Why people do what they do

Your recipe for health and contentment during 2012

They say Actions speak louder than words. My take on this is: If you want to know what is REALLY important to people (their “currency”), watch how they behave.

It took me a long time, and many years both at university and through work experience, to discover that people are pretty straightforward. Yes, people are unique; they have an individual social history that has made them who they are. There are nuances that differentiate individuals as well as situational factors that cause variations of behaviour, even within the one individual.

But when you boil it down to the basics, all people take action for two reasons: to reduce pain and increase pleasure. And this is supported by basic biology.

How you can use this to live and work with people more harmoniously and with less stress to you personally

1. Realise that we’re all pretty much the same. Don’t judge others for something you most likely do yourself. (Even if there are differences in how you behave; the underlying motivators are the same, and the principle of self-interest overrides all else. Check it for yourself! Even those doing something for others do it primarily for the way it makes them feel, which is fine.)

2. Work out people’s currency and don’t trade in US dollars if their currency is Singapore dollars (metaphorically speaking.)

3. To change behaviour, if you are a manager, either change the consequences, or ask someone else to do what you want done. Make it clear that if you end up repeatedly asking Person B instead of Person A, the consequences are Person A becomes less and less useful, and eventually becomes commercially irrelevant. (It’s up to them to do what they want with that realisation.)

4. When someone says I don’t have time, translate this as: It’s not that important. Either make it more important or refer to Point 3.

5. When someone says I can’t or It’s impossible, refer to Points 3-4.

6. Don’t get frustrated by others. Mainly because it is counterproductive and an unhealthy lifestyle choice. Your frustration won’t change them. In fact, it could be your frustration (or any negative emotion) traps you and others in an addictive pattern increasing the behaviour you don’t want. Emotions are very sticky – like Velcro. It’s easy to get stuck when there are negative emotions of frustration, annoyance, resentment, guilt………emotions that represent the ‘low road’ according to Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence. (See his book Emotional Intelligence for the scientific evidence of the physical price you pay for indulging these emotions.)

A tip:
Think of yourself as  Teflon – let people’s behaviour slide off the outside (and your own frustration slide off the inside.) This is a healthy lifestyle choice. Make a request. If you don’t get what you need through open, clear, calm, rational conversation, look elsewhere for what you want. Repeat until you have what you want, and not what you don’t!

It makes no sense to keep hitting your head against a wall and complaining about the pain. Unless you enjoy it! Or are addicted to it – Prof Cliff Abraham at Otago University has some great insight into addictive behaviours.

Make different choices during 2012 and don’t worry; be happy.

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About Cherri Holland

Fascinated with business, brains and how to use the brains on the payroll to make business buzz.
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