How Motivation Bias Can Help You Influence

How Motivation Bias Can Help You Influence More Effectively

Written By: Kevin Watson

9th June 2015

Not everyone has the motivation to achieve, to move towards a goal.

Some would rather avoid pain far more than gain pleasure!

Let’s take a closer look at motivation.

All human behaviour is centred around gaining pleasure or avoiding pain.

You go out for a nice meal with friends to gain pleasure. You run away from a poisonous snake to avoid pain.

Some people go to the gym to work out because they want to look fabulous, have a fit body and feel more attractive. Others may go to the gym because they don’t want to be unhealthy and overweight. 

Notice that some people go to the gym because “they want to have…” and others go to the gym because “they don’t want to have…”.

This is worth noting.

Not everyone acts in the same way, as we all move toward some things and away from others. However, overall we tend to have a bias for one or the other. So, some people like to move towards things and others like to move away from things.

But, how do you know who prefers which?

Well, this can be done by carefully listening out to the way that they respond.

When you ask people what they want in a job, this project, their relationships and so on, do they tell you what they want or what they don’t want.

Listen to everyday conversations. Is the motivation moving towards, as illustrated here:

  • “I want to achieve a 234% increase in sales next month”
  • “I want us to dominate the widgets market”
  • “We are going to make this happen so we look the best team in the department”

Or, are people moving away-from:

  • “We need to increase sales because I don’t want our department to be bottom of the league tables”
  • “If we do not dominate our market XYZ competitor will overtake us and I do not want that to happen”
  • “If we do not improve we are going to look the worst team in the department”

Did you spot the difference?

They are all stating the same thing but in a different way. So, which of those statements would you be more motivated by?

Think about this…it is really important how you communicate to people if you want to influence more effectively. Here are a couple of times where knowing motivation bias can be very useful…

With Your Team

I am sure that you “Just can’t seem to get through to some of the people”.

Well, the first thing you should look at is whether you are moving them towards something when they want to move away from, or vice versa.

For example, are you trying to achieve all of the time with members of your team, or are you modifying your approach with different people depending on how they think?

Stress to towards team members what they will get out of a situation and they will be motivated. Do this to away-from people and you are wasting your time.

You need to be flexible and change your approach to get the best from your team.

With Your Peers

If you are selling an idea to your peers you can promote it by what it does or what it doesn’t do.

After all, you can sell a car by explaining that it is fast, hip and trendy or you can stress that it does not use much petrol, has low insurance premiums and will not break down on you.

The approach that you use depends on the other person’s motivation bias – towards or away from.

Think about this when you need to influence or sell something to your colleagues.

Call to Action

Start to notice your own motivation bias for toward or away, from the language you use.

Then, listen for the clues others give you, to determine their motivation bias for towards or away-from.

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