“Everything begins with belief. What we believe is the most powerful option of all.” — Norman Cousins Integrity
When exerting influence in the workplace, it’s crucial to understand the driving forces informing the behavior of ourselves and others. Effective influencing is most easily accomplished when we understand a person’s beliefs and values or, more accurately, the process by which they believe and the manner in which they value something. Integrity
It’s important to realize that believing and valuing, which are invariably connected, are active processes rather than intangible things. Subtly shifting your language can transform beliefs and values from abstract nouns back into processes, thus increasing accountability and empowerment across an organization. By simply modifying statements like “our communication across departments is abysmal” or “I don’t have enough time” to phrases such as “how can our various departments interact in more productive ways?” or “in what ways can I better prioritize events and activities in order to accomplish what I want?” you stand to make a significant impact in shifting behavior. Integrity
The Driving Forces Behind Behavior
As I discuss in my book, Ignite a Shift, “beliefs” and “values” are in fact processes rather than abstract nouns or “things” – a person’s beliefs are viewed as their process of believing, and their values as the process of valuing. Let’s focus on values for now. For instance, consider “honesty” or “education” – rather than thinking of these as intangible things, we benefit from seeing them as a process; the processes of being truthful or of studying to attain a certificate or degree. Integrity
Values as Processes
Thinking of values as processes and speaking about them that way serves to transform them into verbs, action words that adequately describe the process of valuing. This is a critical transformation in our thinking and language because a “thing” is fixed whereas a “process” is changeable. Instead of seeing values as static objects, view them as dynamic processes. Doing so can empower us to approach challenges positively and also enables us to understand why, and even alter how, another person invests their time, money, and resources. Viewing values as dynamic processes in this way suggests that they are indeed alterable, which leads us to a simple question: how do we change the process of how we value something? Easy, we can begin by changing the criteria associated with the fulfillment of the values. Integrity
Understanding Fulfilment Criteria
In this sense, criteria describe the standards, rules, and principles used to determine whether a value has been upheld. Of course, we also need to keep in mind that such criteria vary between individuals and situations. Think about music for a second. Everyone has their own criteria for what constitutes “good music” and the same goes for any number of values. So how do we know if a value has been fulfilled? By understanding its fulfillment criteria for the specific person we wish to influence. For instance, someone’s fulfillment criteria for “a good education” could be going to an Ivy League school. For another person, that criteria may be graduating from a trade school. Understanding each individual’s unique criteria for what they value is a critical step when persuading and influencing.
Working Through Nominalization
When values are mistakenly seen as things rather than processes, then we must work through the common challenge of nominalization. Nominalization occurs when a verb (a process word like communication) is transformed into an abstract noun (a non-material thing), or when a dynamic process (like education) is translated into a static thing. The disadvantage of nominalizing processes is apparent when we consider their usage in the workplace. Let’s consider communication since it’s a common example of a skill that is valued in workplace settings. If a team leader says that “the communication in this office is poor” then the process of communication is relegated to a static and unchangeable thing. However, de-nominalizing the verb transforms communication into an alterable process. For example, the team leader could instead ask, “how can we improve the way we interact and the discussions we have between our sales team and project managers?” By seeing a value like communication as a process, we can focus on solutions instead of surrendering to the apparent unfixability of a static noun.
Motivating with De-nominalization
De-nominalizing a static noun back into a process facilitates feelings of ownership and empowerment, and encourages productive action as you and others become aware of the processes associated with the word. Subtly shifting language in this way makes us accountable for how we contribute to the process. Take the statements discussed above: “our communication across departments is abysmal” or “I don’t have enough time”. We can boost accountability and empowerment simply by shifting our language to phrases such as “how can our various departments engage in more productive and meaningful discussions?” or “in what ways can I better organize my To Do list so that the highest priority items are completed first?” Consider how much more encouraging it is to yourself and your team members to shift language so that it motivates toward becoming better, rather than disempowering by making something seem unchangeable and, at its worst, hopeless.
Recognizing that values are processes and identifying an individual’s unique value criteria are important first steps. Once we understand what is valued, then it becomes critical to eliminate nominalizations in our language and speak to each value as a process. In doing so we can very easily influence another person toward our goal (whether that be enhanced communication, greater efficiency, or another workplace value). And always keep in mind to influence with integrity!
Stephen McGarvey is the author of Ignite a Shift: Engaging Minds, Guiding Emotions and Driving Behavior, and Founder & President of Solutions in Mind, and a world-leading authority on unconscious communication, positive persuasion, and influencing with integrity. He has worked with businesses around the world to optimize their performance by helping them understand how their staff and their customers think, and what unconscious elements and patterns drive their behavior. He is a sought-after speaker, presenting to a variety of international audiences in a myriad of venues, ranging from the American Psychiatric Association Conference to numerous Fortune 500 companies. McGarvey is a Certified Master Practitioner and Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a Certified Master Hypnotist. Employing the empowering modalities of neuroscience and the latest in behavioral psychology, he hosts The Stephen McGarvey Podcast and is known for bringing contagious enthusiasm and a powerful presence to the professional speaking circuit. Integrity
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