you can join with them on their side of the wall without conflict. You can present the goal to them in a way that appeals to their motivations, rather than just your own. Truly understanding your own motivations is necessary as well. You need to be able to recognize them and see where they might be getting in
the way

Choosing Understanding Over Frustration
Trying to predict future behavior based on observing past behavior is at best a gamble. Even if you occasionally guess correctly, you still don’t understand what makes that person tick, which puts you in a position of judgment, frustration, and confusion.

You can’t understand motivation through observed behavior. You can however understand behavior when you know the motivation. Understanding the behavior beats observing it without understanding any day. That understanding gives you something real to work with. That understanding puts you on the same team with the other person, rather than at odds with them. Which do you think will be
more effective?


Quick Communication Tip

"If That Were Me"
One of the most insidious phrases in our lives consists of those four little words. That phrase opens the door to a world of inaccurate assumptions and projections. When we try to extrapolate why someone is saying or doing what they're saying or doing from "why we would," we're doing everyone a great disservice. First of all, the odds that the other person shares your perspectives, life experiences, parental upbringing, and even biology are pretty small. Since all of those things are why you would say or do that, what are the odds that the other person is saying or doing it for the same reasons you would?

So the next time you hear those four words at the beginning of a projected explanation for someone else's behavior, catch yourself and stop. Remind yourself that you have absolutely no idea why they are saying that or doing that unless you ask them. Then if you can, ask them. If you can't ask them why, at least give them the benefit of the doubt, because you really don't know, and pretending to have an answer is just a placeholder that blocks real information.

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series

KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (Podcast Snippets)
Communication Excellence (full interview)

Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain

Kind Ambition -
2nd Edition now available

Got Blog? c
ome visit the Blog.

Character Driven - Ever want to create characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were characters?



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