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The secrets of telepathy


The art of motivating people doesn't have to be a mystery. Justin Collinge argues that it's all about understanding their set of filters.

Mark and David are my identical twin sons. They have the same genes and upbringing and while similar in some areas, they’re also different with individual likes and dislikes and they are motivated and energised by different things. And that’s identical twins. People are all a complex mixture of experience, values, beliefs, motivators and de-motivators and all can behave in complex and unexpected ways.

As a trainer it is really helps to understand the different ways people respond and to be able to tune into these motivators quickly and elegantly. One helpful model for this process is to understand that we all have a set of filters which sit between our inner representation of the world (how we experience it) and the outside reality.

These filters explain why we can look at something and completely miss the obvious while at the same time noticing some fine detail. It helps explain why we can say something and the hearer seems to hear something completely different. If we can tune into and notice those filters we can get a wonderful insight into the best way to communicate and motivate an individual or group. Here is a brief exploration of two of these filters and how you might use them:

Direction filter

It has been said that all behaviour comes from a desire to get what we want or to avoid what we don’t want. To gain pleasure or escape pain. Whether you buy into that or not it does provide an interesting way of understanding people’s motivations. Some people are very strongly motivated by a need to get away from what they don’t want, whilst others are strongly motivated towards what they do want.

Although this can be context sensitive we tend to be very consistent in the way we use this filter (ie while we can be different at home from at work we tend to be consistent within the context). For example when it comes to money, I'm strongly 'away from,' that is to say, I’m not all that bothered about being rich and getting stuff. However, I’m very motivated by the threat of being poor and not being able to do things. So in this area I’m easy to motivate, just tell me about the things I can’t have and what I’ll miss out on.

Here are some hints to look out for: 'Towards' people tend to like targets and like to think about 'the next thing', they might take unnecessary risks and don’t find threats or sanctions motivating. 'Away from' people tend to like deadlines and to make sure something’s finished, they can be distracted from the current needs by the need to fix something wrong and they find threats, sanctions and time constraints quite motivating. Spot anyone you know?

For example my 'away from' colleague sometimes finds life a bit overwhelming – there are too many things that need fixing and it’s getting on top of her. All that I need to do is provide a little time to let her mend what’s broken before moving on and she’s fine!

When I want to help her do her best, I know that giving a deadline will help, while offering feedback highlighting where she’s getting it wrong helps too. And I can change my language to suit as well: “If you don’t get this finished in time you won’t be able to go on to the next thing. Then you’ll have me looking over your shoulder waiting for it.”

None of this works at all on my 'towards' son. For him clear goals and targets with associated rewards work best. So I emphasise the gains of getting it right. As before I need to change my language to suit him: “If you get this finished by the end of the week you’ll be able to get on with what you really want to do.”

Frame of reference filter

Some people judge things by internal criteria while others make judgements only when they have feedback from others. To put that simply, some just know when they’ve done well or badly and some have no idea whether it’s any good or not without people telling them.

Not sure which you are? Answer this question: “How do you know when you’ve done a good job?” The answer will either be because you feel it or because other people tell you or a mixture of the two. Once you know this information certain behaviours become clear.

For example, Graham is an 'external frame of reference' person and so I am careful to give clear feedback telling him what I think. Whereas Ruth is an 'internal frame of reference' person so  I'm careful to refer any comments to her own sense of values: “Ruth, if you were to improve this piece of work which bit do you most think requires attention?”

If I was to simply tell her what I thought I run the risk of her simply not agreeing and my advice being dismissed out of hand. These are two of a whole set of filters – also called meta-programmes. Discovering them has made me a much better trainer, helped me understand, value and work with people who are very different from me and even given me a better marriage. Now if only my wife wasn’t better at using these things than I am!

Justin Collinge is a team member of Kaizen Training who specialise in Brain-Friendly Learning techniques. He runs a regular workshops called ‘Secrets of telepathy’ exploring how to apply the meta-programmes. You can contact him at [email protected]

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