A Simple Model for Understanding What Drives Behavior

The diagram above shows a simplified model for better understanding what drives behavior.

Since people often spend their lives studying and understanding what really drives our behavior, I am pretty confident that I cannot hope to fully cover the topic in this short post.

I can provide a quick overview you can use to diagnose what’s happening in your interactions with other people and how you might be able to modify your approaches to get better results, have more fun, experience more satisfying relationships, and make sense of what you see people do.

Here’s a simplified description of what the model shows:

  1. We enter a situation.
  2. We anticipate the outcome we want from that situation.
  3. We choose the behavior that (we hope) gives us that outcome.

This description leads to the following implication:

We choose our behaviors based on what we expect to happen after we do them.

The consequence is what we expect that we will experience as a result of our behaviors. In this context, a consequence is anything that we experience as a result of our behavior. A consequence might be some external thing we receive or get because of our behavior. A consequence can also be the feelings we get from the behavior.

As you might guess, we tend to avoid negative consequences and to pursue positive consequences.  As a result, negative consequences (like punishments) tend to discourage repeating behaviors and positive consequences (like rewards) tend to encourage behaviors to repeat in the future.

Part of the challenge with applying this model in practice comes from a common error known as perception error. Perception error happens because not every person sees every consequence the same way. What one person sees as a reward; a different person might see as a punishment.

You can use the  DISC model to gain insights to avoid perception error.

For example, public recognition might be a reward for an outgoing, people-oriented person and it might be a punishment for a reserved, people-oriented person.

You can also apply the 5 Be’s of Motivation as you work with other people to encourage better interactions and results.

Remember, this is a very quick, very simplified description of this model and it’s implications. I’ll offer more insights in future posts.


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