Jan 212014
 

Last week, I talked about how good it was when individuals approached their lives proactively rather than reactively. You often can’t enter an open door of opportunity if you’re not already prepared. However, in groups, too much general proactivity can be disruptive. In stable groups, harmony and respect for traditions can be comfortable and help bind members together.

In business, an employee is often tempted (or required) to be reactive. They may be content to do what they are told – simply doing their job and then coming back tomorrow and doing the same job in the same way. That is not bad in itself. When the job doesn’t change and the rules are well-known, the same responses in the same recurring circumstances keep things going smoothly. People who like predictability, and like for things to remain as they were before, can be happy doing this kind of work, especially if they are part of a team and able to share social connections.

I’m not just talking about low-wage jobs. A professional is, by definition, expected to be a highly-trained practitioner of a narrow specialty. In fact, you can expect that the more training they get, the narrower their specialty. They go to school and learn a great deal about a field such as architecture or law. And, having mastered the accepted standards of their specialty, they apply their training over and over again to particular types of problems. Such elite professionals can be very successful, and acquire remarkable wealth in this way. A conservative worldview does not prevent them from achieving great professional and economic gains.

A business middle-manager can also be reactive and still be successful. A manager’s job is about choosing TACTICS from available options. Managers gather measurements of compliance, compare these to expectations, and then adjust policies or budgets. This continuing feedback process can bring the system under their control back into expected norms. I’m not being critical. This can be very challenging, important, and rewarding work.

However, every business, social, or political LEADER is responsible for STRATEGY. They MUST be proactive to be successful. A leader must get out ahead of things, imagine possible futures, and make decisions about issues that most other people cannot see. A good leader is a master of change, recognizing where things are not working and sometimes reforming entire systems to adapt to new situations.

A good leader understands that many people resist or actively obstruct change. A good leader works persistently when necessary or presses for rapid adjustments if urgency demands it. Sometimes incremental change is no longer good enough and the group must transition to something entirely new. In any event, a good leader is always proactive about moving us forward.

© 2012, David Satterlee

May 202012
 

Among the many opinions about the differences between Conservatives and Liberals, some point to the difference of blaming internal or external causes. “If you were to ask people about the cause of someone’s problems and sufferings (such as homelessness), you will hear two very different explanations.”

If you are a conservative, they point out, you will blame internal causes such as a lack of work ethic, family or religious values, sense of shame, or some other personal weakness.

If you are a liberal, your explanation will likely focus on external causes such as lack of education, oppression, social injustice, or some other influence outside of their control.

The essential conservative point is that interior causes can and MUST be addressed individually. Every person bears an inescapable personal responsibility to work continuously on their internal weaknesses and faults. It is not “success” if someone dragged you to the finish line.

You may seek guidance or it may come unsolicited, but you must walk the walk. A door may be opened to you, but you must enter. Your mother, teacher, minister, psychologist, or warden may point the way, but you have look where they point, set a destination, and keep on faithfully through every obstacle.

Liberals completely accept and internalize this core conservative value. They have individually embraced and fully assimilated the idea that you cause your own suffering and bear your own responsibility to master it. They believe in personal choice and responsibility so fervently that they take it for granted and assume that everybody understands it intuitively.

However, liberals do not believe that a personal failure is the end of the road. They are not comfortable going back to grazing while a predator munches on a weaker or slower neighbor’s carcass. If a member of the herd can be rescued from a hole, if sentries can give an alarm, or if circumstances can be improved, liberals believe that the community should work together to take these actions.

This leaves liberals to work with what remains – external factors. It is not that liberals believe that external factors are the EXCLUSIVE cause of problems and suffering. It is that liberals see external factors as something that they, as a community, have the collective ability and moral responsibility to address. This is called government.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” Liberals would rather persuade and rehabilitate you than punish you or whip you into submission.

Liberals believe in people’s responsibility to raise themselves up. In fact, they have faith that most people can, and will, better themselves if their burdens are temporarily lightened. But, they would rather offer opportunities such as education, social equality, or a safety net than leave a suffering neighbor torn and bleeding by the roadside.

If we are to ever find a practical approach to building consistently robust, productive, and satisfying communities, we must come to terms with both internal and external problems.

If we blind ourselves to the stereotypical perspectives of either conservatives or liberals we will fall to the tyranny of incomplete solutions to our many problems; we will constantly engage in endless destructive battles of “either/or” when the reality is found in “and/both.”

©2012, David Satterlee

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Jun 122011
 

Fable of brother and sister eagles raised with a farmer’s chickens. One likes his lot in life but the other seeks to fulfill her potential.

An integrally informed story of personal transformation. Adapted from memory from a Cherokee story teller. Read by the author.

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May 312011
 

By David Satterlee

Growing up is all about existential angst. Yes, that’s where to start. Not with the spitting up, crawling, and preverbal babbling. The real issues of growing up are: What’s it all about? To be or not to be? What do you want to be when you grow up? What is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything? As a crusty old man looking back, I can see that I repeatedly died to myself and was reborn in progressive and incremental stages. [Below, I will assign colors to these stages for later reference.]

I grew up as “young brother perfect” in an unconventional Christian fundamentalist faith. The angels were watching and God knew everything I did. I wanted a pony in the Kingdom. If I wasn’t good, I couldn’t live in the New World. [purple]

I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Life was a constant struggle with “worldly” people. I wouldn’t celebrate your pagan holidays, enter one of your churches, and would not spend much time with your children because they were “bad associations.” I knew in primary school that college would only corrupt my faith; it was clearly not for me. [red]

By my teen years, I was past “Aren’t you a cute little boy with your Watchtower.” and into earning approval inside the congregation. We were Bible students. We were committed to getting it right and we were better than you. To prove it, we would wake you up on Saturday mornings to tell you so right to your face. We wanted nothing much to do with your corrupt world. We were witnesses of our God and it was wonderful. [blue]

It was appalling. Something about it was not right. As a young adult, earning a living and caring for my family, I was determined to make a success of myself. Life was exciting. I had interesting technical work. I read the news, studied every new field that caught my interest. I still had ambitions to advance in the congregation, but it was not making me joyful. A life of Godly devotion was supposed to be as good as it got. I explored the self-help and leadership literature. I checked out books on psychology and relationships. I sneaked home books on meditation and Zen. [orange]

Somewhere in this process, some author mentioned Ken Wilber and I made a note of it. I searched him out at Borders Books and bought The Essential Ken Wilber. It was strange and hard to chew, but there was something essentially coherent in there. I was hooked and read better than 2,500 pages of Wilber before my orgy of introspection and expanded horizons had wound down. My world had changed. I now belonged to all of humanity and could examine others’ beliefs without cringing and love them without reserve. [green]

Ken Wilber reports that he faced his own disillusionments (with science) but completed school with degrees in chemistry and biology. He explored Buddhism and tried to find a way to reconcile it with Western thought. In 1973, he wrote The Spectrum of Consciousness and began lecturing and teaching workshops about the hidden unities and relationships of disparate scientific fields, philosophies, and world views.

After the death of his wife from cancer in 1987, Ken isolated himself and spent over a decade in intense research and voluminous writing. He reads voraciously and writes loquaciously. He writes from depths of personal clarity, expresses himself with a mix of well-ordered precision and poetic exuberance, and exudes unabashed authority.

Ken Wilber has a special interest in mysticism and what Aldous Huxley called “The Perennial Philosophy.” The man walks his talk. He meditates and achieves altered states of consciousness at will. He does all this without abandoning Western standards of scientific inquiry. Any page in one of his books may discuss authorities as disparate as Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Clare Graves, Chogram Trungpa Rinpoche, Jean Piaget, or Plotinus.

Although this may sound like an unholy mess, Ken has borrowed, trimmed and constructed a philosophical framework for organizing his observations. He first assumes that every view has a discernable orientation and something worthwhile to contribute. The first construct of his framework is a four quadrant matrix using internal vs. external orientation against singular vs. plural reference. Essentially, these indicate internal perception, external observation, closed cultural views, and open societal views. He adds multiple lines of progressive development such as emotional, mathematical, musical, and spiritual. Development along any of these lines follows predictable stages such as Jane Lovinger’s stages of ego development. He distinguishes between temporary peak experience states and permanently achieved stages. He allows for both feminine compassionate/relationship approaches and masculine agentic/justice approaches to achieved states.

Ken has also incorporated the research of Clare Graves (as developed by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan into “Spiral Dynamics.”) Spiral Dynamics describes and assigns color codes to the successive world views that are experienced as individuals and cultures mature. Beige for instinctual reactions; purple for spirits and superstition; red for survival struggle; blue for obedience to authority (including religious conformity); orange for strive/drive ambition; green for sense of united open community; yellow for ability to observe the dynamics of complex systems; and turquoise for an integrated sense of being and belonging while within life’s chaos.

Now, I can see that I have been developing through predictable transformations of worldview. This suggests a structure for growing toward future stages. The existential angst is receding but not gone. I am a brother to all things. My responsibility is to learn and love; to improve myself and leverage that growth into the goal of enlightenment for all sentient beings. There remain unimaginable mysteries. There remains too little time in this flesh. What can I do? What can it mean? What will come next?

Copyright 2011, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0), which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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May 272011
 

Individuals generally derive their identity based on the groups to which they belong. Sometimes group membership, when the group is seen negatively, causes the members to suffer low self-esteem. Consider the various groups to which you belong.  What instance(s) can you relate from your life in which membership in a certain group caused you to have low self-esteem?

Having someone criticize the community to which you belong does not have to direct your self-esteem. Your response is dependent on the nature of your own character, values, and worldview. Continue reading »

Mar 072011
 

 

Political candidates and other public persons need to make the best of every opportunity to present themselves. They need to make sure that each appearance shows their best side. I have found that preparation and presentation reinforce each other. Mastery enables an air of confidence, while projecting confidence sets the stage for mastery.

Continue reading »

Mar 072011
 

Does Positive Thinking Really Work?

By David Satterlee

Can “positive” thinking affect your life? Our beliefs often seem to be self-confirming, and we commonly believe in self-fulfilling prophecy, a prediction that makes itself come true.  Napoleon Hill wrote a best-selling book years ago called, “Think and Grow Rich,” which has gained renewed interest from the public recently. Also gaining in popularity are the books/CD’s by Dr. Wayne Dyer, Dr. Deepak Chopra, and Mike Dooley regarding one’s ability to think one’s way into health, wealth, and happiness. More recently, a book and movie called “The Secret,” talk about a person’s ability to “think” themselves rich, healthy, and happy and gives testimonies from”real” people. Does this stuff really work?

Continue reading »

Jan 172011
 

You may know that I am writing a book about virtues. I added the Buddhist “Noble Eightfold Path” to my listing of virtues after an unproductive search for a virtue that fully embodied “delicacy of speech.” That is, the deliberate choice of words that carefully avoids damaging the fragile stem of newly-sprouted expression in others. It was gentler than tack. It was more specific than thoughtfulness. It was more loving than kindness or even loving-kindness. It was a gentler movement of a whispered expression than love. I could think of nothing more apt then the first Eightfold path virtue of “Right Speech.”

The Buddhist concept of Right Speech, of course, covers the courser commissions of lying, malicious slander, harsh anger, and idle gossip. To me, in this moment, it also needed to go past “do no harm,” and past pure and absolute gentleness–all the way to nurturing delicacy without hint of harm; speech that was fully, aptly, right.

I have been in the practice of completing a fully-formed suite of ideas, usually about a single-spaced page of writing, and taking it downstairs to read aloud to my wife. She is usually quite tolerant and will pause in whatever she is doing to receive it. She rarely responds with anything but mild acceptance or a simple , thoughtful word of approval. Sometimes she notices one of my characteristic shifts in verb tense and I am grateful to her for noticing that. She knows that that is all I am seeking.

Last night, she called up the stairs to say that I she had sent me an e-mail and asked if I had read it. No, I wasn’t aware of it yet, but I would check it out. I paused what I was doing and discovered that she had written the first chapter of a children’s book, based on her childhood experiences. At the end, she had written, “What do you think?” Being the nurturing sort of fellow that I like to think I am, I went downstairs, found her busy cooking, said, “Ah, I just read your e-mail. You’ve been busy. Of course, you’ll need to rewrite it in the third-person voice. She allowed as how I was probably right but that it was difficult for her to write in the third person. Having promptly done exactly what she had asked for, I laid a little kiss on her check and returned to my office.

Something wasn’t right. It’s like when the underpants in your drawer are folded differently on one side than on the other. I sat there for a while re-reading her work and trying to figure out my sense of unease. In a bolt of Inspiration, I knew what it was. Rushing downstairs, I beamed at her and said, “It just occurred to me that, instead of rewriting for third-person you could just drop the introductory comment ,”My first memory of being different was when I was about seven.” and write directly as that seven-year old girl. Beaming in triumph of reason, I returned to my office.

Something wasn’t right. This was really starting to bother me. It’s like when you stepped in the new bed of petunias. You got down on your hands and knees, bent low and tried to adjust the tiny plants to stand upright again so that nobody will notice. I had screwed up. Stepping hesitantly down the stairs, I discovered her watching her favorite comfort program on television, Home and Garden TV. I could see that the candle flame that usually flickers vigorously in her heart was reduced to a steady, quiet flame.

“I did it wrong, didn’t I?” She looked at me steadily, but without anger. “You could have said it like a tomato sandwich.” She teaches children that, if you put buttered slices of bread around a slice of tomato, it makes it easier to eat. I should have been more attuned to “right speech” and, if it was necessary to make even a well-intentioned constructive criticism, I should have started and ended it with positive statements. I had stepped in her fresh bed of petunias.

We had recently finished viewing How to Cook Your Life, a wonderful show featuring Edward Espe Brown teaching about Zen and cooking as a path of meditation. He described his initial judgment of waste and futility at the kitchen’s practice of preparing food to be placed reverently before a nearby Buddha shrine. Later, it occurred to him that this was the perfect metaphor for a cook. Knowing that even the best meal will not please everyone, the cook makes his best effort, places the food in front of his customer like an offering, and then quietly walks away. He should not be anxious about having it criticized; it was his best effort and worthy of being offered to the Buddha.

I had been caught crushing petunias and she had been caught being dependent on the judgment of others. Springing to self-defense with the first handy offense I could find, I reminded her that she had asked me what I thought and that I had provided exactly that with clear and precise masculine rationality. Further, that she had suckered me into an inappropriate response when what she had evidently wanted instead was for a girlfriend to tell her how she felt. I waited for someone to acknowledge my triumph of logic. A contemplative, but cold, hesitation told me that I was now madly dancing in the petunias. Not good.

Retreating to my best profound apology, I sat, held her hand, and offered several over-careful positive comments. She let me off the hook. We sat quietly for a while. I gave her a weak smile and a weak kiss on the cheek before retreating to lick my wounds. I couldn’t do much more at the moment about her wounds.

Supper was beyond wonderful. She had gone out of her way to accommodate my delicate sensibilities about larger pieces of meat. I gave voice to appropriate, sincere, and unhesitating appreciations. But, here I am now, in the middle of the night, hacking away desperately on my keyboard, dreading that, like the petunias, her new story may never recover and grow.

So, there you have “Right Speech.”

Copyright 2011, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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Dec 262010
 

Climbing the Spiral

By David Satterlee

The way I am is better than how I have ever been.
I really am more satisfied with now than some past when.
I’m smarter than I used to be; as smart as I know how.
I don’t think one should need to be beyond where I am now.

But if once I have moved beyond the history of my past,
My progress to my here and now just might not be my last.
As I have struggled to transcend the problems I have met,
I must admit I should expect to meet more problems yet.

Although my errors led me to the way that I should go,
I don’t suppose “the hard way” is the only way to know.
Perhaps a search outside myself will shed a better light.
Have others come before me? Could they lead me out of night?

I should have the guessed; the path I tread has been traversed before,
By some who mastered lessons I’d be foolish to ignore.
If I care to examine all the best that they can tell,
I needn’t struggle near as hard in order to do well.

Copyright 2010 David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

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Oct 102010
 
Source: Stratfor Global Intelligence – Security Weekly

Terrorism (and a great many other undesirable situations) do not erupt spontaneously, but are the end consequence and product of a series of preparatory or enabling steps. SITUATIONAL AWARENESS allows us to respond appropriately to a developing situation and may allow us to disrupt the chain of events.

  • Awareness requires a mindset that enables readiness to be aware.
  • Awareness exists on several levels: Unaware, Relaxed, Focused, High Alert, and Shock.
  • The appropriate level of awareness for any situation allows for appropriate responses and interventions.
  • If you see something that is not right, do something about it.

Read the complete article at: http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20100609_primer_situational_awareness?fn=6417307150

Sep 262010
 

Self Improvement – Doing Business from Home

It just took over the house

In the Oct/Nov ’92 issue of Sunshine Horizons, Beverly Lewis tells about “one couple so committed to this business they’ve literally turned their entire house into a miniature university. As I walked through their kitchen during a visit one day, I saw a Nature’s Spring on the counter. The kitchen table was loaded with company products and literature. Each of the rooms was filled with educational books and other related paraphernalia. After touring their home and noticing no bedroom, I couldn’t help ask them where they sleep! Their level of enthusiasm amazes me, and it’s just one example. There are thousands of others.”

Each person must decide how they want to deal with this problem as it happens. You can set firm limits, throttle the business to keep it from growing further, move, build on to add room or open a store. Your choice should meet your needs for room, privacy, location and potential for further expansion.

“Blessed is he who has found his work. Let him ask no other blessing.”
-Thomas Carlyle

“Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.”
-Mr. Spock

There’s just nowhere to hide

Sometimes you just need to wash dishes or read a book. If your business is in your house, people will drop by at unpredictable times. When the business is small that might not be such a problem. In fact, being available to care and share at odd hours may be a service that distinguishes you from less-popular competitors.

Setting (and enforcing) business hours

One way to manage the demands on your time is to post the hours that you are open and then stick to them. It’s not always easy to be firm when a friend with a need (but poor planning skills) knows that you must be in there somewhere.

It’s usually not that bad. Most people will respect your need to have an orderly life with some time set aside for sleep or whimpering in a corner.

Less TV, more real life

Soap operas, reruns and especially the hot new shows can sap your time and attention. Sure, TV can be entertaining but building a new business can be a lot more fun. Instead of watching other people do things and listening to other people laugh, you can enjoy the real thing.

“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
-Emerson

“Television watching takes up more time than any other activity our society engages in.” -Scientific Australian

“The whole day stretches before us with unlimited opportunity! And what better way to appreciate that opportunity than by squandering it watching cartoons all day!”
-Calvin, Weirdos from Another Planet, Bill Watterson

Bottles behind the bushes

As much as you would like to spend all your time waiting for people to show up and pick up their products, there ARE some other things that need to be done from time to time.

I solved the problem by telling customers how much their check should be and then leaving their products, invoice and an envelope in a dry spot on the porch. They picked up their herbs, put the check in the envelope and shoved it through a crack in the garage door. It worked like a charm. One loyal customer is a real estate agent who can’t spare the time during the day and likes to drop by after 10:30 p.m. Bottles behind the bushes makes us both very happy; she gets her herbs and I get my sleep.

Don’t forget the family

Take time to be with your family. A new business can be demanding but it doesn’t deserve your total attention. You probably started the business to help your family with their health or finances. Trading your income for your time, attention and love makes a lousy exchange.

Be kind to your family. Don’t let your anxiety or frustrations with business matters splatter all over your spouse and children; you will need their support and good will at times like these.

When you set a goal, take the wishes and circumstances of your family into consideration. Don’t leave them behind. In fact it’s a good idea to involve your family in planning and decision making. They will often think of things that you would have overlooked. Their input can be invaluable.

Your family may even enjoy participating in the business. Because “opposites attract” it’s likely that your spouse has qualities that will complement yours. Split up the responsibilities in a way that makes the best use of your individual talents. Very few people have achieved business success without the support of their family.

When you outgrow the house

After a while, the business may be just too big to keep on running from the house. My sponsors kept on cannibalizing their home until they had to move out and buy the house next door to live in. I live in a sub-division with deed restrictions. Once I moved all the herbs to a store, I could finally relax about being turned in by neighbors. Actually, zoning ordinances can be a blessing in disguise. A past “Manager of the Year” team admits that they took a leap of faith and opened a store even though they weren’t ready to move financially. Once all their eggs were in one basket, they just had to succeed.

About the time you have developed 5-10 managers, you will be faced with a decision about your retail sales. Do you deliberately cut back and send people to your successline or do you make a separate place for the business? This is a very individual question and no other person’s decision will be exactly right for you. How does your approach to business fit with your house? Do you prefer giving home demonstrations? Do you need more privacy, more room or a better location? This is one of those major forks in the road. Meditate carefully on your choice; it can have permanent effects.

Copyright 1996, 2010, David Satterlee

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License, which essentially says that you are free to share the work under the conditions that you attribute it fully, do not use it for commercial purposes, and do not alter it.

Sep 252010
 

Self Improvement – Exerting Influence and Gaining Compliance

Our predictable social responses

As “social animals” we are responsive to certain common preconceived notions and powerful trigger situations. Our reflex reactions are really very predictable. They form the necessary fabric of our society. We are taught and often disciplined to respect authority, conserve valuable resources, make friends and protect the helpless.

For some of you it may be shocking to realize how much advertising is crafted to motivate us and how much of what we say too others pushes social reflexes. On the other hand, it’s good to be aware of such influences. Awareness means that we can be in better control of how we respond and that we can be less callous or clumsy in how we treat others.

Don’t be cynical. People can be influenced. We behave in predictable ways. This is a normal part of our civilized behavior. We teach, sell and negotiate all the time in every facet of our lives. When you think that you’re right, you try to get your way. It’s not inherently bad to understand human reactions and apply that understanding. The evil is to use your knowledge of influence to move someone away from their best interests. Don’t be evil.

The purposes of communication

Sometimes you communicate just to share information or entertain. But, more often than not, you are trying to influence someone to achieve your desired outcome. Face it, you are trying to change someone’s attitude or behavior. Do you have that right?

Look at this question from another point of view. What is the point of any communication if there is no goal or desired outcome? Such a conversation would be as pointless (and probably as uninteresting) as a journey with no destination.

We all have things to share with others. We have unique backgrounds that combine our inborn characteristics with our personal experiences. You know things that are interesting. You have information that may be valuable to others.

When you have strong emotions about something, the ability to express yourself clearly and a kind sense of humor, you can really contribute a lot to a conversation. It’s okay to be you and express yourself to others. It’s okay to influence someone to your way of thinking or to make things come out the way you want IF YOU PLAY FAIR. But, remember, “influence” is not the same as “manipulate.”

Do you have the other’s best interest at heart? Are you telling the truth? Are you alert to the other person’s response? Are you flexible? Are you consistent? Does your desired outcome dovetail with what the other person wants or needs?

Stimulating positive results

Have you noticed that some people have trouble learning from a book? They may learn better when someone explain things to them or if they try it for themselves. Do not assume that everyone experiences the world in the same way you do. Different senses affect some people more profoundly than others.

Auditory people respond better to what they HEAR. Visual people respond better to what the SEE. Kinesthetic people respond better to what they DO and FEEL. Everybody responds better to a POSITIVE goal. Recognize that these statements represent tendencies, not absolutes.

When you recognize how the person you’re communicating with responds, you can do a better job of getting through to them. When they imagine the end results you want to achieve, what are they hearing, seeing and feeling? If you are communicating well, they will have a clear and positive impression of your desired outcome.

Backtrack a minute. Before you can share your goal you have to know it clearly yourself. Take some quiet time to imagine how things will be when you get what you want. See how things will look. Hear how things will sound. Feel how you will feel. You need all of this. If you get “off the track,” come back to this moment and you will choose more clearly the best way to achieve your goal.

CoudjaWoudjaWhen

My aunt, Joy Marshall, taught me that the mind has several necessary, progressive stages that must be experienced in order to make commitments. Joy uses this technique for emotional healing therapy. It is especially helpful when a person needs to recognize and release specific negative emotions.

Could You? First, you have to acknowledge that the change is possible.

Would You? Next you have to acknowledge that you would be willing to make the change.

When? Finally, you have to commit to actually doing it.

This is very powerful stuff. In the case of old resentments, for instance, once you’ve said “yes” to the first two questions, your mind knows that the answer to the third is “right now” and the anger just melts away leaving you all clean and shaky.

I think the principal holds true for all kinds of decision and commitment making. This is well worth exploring.

What gets rewarded gets done

These are twin faces of the same concept. Measurement assures recognition which can be all or only part of the reward. Look at it from another angle: why do something if nobody notices or cares? Notice the many ways that you respond to this principal and how you use measurement and reward to motivate others.

Unfortunately, this concept can be mismanaged for the bad. If a situation is set up to measure or reward the wrong thing, the wrong thing will get done. For instance, when I worked in a computer support group our new boss decided to rank us according to the number of problem reports that we cleared each week. That makes sense, doesn’t it? The lazy consultants grabbed up all the easy problems. The sneaky simply reported problems closed prematurely, forcing the person with a problem to call in a “new” report to get anything done. I didn’t like this game and wouldn’t play; I enjoyed the (rewarding) challenge (including the praise, recognition and reputation among the clients) of solving the tough problems. The new boss never wised up (and never seemed to like me, for some strange reason), but he did build an impressive rank-reporting database system that got him promoted. I see now that he was only doing the thing for which HE was being measured.

Price is associated with quality

We have come to accept and expect that something has more value if we have to work harder or sacrifice more to acquire it. This is expressed in sayings such as “You get what you pay for” and “You have to pay for quality.”

A seller of tourist jewelry noticed that one rack was moving slowly and left a note for a clerk to reprice it by 1/2. Misreading the note the clerk doubled the prices instead. It didn’t take long for customers to buy most of the rack. The owner learned a valuable lesson.

Coupons mean a discount

You know people who collect, file, organize and trade coupons. They save a lot of money. You envy them. The fact is that not every coupon is valuable to you. What do you save if you buy something at discount when you don’t need it? Worse, merchants have discovered that people will respond well to a coupon even if it does not offer a real discount. If you sell, it would make sense to pay attention to coupon marketing.

It’s easier to believe the experts

We can not know everything. In an increasingly complicated world, it is increasingly necessary to accept the judgment of strong authorities for guidance.

The expertise of the medical establishment still holds a powerful grip on popular belief. Modern medicine embraces science and science is capable of experiment, analysis and proof. That makes it difficult to accept an alternate model of health. Fortunately, the same science that modern medicine employs is now exploring, explaining and validating the traditional uses of many herbs.

If the issue matters to you personally and you have the ability to analyze the information, then it is more likely that you will take the time to evaluate the judgment of an expert. Unfortunately, complicated issues, time limits, fatigue and intrusive distractions make it less likely that you will think for yourself. It can be easier to ask a neighbor where they buy there auto insurance than to do due diligence for yourself.

Differences seem more different

When I bought a home several years ago, the real estate agent showed us several homes she knew we couldn’t afford right away. When she showed us homes closer to our price range, they suddenly seemed more affordable.

Salesmen use the same principal when they sell the most expensive part of a wardrobe or program first. After investing heavily, a customer is more willing to pay for accessories. When my family took a multi-day tour, we were reluctant to sign-up ahead of time for side-trips but were easier to convince later when the extra was so much less, in contrast to the full tour.

Try this experiment. Fill three buckets; one each with tolerable hot, cold and room-temperature water. Put one hand in the hot and one hand in the cold and wait a few minutes to get used to the extremes. Now put both hands in the room-temperature water. You’ll be surprised at how differently your hands interpret the same water.

We feel obliged to reciprocate

When someone does you a favor, you feel the urge to return the favor.

When you ask a favor, after having done something for someone, it is very hard for them to refuse. Have you ever been in a public place and had someone press a flower, card or gift into your hand and then request a small donation? Even if you refused, I’ll bet it took an effort to suppress the reaction to comply. Not only do we feel social obligations to give generously and repay gifts, we also feel an obligation to receive whatever gift is offered, especially when we are surprised. Free samples trigger the urge to buy whatever you’ve tried. We frequently return from the grocery store with packages of foods that we agreed to sample while shopping.

We often feel the need to make concessions to others who make concessions to us. This is the core of the negotiating advice, “Always ask for more than you want.” People will feel more obliged to meet your request after you have agreed to “compromise.” Once you have agreed to do something (such as volunteer work) you are more likely to agree to do it again. Not only that, but you will feel some responsibility to do it again and feel satisfied with the arrangement! Of course, if the initial demand is too extreme, the bargaining is not in good faith and the tactic will backfire.

We feel committed to our choices

Once we make a choice, we have a strong desire to appear consistent with that choice. Even very small concessions can lead to progressively large commitments. We will do everything possible to justify our choice. Nobody wants to be seen as indecisive, scatterbrained or weak-willed. For another thing, sticking to a choice helps us avoid re-evaluating that choice.

As an example, if you agreed to give to a charity, you would be more likely to agree to collect for that charity on your block. This is the core of the “foot in the door” principal. Once you agree to a trivial request or make an initial purchase, your need to be consistent will influence you to agree to larger requests or buy much more expensive related items. When our boys were young, we agreed to buy a small box of Lego® building blocks. From that point on, we found it almost impossible to say no to a request for more Lego® sets. We even took pride in seeking out the latest variations.

Consistency is not inherently bad. People quote Ralph Waldo Emerson as saying “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” What he actually said was “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

We value what we have to fight for

Active public commitments such as offering testimonials or signing a pledge are some of the strongest motivators. For instance, if you write down a goal you are likely to pursue it. If you show people your written goal you are even more likely to achieve it.

The more effort you put into a commitment, the more power it has. This is why demanding initiation rituals (such as armed forces boot camps) are so effective at generating loyalty to organizations. If you have to fight for something you will value it even more highly. I have a ratty old sweater that my wife keeps trying to throw out. I never wear it but I’ve made such an issue of keeping it that I just can’t bear to let it go.

The strongest commitments of all are those we make our own by taking inner responsibility; believing that we want to because of our own convictions rather than because of outside pressure.

If everybody is doing it, it must be right

We feel a social responsibility to conform to group standards. It’s hard to stand out as different. When there is a group present and you are uncertain, you will look around at others for behavioral clues.

As an example, when I first started promoting my herb business I discovered a traffic location where cars backed up for a quarter mile on weekends. I printed a pile of flyers and went there to hand them out. Usually everything went well as my smile and I strode confidently from one driver to the next. People in the next car would roll their window down, accept my flyer and smile back. When I reached a fearful or grumpy driver, however, I discovered that the next driver was much less likely to take my flyer. It was time to turn around, walk back and wait for that group of cars to drive past the light.

We are very vulnerable to the influence of those we associate with. Children who are afraid of dogs lose their fear when shown films of a variety of other children having fun with dogs. On the other hand, “bad associations spoil useful habits.” Children become more aggressive when they watch films of people intentionally harming others. The powers of peer pressure on people of all ages are well known.

The power of direct command

If someone is uncertain they will hesitate. If you give a direct command, they will often comply. At an accident don’t just cry, “Won’t somebody please do something!” Point at a specific person and say, “You, go call an ambulance.”

The typical routine for handling a product demonstration involves giving some very specific guidance to the hostess. You explain the routine of introducing you and passing around the sign-in sheet. (That’s another example. You just tell everyone to make an entry for themselves and they usually do.) Afterwards you have her go with you to the next presentation sponsored by her friend and say a few words. Before long, she is giving her own presentations. No muss, no fuss. It’s just the way things are done.

When we switched away from accepting checks for phone orders, we discovered that the best way to handle the situation was to not explain. Now we just ask which credit card will be used. This combines an indirect command (“use a credit card”) with the opportunity to make a choice. Frankly, it works very well.

Studies have show that 95% of people are basically imitators (followers) and that only 5% are initiators (leaders). When a follower is not sure what to do next, they are very open to the influence of the group and especially the group’s leader.

Everyone likes to be liked

It’s hard to resist when a friend (someone you like) asks you to do something. By extension, it’s even hard to resist a stranger who seems to be likable (such as a Girl Scout with a smile and cookies). People who look good automatically seem more honest, kind and intelligent. This goes double for tall men and pretty girls. Those of us who are funny-looking, bald and squeaky-voiced simply have to work harder to make a good impression. Happily, when people do decide to like me, it’s easier to believe that it’s not just my flawless complexion and dazzling smile.

It is also easier for people to like others who seem familiar or are similar to themselves. (Working together for a common purpose builds familiarity.) It helps if you are the same age, have the same background or dress the same way. It’s a smart move to subtly imitate the body postures and speaking rhythms of someone if you want them to like you a little better.

I like to be liked. I’ll really go out of my way to please someone who really appreciates my efforts. When someone is grumpy, demanding and unappreciative, I just can’t seem to get as excited. Somehow I expect my labors will turn into another instance of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

We tend to believe compliments and especially love to hear ourselves being praised to a third party.

Compulsive response to authority

We have all been trained to color within the lines, do what the teacher says and obey policemen. We will often do what the boss wants even if we hate doing it.

This normally good response can become our most frightening social reflex. Strong leaders and governmental authorities have used their power of authority to influence armies and ordinary citizens to perform hideous atrocities against others and even voluntarily commit suicide. Think of Hitler, Jim Jones and terrorist organizations.

Part of the reason for the influence of authority (or even the appearance of authority) is our assumption that they know more than we do. Another aspect is their control of our rewards and punishment.

A practical example of mechanical, blind obedience to authority is the medical establishment. People routinely sign a release statement when entering a hospital (even for minor, non-invasive tests) that basically says that the doctors may do whatever they want to you. This is a mirror of the blind faith of generations of patients who meekly (and ignorantly) accepted whatever drugs or surgeries were prescribed. Hospital staffs are subject to a long tradition of submission to doctors’ orders. This is part of the reason that a typical hospital has a 12% error rate for patient medication alone.

Get it while you can

“This is your last chance. If you react soon and for a limited time only, while supply lasts, and if your application is selected, you can be one of the lucky few to win a rare original, banned in France.”

It’s easy to assume that if something is difficult to get, it is more valuable. Also, we hate to lose our freedom of choice. When information is censored or hard to get, it is more persuasive.

I love auctions and going-out-of-business sales. I’ll buy stuff I don’t need. What if I need it later and I can’t get it?

Because there is a reason

You ask someone to do something. They hesitate. You say “because” and tell them why they should. They agree to do it. What happened? It may be more than your persuasive argument. “Everything has to have a reason” and people are influenced simply because there IS a reason. Researchers have discovered that many people wil comply if you use the word “because,” even WITHOUT a reason. It’s kind of scary.

The best defenses against exploitation

The best way to protect yourself against being manipulated by these social triggers is two-fold. You must be aware of these methods and you must be aware of your gut feelings. When you notice that something feels wrong, stop in your tracks and refuse to respond further until you have figured out what is going on.

Are you vulnerable? Are you stressed, distracted, tired or rushed? If you are, you are more likely to make these automatic shortcuts to decision-making. These days we are assaulted by more information and under pressure to do more in less time. Knowledge is growing explosively and access to that knowledge is growing even faster. We can communicate instantly and have many times as many choices as earlier generations. We get used to making snap decisions based on minimal direct evidence.

When you notice that funny feeling in your stomach and realize that you are becoming emotionally involved in a decision, stop to decide why. Someone may be pushing your triggers. This might actually be a good thing. In this fast-paced world we need shortcuts for decision-making. But when someone falsely misrepresents the facts to get your compliance, it’s okay to JUST SAY “NO”.

Creating change

People tend to resist change. They are used to old patterns and relationships and feel threatened. Their negative emotional responses can make it hard to create change even when it is obviously in their best interests. There are techniques to help.

Create a vacuum – Dismantle or discard the old system. When we needed to move our shipping department to the store, I took the initiative to remove everything from the space that would be used. That made it easier for my staff to “fill the hole.”

Create the new framework yourself – Leaders need to express their vision. If you do enough of the preliminary work for others to see and understand where you’re going, it’s is easier to delegate the completion of the work. Your people will feel like they’re stepping on rocks rather than wading through mud.

Create an artificial crisis – If you just have to get something moving, cause an emergency. People will work hard to get things back under control even if that requires accepting a changed situation. If your teenager won’t take his dirty clothes to the laundry, just let them accumulate until he has nothing clean to wear. When this artificial crisis finally gets his attention, you can make him begin washing his own clothes. Of course he can create his own crisis by doing it so badly that you decide to go back to doing it yourself. Some of this stuff can backfire.

Managing change

Resistance to change is normal and can even be positive; it shows that people are involved and care about the situation. Listen sincerely to objections. Just letting people express their feelings can diffuse resistance. However, their challenges might also lead to improvements to the original plan. The resulting dialogue can improve communication and cooperation.

Communicate – Help people understand why you have decided on the change. Fear, uncertainty and doubt (the “FUD” factor) can be quickly neutralized by your courtesy of explaining the needs and benefits that led to your decision.

Involve others – People will usually support a change that they’ve helped to plan and execute. Why should you do all the work just to run into a brick wall?

Plant the idea – You don’t always have to ram change down someone else’s throat. It you start early and are patient you can gradually plant and direct the development of your idea so that others think that it is their own. When they “own” the desire to change, it is much easier to let them run with it and adjust their direction slightly as needed.

Reward and benefit – Everyone affected by a change needs to feel that there’s “something in it” for them. If they don’t, maybe it’s a bad move and really should be resisted. The timing may be bad or it may create additional burdens without benefits.

p.s. “Change happens.”

Copyright 1996, 2010, David Satterlee

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