Friday, 30 September 2011

Do you move towards a goal or away from a problem?

Number 2 in our mini-series on language and behaviour patterns continues our exploration of the different patterns that can either make or break our relationships.  There are times when our similarities are important - when we behave like a matched pair of horses, pulling the carriage along at the same pace and rhythm.There are other times when our different strengths give us even more resources. Sadly working with this difference can be challenging, especially if we don't understand it! 
This article explores the differences caused by our motivation to move towards a goal or away from a problem and tells you how to practise noticing either pattern.

Making decisions isn't always easy! 
Sometimes we take the path of least resistance and let life carry on in the way it always has - until something motivates us to make a change. When we examine the bigger decisions we make in life, it seems the first step is often dependant on two factors being in place:
  • sufficient pressure building from behind to make us move away from the difficulties of the situation we're currently in 
  • AND a compelling idea of the benefits the change will bring - something that motivates us to move towards a new goal.
For most of us, however, there is a pattern to our decision-making which betrays a preference to either move towards (a goal) or move away from (a problem). It's tempting to think that people who look forwards are more positive than people who look backwards but that would miss the point that there are advantages and disdavantages to both filters:
  • People who are 'towards' motivated are clear about what they want to achieve. They are good at generating new ideas, are prepared to take risks and respond well to 'carrots'. Many successful people are driven by a vision of what they want to achieve. However, there is a risk of making mistakes on the way
  • People who are 'away from' motivated are good at spotting risks and learn from past mistakes. They respond well to 'sticks'. They are aware of potential problems. Some very successful people are away from motivated because they have an overwhelming desire to avoid poverty. However, they may be vague about what they want to achieve.
How to find out how someone else is motivated
To put it simply, people who are motivated 'towards' tell you what they want, while people who are motivated 'away from' tell you what they don't want. Practise listening to conversations and begin to spot 'away from' and 'towards' patterns. With someone you know, who's willing to play with this, you can check out their patterns more thoroughly by asking a few simple questions:
  1. What is important to you about ...? (eg relationships, family, children, friends)
  2. Wait until you have 3 clear answers (along the lines of love, openness, loyalty...)
  3. Follow up by asking of each of their answers:
    What is important to you about ... (love, openness, loyalty)
    (Be sure to use their words. Any changes on your part will change the meaning for them)
  4. If necessary probe to encourage them to talk a bit more about each thing that is important to them. Notice that their pattern may differ across the answers. That's okay and just shows the context can be important - or they don't have a strong preference for either pattern. A pattern is only a pattern when it is repeated more often than not, so avoid jumping to conclusions. 
What's normal?
We highly recommend Shelle Rose Charvet's book: Words that Change Minds. She goes into much greater detail about this filter and gives us the following information about the normal distribution of these patterns:
40% people are mainly motivated to move away from
20% people equally motivated to move toward and away from
40% people mainly motivated to move toward

What difference does this make?
If you and your partner have different patterns, it is very likely that you will approach the same issue in quite different ways. Understanding your differences will improve your communication and help you avoid misunderstandings. 

If this article has struck a chord with you and you want to learn how to communicate more easily with your partner, give us a call on 0800 298 5938. (No charge to callers in the UK)

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