Understanding Yourself to Motivate Others

     Your individual style affects your communication with others. What you know about yourself and how you feel about yourself determine to a great extent your attitudes toward others and how you relate to them and communicate with them. Lack of awareness of your own feelings and attitudes may be thwarting the accomplishment of your goals in your career, in your family, and with friends. Increased awareness of your own feelings and what motivates you inevitably helps you communicate more constructively to reach your goals.

What Motivates People

     The goal of communication is mutual understanding by sender and receiver, and some change – in an attitude or action, or in both. Mutual understanding depends on understanding oneself and understanding others. When you know what motivates people, you can communicate more effectively with them to help them reach their goals and to help you reach yours. Human beings are complicated, and no simplistic rules exist for understanding what causes them to behave as they do  But insight into motivation helps you build bridges of understanding.

     Three basic principles provide insight into why people behave in certain ways.

     Principle #1. Behavior is caused. People are motivated for two basic reasons:      either to gain a benefit or to avoid a loss. Understanding more fully why people move either toward certain behavior to gain a benefit or move away from certain behavior to avoid a loss can help you interact more effectively with them

     Motivation is a “motive” for “action.” A motive is a reason, purpose, or goal; an action is to go, do, or act. Motivation is both motive and action combined: goal directed action. When someone sets a goal and starts working toward it, that person is motivated. In the truest sense of the word, you cannot motivate someone else; you can only create an environment conducive to motivation.

     Too many people try to use fear motivation, based on force, or incentive motivation, based on external reward, to get people to do what they want done. Fear and incentive motivation are only temporary because they involve non-personal, external needs only. Also, external fear and incentive tactics do not help individuals develop and use their innate talents and abilities. The only permanent motivation is attitude motivation, based on inward change. When people do something because they want to, not because they think they have to, when they are pursuing their own goals, then and only then are they truly motivated. Lasting motivation taps into the minds and hearts of others – not just their pocketbooks or their fears.

     Principle #2. People are more likely to act on feelings or emotions than on logic. Regardless of how people arrive at certain judgments or beliefs, they are moved to action by feelings or emotions much more than by logic. Feelings play a more significant role in human behavior than most people recognize. In addition, feelings are created by what each person believes to be true, not by what others believe to be true. Experiences of people and how people react to those experiences form their feelings and their beliefs more than what someone else simply tells them. Even the most stoic, controlled individual is motivated more by feelings than others generally realize.

     Take feelings or emotions into consideration when interacting with others. Understanding and using the power of emotion in communication enables you to reach mutual understanding and win/win results more often.

     Principle #3. People act for their reasons, not yours. When people think for themselves and solve their own problems, they are much more highly motivated.        

     People rarely change patterns of behavior without considering the impact of their choice. They usually think about a situation before they take action on it. Admittedly, some people do a great deal more thinking and others do less thinking. But when you are aware that people act for their own reasons, you become increasingly concerned about what motivates them, not just what motivates you. With this awareness, you can guide their thinking toward constructive, self-motivated actions.

     To dramatically improve your communication results, keep in mind these principles explaining why people think, feel, and act as they do. Remember that different people take different paths to gain a benefit or to avoid a loss, but there is always a cause or a reason they behave as they do. The patterns of behavior of human beings are infinite, but people are motivated more to action when they are led and encouraged to act in ways that meet their needs.

Leadership Management Institute
Reprinted with permission
Strategic Essentials is a Managing Partner for Leadership Management International.

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