Monday, December 31, 2007

Sequencing to Build Momentum

Who you influence and in what sequence matters. People are heavily influenced by their social networks. Monkey see, monkey do. This can work for or against you. The key is to get the right people on your side. If you're doing a project proposal or pitching an idea, who you pitch it to and in what sequence matters. You can either stack the deck in your favor and build momentum, or you can fight an uphill battle. In The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels, Michael Watkins writes about sequencing to build momentum.

Formidable Barrier or Valuable Asset
Influence networks can be barriers or assets. Watkins writes:

"As we have seen, people consistently look to others in their social networks for clues about 'right thinking,' and defer others with expertise or status on particular sets of issues. The resulting influence networks can be a formidable barrier to your efforts or a valuable asset, or both."

Example of Social Influence
Watkins provides an example of social influence showing how a group is persuaded:

"Let us return once more to the example of asking a group of people to do something embarrassing. Suppose that, in response to my request, a respected member of the group said, "No way, I'm doing that. It is disrespectful and foolish." Almost certainly no one else in the group would do what I had asked. But suppose the same person jumped up, grabbed someone else and said, "Let's do it! It'll be fun!" The odds are that everyone else would eventually follow suit. In fact, the last to rise, would feel social pressure to do so: "What's the matter with you?"

Now suppose I did an analysis of the group before this exercise and identified the most respected person. Suppose I met with that person before the exercise and enlisted his or her aid as a confederate to make some important points about group dynamics and social influence. The odds are good that this person would agree to do so - and that others would follow."

Sequencing Strategy
Gain respected allies early on. Watkins writes:

"The fundamental insight is that you can leverage knowledge of influence networks into disproportionate influence on a group with what my colleague Jim Sebenius termed a sequencing strategy. The order in which you approach potential allies and convincables will have a decisive impact on your coalition-building efforts. Why? Once you gain a respected ally, you will typically find it easier to recruit others. As you recruit more allies, your resource base grows. With broader support, the likelihood increases that your agenda will succeed. That optimistic outlook makes it easier to recruit still more supporters.

If you approach the right people first, you can set in motion a virtuous cycle. Therefore you need to decide carefully who you wil approach first, and how you will do it."

Who to Focus On
Watkins suggests focusing on the following first:
  • People with whom you already have supportive relationships.
  • Individuals whose interests are strongly compatible with yours.
  • People who have the critical resources you need to make your agenda succeed.
  • People with important connections who can recruit more supporters.

Key Take Aways
I have several large-scale projects under my belt so I can say with confidence that sequence matters. Here's my key take aways:

  • Build incremental support. Divide and conquer. You don't need to win everybody over at once. In fact, unless it's a sure thing, you probably won't.
  • Tackle your most influential critics first. This serves three purposes. First, it will expose you to some issues you may need to work through. Second, if you get them on your side, it sends a powerful message, helping you get more supporters. Third, it helps mitigate the risk that a powerful critic will derail your momentum downstream. Put it another way, a stitch in time, saves nine.
  • Know when you're not the right person. If you don't have rapport with the people you need on your side, but one of your allies does, see how you can leverage them.
  • Don't get blind-sided by social influence. The best ideas can get shot down, regardless of their merits. It's sad, but true. If you purely focus on the results, but ignore the people mechanics, you can fail. Even if you don't, you can find yourself working harder than you should need to.
  • Consider an exec sponsor. The social influence of the right exec sponsor can carry you over the hurdles, as well as help shape the support all around you.

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Ten Types of Difficult People

What if you had a playbook for dealing with the types of people you can't stand? What if there was a way to turn your enemies into allies? What if you could find ways to deal with your own behavior that you can't stand? In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner identify 10 specific behavior patterns that people resort to when they feel threatened, don't get what they want, or face undesirable circumstances along with prescriptive guidance on how to deal with them.

The 10 Most Unwanted List
Brinkman and Kirschner identify 10 difficult behaviors that represent normal people at their worst:

The Four Intents
As a framework for understanding negative behavior, Brinkman and Kirschner identify four intents that can lead to conflict:

  • Get the task done.
  • Get the task right.
  • Get along with people.
  • Get appreciation from people.

Everybody is Somebody's Difficult Person
Brinkman and Kirschner write:

"There exist varying degrees of knowledge and ignorance in your repetoire of communication skills, with their consequent interpersonal strengths and weaknesses. As a result, you may have no trouble at all dealing with that overly or nonemotional person who no one else can stand. You may have more difficulty with people who whine and are negative, or you mayfind dealing with aggressive people to be the most challenging. Passive people may frustrate you, or you may have a low tolerance for braggarts and blowhards. Likewise, you probably frustrate several people yourself, because everybody is somebody's difficult person at least some of the time. "

Key Take Aways
In my opinion, improving communication is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your effectiveness. Knowing how to deal with the top negative behaviors is a great way to boost your ability to get results and improve the quality of your life. Here's my key takw aways:

  • People aren't their behavior. It's not the person, it's the behavior. They can change. People are a spectrum of possibilities.
  • People demonstrate patterns of behavior. There are patterns you can identify that help you anticipate, interact, and react more effectively.
  • People vs. task focus. One important continuum that explains why people do what they do is whether they have a task focus or a people focus. For instance, do they care more about the work or the team that's doing the work?
  • Passive vs. aggressive tendencies. Another important continuum that explains why people do what they do is their level of assertiveness. Some people demonstrate more passive tendencies, while others demonstrate more aggressive tendencies.
  • Balance is the key. At the end of the day, it's demonstrating balance among the forces that helps keep behavior in check.

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Sunday, December 30, 2007


Nobody likes a Whiner. Laugh the world laughs with you; whine and you whine alone. Whiners feel helpless and overwhelmed by an unfair world. Their standard is perfection, and no one and nothing measures up to it. But misery loves company, so they bring their problems to you. Offering solutions makes you bad company, so their whining escalates. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with people that behave like Whiners.

Your Goal
Form a problem-solving alliance. Brinkman and Kirschner write the following:

"If you must deal with Whiners, your goal is to team up with them to form a problem-solving alliance (and if that doesn't work, then your goal is to get them to go away!). The difference between a problem solver and a Whiner is in the way each approaches a problem: The problem solver look at the problem with an eye toward finding solutions; the Whiner look at the problem, feels helpless, and then generalizes that the problem is worse than it actually is. So the best you can do with someone who is constantly complaining, and for everyone around him, is to work with him to diminish his feelings of helplessness by helping him to identify solutions. Done consistently through time, this strategy can sometimes cure the Whiner once and for all. As the feeling of helplessness diminishes, so does the need to whine."

Do's and Don'ts for Dealing with Whiners
Brinkman and Kirschner provide a set of Do's and Don'ts for dealing with Whiners.

  • Don't agree with Whiners, as it just encourages them to keep cmplaining.
  • Don't disagree with them, as they will feel compelled to repeat their problems.
  • Don't try to solve their problems for them -- you can't.
  • Never ask them why they are complaining to you about their problems. They hear this as an invitation to start all over again from the beginning.
  • Do have patience with their impossible standards and seemingly endless negativity.
  • Do have compassion for the poor complainers whose lives are beyond their control.
  • Do have commitment to the lengthy process of getting them to focus on solutions.

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with a Whiner:

  • Listen for the main points. The last thing you want to do is listen, but that's just what you need to do with the Whiner. Listen with pen and paper to catch the main points of the complaint.
  • Interrupt and get specific. Take command of the conversation through a tactful interruption, and ask for your Whiner's help. Then ask clarification questions to get to the specifics of the problem, because vague problems are rarely solvable.
  • Shift the focus to solutions. Because Whiners often complain in vague, cascading generalizations (e.g.,"It's all wrong. But even if it wasn't nobody cares."), they don't stand still with any one problem long enough to stand a chance at problem solving. Once you begin to get specific about each complaint in turn, Whiners find themselves face-to-face with specific problems.
  • Show the Whiner the future. When people have been feeling helpless, it is helpful to give them something to look forward to. If solving the problem they've brought to your attention turns out to be your responsibility, then you must keep your Whiners informed about progress.
  • Draw the line. If backtracking, clarifying, and asking for a direction has not produced any real change in the Whiner, drawing the line becomes necessary. If your Whiner gets back on a roll with complaining, and it sounds like it isn't going to stop, take charge of the situation and bring it assertivelyto a close.
Key Take Aways
A common theme in dealing with negative behaviors is to build rapport and stay focused on solutions, and allow time for the process. Here's my key take aways:
  • Use active listening. Use active listening by paraphrasing and echoing points that you hear. You don't have to agree with the points. This helps show understanding and helps clarify points.
  • Allow time for the process. Don't rush results. You need to establish rapport before you can influence influence.
  • Stay focused on solutions. Chunk the problems down. The Whiner might feel overwhelmed because they've magnified problems. Solving a few right-sized problems will help build momentum.
  • Pair with them on solutions. Sometimes a Whiner just needs new perspective or some support, and then they too can switch into problem solving mode.
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No Person

A No Person kills momentum and creates friction for you. More deadly to morale than a speeding bullet, more powerful than hope, able to defeat big ideas with a single syllable. Disguised as a mild mannered normal person, the No Person fights a never ending battle for futility, hopeless ness, and despair. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about dealing with people that behave like a No Person.

Your Goal
Transition to problem solving. Brinkman and Kirschner write the following:

"When dealing with a No Person, your goal is to move from fault finding toward problem solving, from stagnation toward innovation, from decline toward improvement. You may not stop the flood of negativity completely, but you can
succeed in turning the tide back to its proper course."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with a No Person:
  • Go with the flow. The first action step for dealing with negative people is to allow them to be as negative as they want to be. The worst course you can take with negative people is to try to convince them that things are not so bad and could be worse. This only motivates negative people to work more intently to convince you that things actually are so bad, and will be worse. Put another way, attempting to convince a No Person to be positive is like struggling to climb out of quicksand: The harder you struggle, the more embedded you become.
  • Use the person as a resource. The No Person can serve two valuable functions in your life: They can be your personal character builder, and they can serve as an early warning system.
  • Leave the door open. No People tend to operate in a different time reality than other people. Any effort to rush them to a decision will force them to slow down. With enough pushing for action, No People will put enough drag on things to bring them to a complete stop, or become the sand int he gears that eventually destroys the motor. Whereas the temptation might be to throw them out, exclude them, or to think, and leave the door open so they can come back in when ready. For example, "If you change your mind, let us know," or "When you think of a solution, get back to me," or "Why don't you think about this for a while, and report back any ideas you have."
  • Go for the polarity response. There are two ways to apply the polarity principle when dealing with No People. The first is to bring up negatives before they do. The second is to just agree with the hopelessness of the situation, and take it one step further. This may cause the No Person to go in the opposite direction.
  • Acknowledge the person's good intent. If you are willing to project good intent onto negative behavior, negative people may come to believe it. Then that analytic perfectionism can be expressed in a more useful way. Decide to act as if the negative feedback is meant to be helpful. Appreciate the No Person for having such high standards, for the willingness to speak up, and for the concern about details.

Key Take Aways
I've dealt with multiple No People and it's usually a matter of allowing more time and changing the approach. Asking the right questions and presenting the right arguments helps a lot. Mostly it comes down to understanding their concerns and knowing their values. Here's my key take aways:

  • Test your No Person early. If you need the support of the No Person, seek them out early, rather than get blocked downstream. Their buy-in might take time, even if your idea is sound.
  • Build an ally. If No Person is on your side, this can help build momentum. A No Person can also help you figure out what the main blockers or resistance will be.
  • Divide and conquer. If your No Person is more powerful among a group, meet with them indvidually and in advance.
  • Consider the time-frame. You might need to warm the No Person up to your idea over time versus a single session. If your short-burst strategies aren't working, then try spreading multiple sesions out over time. You can experiment and find the pattern that works.
  • Try reverse psychology. If their instinct is to play a Devil's advocate, try asking them for the opposite of what you want, and test their reactions.
  • Involve them in the solution. Ask them to temporarily wear a collaborative hat. It makes it safe for them to play out your ideas, and temporarily step out of their No Person behavior. See Six Thinking Hats.

My Related Posts

Nothing Person

A Nothing Person doesn't contribute to the conversation. No verbal feedback, no nonverbal feedback, Nothing. What else could you expect from ... the Nothing Person. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with people that behave like a Nothing Person.

Your Goal
Persuade the Nothing Person to talk.

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Nothing people:

  • Plan enough time. f you are tense and intense because of limited time, it's the wrong time. Plan ahead. Dealing successfully with the Nothing Person may take a long time.
  • Ask open-ended questions expectantly. The best kind of question to ask a Nothing Person is one that can't be answered with a yes, a no, or a grunt. Use questions that begin with the words Who, What, When, Where, and How, since they tend to open up topics for discussion.
  • Lighten it up. When nothing else is working, a little humor carefully used can go a long way. Be careful with this, because humor is a two-edged sword. It can inadvertently cut the Nothing Person and yourself, and there's nothing funny about that.
  • Guess. If your Nothing Person has remained silent until now, and nothing else has gotten results, or you want an alternative, try this: Put yourself in the Nothing Person's shoes, and think back on the course of events as you understand them. What was the sequence and how else might you interpret the sequence to make positive sense out of this negative silence? Once you've come up with an idea, suggest it to the Nothing Person and watch for a reaction.
  • Show the future. sometimes, the only way to get a Nothing Person is talking is to take him out of the moment and into the future. There the Nothing Personcan see the consequences of continued silence, and perhaps find enough perspective and motivation to open up.

Examples of Showing the Future
Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples to illustrate showing the future depending on your relationship with the Nothing person:

  • For a get it right Nothing Person you might say: "Fine, don't talk. [Blending with what is happening] Just imagine how many things could go wrong, and how much time we are going to waste on this project because we didn't have your input."
  • For a get along Nothing Person you might say: "Okay, you don't have to talk. [blending] but in the long term I don't see how our relationship can survive if we don't start to communicate."
  • For a get along Nothing Person at the office you might say: "Okay, you don't have to talk [blending], but it sure won't be any fun to work around here if we are all in our own little worlds. That will certainly kill the team spirit and make for a lot of bad feelings and misunderstandings."
  • For a holistic Nothing Person who is trying to "get you" by closing you out, talk about the negative consequences you'll have to inflict upon them, like grievance procedures, going over their head, filing out paperwork, and the like. Warning - Don't make promises you won't keep. Idle threats teach peple that you're idling. Your goal is to make something out of nothing, not nothing out of something, so that it becomes uncomfortable for the Noting Person to remain silent.

Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples of interacting with Nothing people:

  • Ask open-ended questions expectantly. "If you did now, what would it be?"
  • Ask open-ended questions expectantly. "If you did know, what would it be?"
  • Guess. "Sam, I'm just guessing here, but three months ago during the reorganization, two of our departments were downsized significantly, and budgets were axed. What effect did that have on you?"
  • Show the future. "without that information you're withholding , more people will lose their jobs, and the people right here in this company who you've known for years are going to have their futures put at risk, all because you didn't do the right thing. You may think you have a good reason for being silent now, but how will that reason of yours hold up later?"

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Allow time for the process. The flow of information is going to be slower so plan for it. You don't want to be in a situation where time is working against you.
  • Ask the right questions. This is one of your best tools in your toolbelt. If you're not getting the response you want, you might not be asking the right questions.
  • Show the ramifications. People aren't always aware of the impact of their actions (or inactions.) Explaining the impact might help.

My Related Posts

Maybe Person

In a moment of decision, the Maybe Person procrastinates in the hope that a better choice will present itself. Sadly, with most decisions, there comes a point when is it too little, too late, and the decision makes itself. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with Maybe people.

Your Goal
Help them learn to think decisively. Brinkman and Kirschner write:

"Your Maybe Person's problem is a simple one: He or she doesn't know a systematic method for choosing between imperfect choices. Your goal, therefore,
is to give the person a strategy for decision making and the motivation to use it. Perhaps, you've heard that 'You can feed someone a fish and they've had a meal. Or you can teach someone to fish, and when there is a need for a fish, they can go get one.' Nevertheless, 'You can lead a person to water, but you can't make him fish.' So, you are going to create a communication environment within wihcih your Maybe Person wants to stop procrastinating and learn how to make a resonably good decision."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with people that behave like a Maybe person:

  • Establish a comfort zone. Nebulous fears and negative feelings interfere with clear thinking. For example, if you ever told a salesperson you were going to "think about it", even though you knew you weren't going "to buy it." The get along part of you didn't want to deal with the discomfort of telling the truth.
  • Surface conflicts, clarify options. Patiently explore, from the Maybe Person's point of view, all of the options and the obstacles involved in making the decision, and any people that might be adversely affected by the decision. Listen for words of hesitation like "probably," "I think so," "pretty much," "that could be true," and so on as signals to explore deeper.
  • Use a decision-making system. The best way to make a decision is to use a system. if you have a system that works well for you, teach it to the Maybe Person. One approach is to list out all the positive and all the negatives explicitly
    Reassure, then ensure follow-through. Once the decision is made, reassure the Maybe
  • Person that there are no perfect decisions, and that the decision is a good one. Then, to ensure that the Maybe Person follows through, stay in touch until the decision is implemented. For example, "I'll drop by later this afternoon and follow up on this." See How Experts Make Decisions and Satisficing to Get Things Done.
  • Strengthen the relationship. Promote the idea of a better future for both of you as a result of the person's honesty with you. Be willing to take a few moments from time to time and listen to the Maybe Person's concerns. Talk on a personal level with the person, and help him or her learn the decision-making process whenever the opportunity arises. If you are willing to patiently invest a little time in this kind of guidance, the Maybe Person will never want to let you down. See Five Ways to Strengthen a Relationship.

Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples of interacting with a Maybe person:

  • Establish a comfort zone. "Listen, John. I know you, you know me, one thing I can tell you is we can work it out."
  • Surface conflict. Just give me some truth: What is it, me old chum, bout perforon' on Ed's show?"
  • Use a decision-making system. "You can talk to me. What are you choices?" [Clarify options]

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Let them know the impact of their indecision. Timing windows are key. If you're missing timing windows, help the Maybe Person undertand the impact of their actions (or inaction.)
  • Focus on "good enough" over perfection. It's how experts make decisions under fire. They do pattern matching against possible fits. They satisfice to get things done.
  • Make the criteria and values explicit. Part of the problem may be the Maybe Person is optimizing around different criteria than you are. You can't reliably make decisions if you don't know that criteria that matters.

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Yes Person

In an effort to please people and avoid confrontation, Yes People say "yes" without thinking things through. They react to the latest demands on their time by forgetting prior commitments, and overcommit until they have no time for themselves. Then they become resentful. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with Yes people.

Your Goal
Get commitments you can count on. Brinkman and Kirschner write:

"Your goal with this problem person is to get commitments you can count on, by making it safe for that person to be honest, teaching him or her task-management strategies, and strengthening the relationship. ... The challenge is to get them to do what they say they will do."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Yes people:

  • Make it safe to be honest. Make the communication environment a safe one so that the two of you can honestly examine whether promises being made in the future will be promises kept. This could be a one-time long conversation, or it may require several meetings over an extended period of time.
  • Talk honestly. If you think the Yes Person is angry or resentful about something, or believes in the excuses, whether justified in your opinion or not, encourage the person to talk it out with you. Hear him out, without contradicting, jumping to conclusions, or taking offense.
  • Help the person learn to plan. Once you've listened to your Yes Person's point of view, it will be obvious to you "why" you can't take "yes" as an answer. This is the time to create a learning opportunity. By using the past experience as a template, you can go back together and approach the task as if it's in the future. What motivation was missing? What could have been done differently? How else could the situation have been handled? Help the Yes Person focus in on the specific action and steps and process involved in accomplishing the task.
  • Ensure commitments. At the end of the discussion, thank your Yes Person for talking the problems out with you, and ask, "What will you do differently the next time you've made a promis to me and you are unable to carry it out?" Once you've received your answer, you must follow through and ensure commitment. See Five Ways to Ensure Commitment and Follow-Through.
  • Strengthen the relationship. Look at every interaction as a chance to strenghten the relationship. Acknowledge the times when your Yes People are honest with you about doubts and concerns, make an event ouf of every completed commitment, and be very careful how you deal with broken promises. Five Ways to Strengthen a Relationship.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Be careful of your own wishful thinking. Remember that a "Yes" doesn't mean it will get done. Follow up and avoid surprises. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
  • Remember that they mean well. They don't say Yes to screw you. It's an aim to please and because they have some poor task-management practices.
  • Use it to improve your task-management skills. It's one thing to get your direct tasks done. It's another to manage the completion of tasks you delegate or have a dependency on.
  • Think of yourself as a mentor. Not everybody is successful at managing priorities or managing what's on their plate or setting expectations. Share what you've learned that works.

My Related Posts

Grenade Person

After a brief period of calm, the Grenade person explodes into unfocused ranting and raving about things that have nothing to do with the present circumstances. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about dealing with Grenade people.

Your Goal
Take control of the situation. Brinkman and Kirschner write:

"In essence, your goal is to take control of the situtation when the Grenade starts to lose it. Though it is impossible for you to stop a Grenade from exploding once the pin is pulled, Grenades can stop themselves given the right circumstances. You can create those circumstances."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with the Grenade person:
  • Get the person's attention. To get people's attention when they are losing control of themselves, call their names, raise the volume of your voide so you can be heard through the explosion, and wave your hands slowly back and forth in front of you.
  • Aim for the heart. Show your genuine concern for these problem people by saying what they need to hear. By listening closely, you can determine the cause of the explosion, then backtrack while reassuring them of your concern. When you hit the heart you'll be suprised how quickly the Grenade calms down.
  • Reduce intensity. Reduce your volume and intensity.
  • Time off for good behavior. Don't try and have a reasonable discussion about the cause of the explosion during the explosion. Take a time out, whether 10 minutes, an hour or a week, then have a meaningful follow-up ont he episode of temper.
  • Grenade prevention. Find the pin and don't pull. If you can find what pulls out the pin on a Grenade, you can act to prevent it from being pulled again. If you have a good enough relationship, you could simply come right out and ask the Grenade what makes them mad. Start by stating your intent clearly, "I want to reduce the conflict with you." Then use clarifying questions to get specific on the cause of anger. A useful question is, "How did you know when to get angry?"

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Stay objective. Don't get wrapped in the emotions. To help master your emotions and avoid reacting, see Master My Stories.
  • Find a way to agree with your critic. This takes the wind out of their sails and it helps you establish rapport. It also helps you avoid getting defensive or overly emotional. See How To Deal with Criticism and Disarming Technique.
  • Find the root cause. Questions are a good way to find what's behind the attacks. Don't take things at face value.

My Related Posts


Think-They-Know-It-All people can't fool all the people all the time, but they can fool some of the people enough of the time, and enough of the people all of the time - all for the sake of getting some attention. They know how to learn just enough about a subject to sound like they know what they are talking about. They are addicted to exaggeration as an attention-getting technque. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with people that behave like Think-They-Know-It-Alls.

Your Goal
Give their bad ideas the hook. Brinkman and Kirschner write:

"Your goal is to catch them in their act and give their bad ideas the proverbial hook, just as bad acts were removed from the stage in Vaudeville days. Only in this case, you'll want to do so without putting the Think-They-Know-It-All on the defensive."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Think-They-Know-It-Alls:
  • Give the person a little attention. Use two ways: 1) backtrack their comments with enthusiasm 2) Acknowledge positive intent rather than wasting your time with their content.
  • Clarify for specifics. Ask them for some revealing clarification questions for specifics. Since the Think-They-Know-It-All speaks in huge generalizations you'll want to question the use of universal words like "everybody" with "Who specifically?", "always" with "When specifically?", and "significant" with "Significant in what way, specifically?"
  • Tell it like it is. Redirect the conversation back to reality.
  • Give the person a break. Resist the temptation to embarrass them. Make them an ally by giving them a way out and again minimizing the chance of putting them on the defensive.
  • Break the cycle. Recognize the negative cycle and work with the person to break the cycle. Break the cycle by doing two things: 1) use gentle confrontation to tel lthem the truth about the consequences of their negative behavior 2) Actively look for and notice what this problem person is doing right, and give them credit where credit is due.

Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples of dealing with Think-They-Know-It-Alls:

  • Give their ideas a little attention. "thanks for wanting us to get the right system for our people." {Acknowledge positive intent]
  • Clarify for specifics. "Are you aware of the file transfer capabilities between Bartlett and BMI?"
  • Give the person a break. "But may you haven't had a chance to read those articles yet?" [Give them a break]

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Know that the Think-They-Know-It-All just wants attention. Just recognizing this might help you deal with the Think-They-Know-It-All better.
  • Use clarifying questions over debate. Asking the right questions, in front of the right people, is better than arguing.
  • Have mercy. You don't want to put them on the defensive. You don't want to scar them emotionally. Your purpose is to just remove the take the bad ideas off the stage.

My Related Posts


Seldom in doubt, the Know-It-All person has a low tolerance for correction and contradiction. If something goes wrong, however, the Know-It-All will speak with the same authority about who's to blame - you! In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about dealing with people with Know-It-All behavior.

Your Goal
Open their minds to new ideas. Brinkman and Kirschner write about dealing with Know-It-Alls:

"Your goal with the Know-It-All is to open his or her mind to new information and ideas. A day may come when you have a better idea or the missing piece of the puzzle! When that day comes, and you feel the moral imperative of getting your idea implemented, take aim at the goal and go for it. If the Know-It-All stands in your way, let your mounting frustration become sheer determination to open the person's mind to your idea."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Know-It-Alls:
  • Be prepared and know your stuff. Clearly think through your ideas ahead of time. The Know-It-All defense system monitors incoming information for errors. Know-It-All will pick up any shortcoming and use it to discredit your whole idea.
  • Backtracking respectfully. You have to do more backtracking (echo back) with a Know-It-All than any other difficult person. If you don't backtrack, you run the risk of having to listen to the Know-It-All as they repeat themselves, over and over again.
  • Blend with doubts and desires. If the Know-It-All has doubts about your idea, then there's specific criteria that aren't being addressed, such as the reasons why or why not. Show how your idea factors the Know-It-Alls specific criteria into account. Know-It-Alls tend to have a finite set of dismissal statements that reflect their highly valued criteria.
  • Present your views indirectly. Proceed quickly but cautiously while defenses are temporarily down. Use softening words "maybe," "perhaps," "this may be a detour," "bear with me a moment," "I was just wondering," and "What do you suppose." Use plural nouns like "we" or "us" over "I" or "you." It can help give the Know-It-All a bit of ownership.
  • Turn the Know-It-All into a mentor. Openly acknowledge the knowledgable problem person as your mentor in some area of your life that you seek to develop. By letting the Know-It-All that you recognize an expert, and are willing to learn from one, you become less of a threat. You may find your way from the "disenfranchised" group into the "generally-recognized-as-safe-to-listent-to" group.

Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples of responses to Know-It-Alls:

  • Be prepared to know your stuff. "And sir, the nutrition diet you're referring to ... I believe the Merck manual recommends 70 grams of protein a day as tolerated by the patient, is that right sir?" [Know your stuff]
  • Backtracking respectfully. "Dr. Leavitt, sir, if I understand you correctly, the peripheral neuropathy, glossits, and tender hepatomegaly are all characteristic signs of the start of alcoholic cirrhosis?" [Backtrack with respect]
  • Blend with doubts and desires. "Thank you, sir. This may be a bit of a detour, sir, but I was reading in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition about some research on the amin acid L-carnititine and its effect on liver function. Now I know your feeling about 'health supplements.'[Blend with doubts]
  • Turn the Know-It-All into a mentor. "I want to learn. show me what you would do,"[Turn them into mentors]

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Don't make it personal. One of the challenges when presenting information is when making a point, becomes an argument, becomes a debate, becomes personal attacks. Keep it objective.
  • Decide if it's worth it. Maybe the homework you have to do to talk intelligently with your Know-It-All isn't worth it. Don't just think short-term though; consider the long term relationship.
  • Consider "wearing a hat." You can think of yourself wearing a hat if you need to switch modes that you aren't comfortable with. You can invite your Know-It-All to wear a hat as well, so that you can collaboratively both support and attack the information as a team. See Six Thinking Hats.
  • Use your Know-It-All as a mentor. This is a great recommendation. It expands your pool of people to learn from. It forces you to find something about the Know-It-All that you can respect. It builds common ground. You improve your skills.

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Whether through rude comments, biting sarcasm, or a well-timed roll of the eyes, making you look foolish is the Sniper's specialty. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with people that behave like a Sniper.

You Goal
Bring the Sniper out of hiding. Brinkman and Kirschner write:

"Your goal when dealing with a Sniper is to bring the Sniper out of hiding. Whatever type of Sniper you face, whether the playful snipe, the controlling snipe, or the grudge snipe, you only need remember this: A Sniper can't snipe if there's nowhere to hide. Since the Sniper's limited power is derived from covert, not overt, activity, once you have exposed her position, that position becomes useless. Be dealing directly and assertively with Sniper Behavior, you take the fun out of it for her, and even the odds by forcing her out of her hiding place and onto common ground."

Action Plan
Brinkman and Kirschner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with Snipers:

  • Stop, look, backtrack. Zero in on the Sniper. If it seems like someone is taking shots at you, stop - even in the middle of a sentence or word. Bring all your activity to a standstill. Scan for the Sniper and backtrack.
  • Use searchlight questions. Use two questions to expose the Sniper's behavior: 1) Intent - "When you say that, what are you really trying to say?" and 2) Relevancy - "What does that have to do with this?"
  • Use tank strategy if needed. Hold your ground, interrupt the interruption, backtrack the main accusation, and aim at your own bottom line.
  • Go on a grievance patrol. If you suspect someone is holding a grudge against you, but you're not certain, go on patrol and see what you can scout out.
  • Suggest a civil future. Finish the interaction by suggesting an alternative behavior for the future.

Brinkman and Kirschner provide examples of responding to Snipers:

  • Stop, Look, Backtrack. "So, I heard you say that I have 'nothing to say but you have to wait a long time to hear it." [Backtracking]
  • Use searchlight questions. "Darren, when you say 'Can't take a joke?,' I'm still wondering what are you really trying to say?" [Searchlight question, probling for the grievance]

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Expose the sniper. Getting the Sniper out in the open and putting them on the spot can potentially be enough to stop the Sniper's behavior.
  • Clarify the basis for the shots. It's possible the criticism is fair, but the behavior is inappropriate. Distinguish between the content and the approach.
  • Questions are better than a defense. Questions can help you find the underlying reasons for the behavior, without becoming defensive.

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The Tank is confrontational, pointed and angry, the ultimate in pushy and aggressive behavior. In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to deal with people that behave like Tanks.

Your Goal
Command respect. Brinkman and Krischner write:

"Whenever you're being verbally assaulted, attacked, and accused, your goal must be to command respect because Tanks simply don't attack people they respect. Aggressive peple require assertive responses. Your behavior must send a clear signal that you are strong and capable, since anything less is an invitation for further attacks. However, you must send this signal without becoming a Tank yourself. When you stand accused, your characters is tested. The strength of character you reveal will ultimately determine the Tank's perception of you and future behavior toward you."
Action Plan
Brinkman and Krischner provide prescriptive guidance for dealing with tanks:
  • Hold your ground. Stay put and hold your position. Silently look the Tank in the eyes and shift your attention to your breathing. Breathe slowly and deeply. Intentional breathing helps you regain self-control.
  • Interrupt the attack. The best way to interrupt anyone, whether yelling or not, is to evenly say their name over and over again, until you have their full attention.
    Quickly backtrack the main point. When you have the Tank's attention, backtrack (echo back) the main accusation. Be quick about it. The Tank is speaking and thinking at a rapid pace, so blend by speeding things up.
  • Aim for the bottom line and fire! The bottom line varies according to your situation but it usually is about two sentences long. Preface your bottom line with onwership of it, by saying, "From my point of view ...," or "The way I see it ..." This prevents your shot at the bottom line from restarting the war.
  • Peace with honor. Redirect to a peaceful solution by offering the Tank the last word, only you decide where and when.

Brinkman and Krischner provide examples to illustrate:

  • Aim for the Bottom line and fire. Your boss confronts you at the office, demanding to know "Why isn't that project finished yet? You've worked on it for two weeks and you're already a month behind!" You reply: "Boss, I understand that you think the project ought to be finished already. [Blending by backtracking] From my point of view, the time I'm investing in it now will save time and money in the future." [Bottom line]
  • Aim for the Bottom line and fire. "Mary, Mary, Mary. [Interrupt] I hear that you are having a problem with the way this is being done. [Backtrack] But I am not willing to discuss it, if this is how you are going to talk to me. [Bottom line] when you are ready to speak to me with respect, I will take all the time you want to discuss this." [Redirecting to the future]
  • Peace with respect. "When I am through making my presentation, I will be more than happy to hear your feedback." "When you are ready to speak to me with respect. I'll be ready to discuss the matter."

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Stay assertive. I think the key with holding your ground is letting the attacks fly by without getting emotional and don't take it personally. Otherwise, assertive can turn to defensive or offensive.
  • Don't get emotional. In the midst of attacks, it can be tough to stay calm, cool, and collected. Two techniques that help are Master My Stories and Make It Safe.
  • Know the key attacks. If you know the key attacks from the Tank, being able to state you bottom line, crisply and consicely helps. If it's a recurring pattern of attacks, invovle the Tank in the solution.
  • Maintain your respecct. This starts with expecting respect. If you don't respect yourself, don't expect others to.

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Five Ways to Strengthen a Relationship

How do you turn an unkept promise into a learning opportunity and strengthen a work relationship? How do you turn a promise fullfilled into a memorable experience? In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner write about how to make a meaningful difference in people's lives and strengthen work relationships.

When Someone Does Something They Promised
How do you turn a promise kept or a task completed into a memorable experience Brinkman and Kirschner write the following:

  • Tell them what they did right, as specifically as possible. Don't tell them what your opinion of it is, just the facts. "Teri, you promised to pull together the proposal for the presentation, and you did exactly what you promised."
  • Tell them how others were affected to the best of your
    . "As a result, the client decided to do business with us. The 'old man' is as happy as can be and we made Ms. Rooklyn look real good. "
  • Tell them how you feel about it ... pleased, impressed, grateful. "I am grateful that you took care of this. I'm also impressed with the design of hte whole proposal! The graphics were great. You made a whole lot of information easy to absorb. The presentation couldn't have worked out as well as it did without your involvement. Thank you for your caring."
  • Project positive intent. Tell them, "That's one of the things I like about you." You're wanting to build their mental association with keeping their word. "You know I really like that about you. When you do something, you do it right. That was really terrific!"
  • Let them know you are looking forward to more of the same in the
    . "It's been a real pleasure getting to work with you on this, and I'm looking forward to more opportunities in the future to team up with you."

When Someone Doesn't Do Something They Promised
How do you turn a broken promise or uncompleted task into a learning opportunity? Brinkman and Kirschner write the following:

  • Tell them what they did, describing what happened as specifically as possible. Don't give them your opinion, but do give them the facts. Make sure you do this with caring and sincerity.
  • Tell them how other people were affected, to the best of your
    . "As a result we looked bad in front of an important client. Ms. Rooklyn and the 'old man' were disappointed. They lost confidence in us.
  • Tell them how they feel about it ... disappointed, angry, frustrated, and so on. Don't exaggerate, but do be honest. "Quite honestly, I'm disappointed and very frustrated over this.
  • Project positive intent. Tell them, "That's not like you." Even if it is like them. Rather than denying positive projects, people consistently attempt to fullfill them. "That's not like you to let all those people down. I know you care about doing great work and being part of the team, and I know you're capable of doing what you say. I also know that you don't have to make promises you can't keep."
  • Ask what they learned from the experience, or what they would do differently if given the chance to do it again. This is called a learning moment, and it changes negative memories into useful experiences. "So, tell me, what would you do differently if you could do it again?" Using this method, you can turn a failure into a success for both of you.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Be specific. Details and precision help over precision. Rather than vague connections to positive or negative behavior, specifics help clarify any ambiguity. Fleshing out details also helps make it real and more memorable.
  • Point out the impact. Often times negative behavior isn't intentional. It can be behavior blindness. Pointing out the impact helps the person gain perspective and reflect. Pointing out the impact of positive impact, helps reenforce the good behavior you're looking for.
  • Use questions to help reflection. Unsolicited advice falls on deaf ears. Invovle the person in the process. Asking solution focused questions helps them internalize.

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Five Ways to Ensure Commitment and Follow-through

How do you ensure commitment and follow-through for delegated tasks? In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner provide five ways for ensuring task completion.

Five Ways to Ensure Commitment and Follow-Through
Brinkman and Kirschner outline five ways managing delegated tasks:

  • Ask for their word of honor. The simplest of these is to ask your Yes person to back the commitment with his or her word of honor. You look them in the eye and say, "Now do I have your word that you'll do that, no matter what?" When people give their word of honor, that's a deeper level of commitment than a simple "Mmhm, or yes."
  • Ask them to summarize the commitment. Have the problem person summarize back to you what will be done, backtracking, and clarifying while letting them give you the details. You say something like, "I wan to make sure you and I both understand how this will be done. Could you describe to me what you will do and when?"
  • Get them to write it down. To help Yes People to remember the commitment, get them to commit in writing, before walking away. Ask them to write down what they plan to do, post a note by the phone, or on the dashboard, give you a copy or put it on the front page of their daily calendar as an affirmation, "I will," and then fill in the commitment they are making. Most
    organized people agree that there is something about the physical act of writing down a commitment that makes it easier to remember and more likely to be acted on.
  • Weird deadlines. "So you will have it on my desk by 10:23 a.m. on Wednesday?" Most people round off time. Weird deadlines are unusual, because they stand out in the mind.
  • Describe negative consequences. The fifth way is to point out the possible negative consequence of not keeping the commitment. Your description of these consequences will be most effective if you put them in terms of people and relationship. "Now let's imagine it is Wednesday at 10:23 and this project you've agreed to do doesn't get done. How is everyone going to feel around here who was depending on you?"

Key Take Aways
I agree with the points above, with some variations. I think managing delegated tasks is part art and part science, and it's largely about understanding the behaviors on your team and in your situation. Here's some techniques I use:

  • "Echo it back to me". This is my technique for checking how well they've internalized the task and how well they understand the work to be done. I used to spend too much time recapping the task, thinking this would help make it stick. I found it's far more effective and efficient to have them echo their understanding back to me, and correct as needed from there. I think this also puts them in the right mindset of owning the task, and making sure they understand it, clarify, push back as necessary or reset expectations.
  • Get input on the estimate. If the people that will do the work, don't have a say, it's a setup for failur. If there's a constraint, ask the person that will do the work, if the work can be done in the time-frame. Find out what can be done in the time-frame or if you need to fix it. Even if you think you know how long it should take, you want buy-in from the person doing the work.
  • Whiteboard it. I ask some folks on the team to write down their tasks, if they have a habit of losing focus or if they have a poor task-management system. If there's no whiteboard, then a piece of paper works fine. I prefer the whiteboard because it's easy to see and update as needed. It also helps build momentum when they list things they got done on their whiteboard. Results are contagious.

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What Determines Focus and Assertiveness

What determines focus and assertiveness? In Dealing with People You Can't Stand: How to Bring Out the Best in People at Their Worst, Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner identify four intents that determine focus and assertiveness.

The Four Intents

  • Get the task done.
  • Get the task right.
  • Get along with people.
  • Get appreciation from people.

What Determines Focus and Assertiveness
Brinkman and Kirschner write the following:

"Every behavior has a purpose, or an intent, that the behavior is trying to fullfill. People engage in behaviors based on their intent, and do what they do based on what seems to be most important in any given moment. For our purpose, we have identified four-general intents that determine how people will behave in any given situation. While these are obviously not the only intentions motivating behavior, we believe they represent a general frame of reference in which practically all other intents can be located."

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • People focus. From a people focused perspective, there's two ends of the spectrum - get along and get appreciated.
  • Task focus. From a task focused perspective, there's two ends of the spectrum - get the task done and get the task right.
  • Conflict is a usually a conflict in expectations or intents. Identifying someone's intent helps you understand behavior,improve interaction, improve responses, and reset expectations as necessary.

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Seven Meta-Programs for Understanding People

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), meta-programs are the keys to the way you process information. They're basically how you form your internal representations and direct your behavior. In Unlimited Power : The New Science Of Personal Achievement, Tony Robbins writes about meta-programs that people use to sort and make sense of the world.

7 Meta-Programs

  • Toward or Away
  • External or Internal Frame of Reference
  • Sorting By Self or Sorting by Others
  • Matcher or Mismatcher
  • Convincer Strategy
  • Possibility vs. Necessity
  • Independent, Cooperative and Proximity Working Styles

Toward or Away
Robbins writes:

"All human behavior revolves around the urge gain pleasure or avoid pain. You pull away from a lighted match in order to avoid the pain of burning your hand. You sit and watch a beautiful sunset because you get pleasure from the glorious celestial show as day glides into night."

External or Internal Frame of Reference
Robbins writes:

"Ask someone else how he know when he's done a good job. For some people, the proof comes from the outside. The boss pats you on the back and says your work was great. You get a raise. You win a big award. Your work is noticed and applauded by your peers. When you get that sort of external approval, you know
your work is good. That's an external frame of reference.

For others, the proof comes from inside. They 'just know inside' when thy'eve done well."

Sorting By Self or Sorting by Others
Robbins writes:

"Some people look at human interactions primarily in terms of what's in it for them personally, some in terms of what they can do for themselves or others. Of course, people don't always fall into one extreme or the other. If you sort only by self, you become a self-absorbed egotist. If you sort only by others, you become a martyr."

Matcher or Mismatcher
Robbins writes:

"This meta-program determines how you sort information to learn, understand,
and the like. Some people respond to the world by finding sameness. They look at
things and see what they have in common. They're matchers.

Other people are mismatchers -- diference people. There are two kinds of them. One type looks at the world and sees how things are different ... The other kind of mismatcher sees differences with exceptions. He's like a matcher who finds sameness with exceptions in reverse - he sees the differences first, and then he'll add the things they have in common."

Convincer Strategy
This meta-program invovles what it takes to convince someone of something. Robbins writes:

"The convincer strategy has two parts. To figure out what consistently convinces someone, you must first find out what sensory building blocks he needs to become convinced, and then you must discover how often he has to receive these stimuli before becoming convinced.

To discover someone's convincer meta-program, ask, 'How do you know when
someone else is good at a job? Do you have to a) see them or watch them do it, b) hear about how good they are, c) do it with them, or d) read about their ability?' The answer may be a combination of these. You may believe someone's good when you see him do a good job and when other people tell you he's good.

The next question is, 'How often does someone have to demonstrate he's good before you're convinced?' There are four possible answers: a) immediately (for example, if they demonstrate that they're good at something once, you believe them), b) a number of times (two or more), c) over a period of time (say, a few weeks or a month or a year), and d) consistently. In the last case, a person has to demonstrate that he's good each and every time. "

Possibility vs. Necessity
Robbins writes:

"Ask someone why he went to work for his present company or why he gought
his current car or house. Some people are motivated priimarily by necessity, rather than by what they want. They do something because they must. They're not pulled to take action by what is possible. They're not looking for infinite
varieties of expeirence. They go through life taking what comes and what is
available. When they need a new job or a new house or a new car or even a new
spouse, they go out and accept what is available.

Others are motivated to look for possibilities. They're motivated less by what they have to do than by what they want to do. They seek options, experiences, choices, paths. "

Independent, Cooperative and Proximity Working Styles
Robbins writes:

"Everyone has his own strategy for work. Some people are not happy unless they're independent. They have great difficulty working closely with other people and can't work well under a great deal of supervision. They have to run their own show. Others function best as a part of a group. We call their strategy a cooperative one. They want to share responsbility for any task they take on. Still others have a proximity strategy, which is somewhere in between. They prefer to workwith other people while maintaining a sole responsibility for a task. They're in charge but not alone."

Additional Considerations
Robbins provides the following suggestions:

  • All metaprograms are context-and stress-related
  • There's two ways to change meta-programs. One is from a significant emotional event.
  • The other way you can change is by consciously deciding to do so.
  • Use meta-programs on two levels. The first is a tool to calibrate and guide your communication with others. The second is a tool for personal change.
  • Constantly gauge and calibrate the people around you. Take note of specific patternsthey have for perceiving their world and begin to analyze if others have similar patterns.
  • Through this approach you can develop a whole set of distinctions about people that can empower you in knowing how to communicate effectively with all types of people.
  • Become a student of possiblity. Meta-programs give you the tools to make crucial distinctions in deciding how to deal with people. You are not limited to the meta-programs discussed here.

Key Take Aways
I think knowing how people work, helps bridge gaps. Here's my key take aways:

  • Use meta-programs to understand yourself and others. Meta-programs helps you understand how people sort and make sense of the world. They also help you understand your own values, beliefs and behaviors.
  • Remember that people use a blend of meta-programs. It's not this or that, it's a spectrum of possibilities. It's a tool for understanding how or why people behave and adapting your own behaviors to improve communication. They aren't a tool for stereo-typing or pidgeon-holing.
  • Change your own limiting meta-programs. If you have a way of processing the world that's limiting your success, find a way to consciously adapt. Identifying your own meta-programs you use is a start. Once you have awareness, you can see how this shows up.

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Eliciting a Strategy

You have programs for everything you do. Your progams consist of sequences of thoughts and behaviors triggered by a stimulus. In NLP terms, this is called a strategy for achieving an outcome. Really, this is an internal processing strategy. If you know about the components of an internal processing strategy, you can change it, copy an effective strategy from somebody else, or create a new one from scratch. In Brilliant Nlp: What the Most Successful People Know, Say & Do, David Molden and Pat Hutchinson provide a technique for elciting a strategy.

Why Strategies Matter
Molden and Hutchinson write:

"A common reason why some people are not good spellers is the stategy they use. Poor spellers often try to pronounce words with their internal dialogue. Anyone can be a good speller - you only have to learn an effective strategy using visuals of words and not just what they sound like.

Ineffective strategies prevent people from achieving so many things. How well do you manage your finances? What about the presentations you have given? How well do you communicate with people at work? Are you a good cook? How about the way you make decisions? Can you maintain positive and fruitful relationships?"

Steps to Elicit a Strategy
When you elicit a strategy, you discover a sequence of thoughts and behavior, as well as values, beliefs and meta-programs. Molden and Hutchinson outline steps for eliciting a strategy:

  • Step 1. Choose something to change
  • Step 2. Find the Trigger
  • Step 3. Check the Strategy

Step 1. Choose Something to Change
Molden and Hutchinson write:

"Choose something you do that you would rather not do, or something you would like to improve upon - for example, motivating yourself, stopping procrastinating, improving your decision making, giving up smoking."

Step 2. Find the Trigger
Molden and Hutchinson provide a set of questions to find the trigger:
  • How do you know when to do this?
  • What lets you know you are ready to do this?
  • What do you do as you are preparing to ....?
  • What steps do you go through?
  • What happens next?
  • Then what happens?
  • How do you know when you have succeeded?
  • How do you test whether you have succeeded?
  • What lets you know if you have not yet succeeded?

Step 3. Check the Strategy
Molden and Hutchinson write:

"When you have elicited the complete strategy repeat it back to check for anything missing. If you want to change it, the place to do this is at the trigger point, . The object is not to remove the original strategy but to create an alternative choice, as the strategy may be useful in other contexts."

Examples of Strategies
Molden and Hutchinson provide two different examples of strategies for a decision to buy:

Dennis's strategy for deciding to buy:

  • Visualize myself using it (internal visual)
  • Do I really need it? (internal dialogue)
  • If yes, research the model/type/make/price (internal visual)
  • Who shall I ask for an opinion (internal dialogue based on external reference meta-program)
  • Ask Jack and Bob (external auditory)
  • Yes, that feels right (kinaesthetic)
  • Where shall I buy from? (internal dialogue)
  • Consider internet/shop/mail order (internal visual)
  • Yes, that feels right (kinaesthetic)
  • Buy!

Beverly's strategy to buy:

  • That would look great on me (external visual)
  • Try it on (external kinaesthetic)
  • Looks good, feels good (external visual and external kinaesthetic)
  • Buy!

Key Take Aways
I think strategies is one of the most important concepts in NLP. I've used strategy elicitation to change some bad habits, build critical thinking skills, model success, and bake in some routines for effectiveness. Here's my key take aways:

  • Improve a strategy, copy a strategy, or create a new one. Strategies are your recipes for success. Use stragey elicitation to figure out somebody else's success.
  • Identify the details of thoughts, feelings and actions. Don't just going through the motions. It's more than the mechanical act of performing a task. Success depends on precision. Normally, you just notice behavior. If you don't know the sequence of thoughts and the details such as the internal dialogue or visuals, you limit your success. This applies whether you're improving a strategy, copying a strategy or creating a new one.
  • Identify your strategies that work and don't. Knowing is half the battle. Your best habits are your best recipes. Capture them for future use. Identify the habits you need to change.
  • Use strategies to change habits. When you fully understand the pattern of your bad habits, it's easier to change them. Since they are habits, it's likely you're on auto-pilot and you're not conscious of all the subtle sequences of thoughts, feelings, and actions that support your habit. When you make the pattern explicit, you can change the recipe more effectively.
  • Create new strategies for success. Do you have a new skill you want to learn? Is there an area of your life where you might have potential, but you need some strategies? It's a perfect place to practice strategy elicitation.
  • Model the best. Find mentors for something you want to be great at. Practice eliciting their strategies.
  • Focus where you get the most return. You can tweak and tune all your habits or you can focus on the vital few. I recommend to focus on the few habits that hold you back and on the few habits that will take your game to the next level. You likely have a few unique skills that separate you from the pack. Rather than try to make all your good skills great, make a few of your great skills outstanding.

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Step Into Your Future

What if you could step into your future, experience your success, and look back on how you got there? What if you could do a dry run or walkthrough of your future accomplishments and actually feel your results? In Brilliant Nlp: What the Most Successful People Know, Say & Do, David Molden and Pat Hutchinson write about a simple but effective technique from their Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) experience, that you can use to visualize your success.

Visualize Your Success
You can use this technique to set a realistic timescale for your goals and to see how well-formed your outcomes are. Molden and Hutchinson write the following:

"Find a quiet space where you can visualize the journey of achievement. Mark a space on the floor to represent 'now.' From this space walk to a point on the floor a particular distance away to represent the time you think it will take to achieve your outcomes. Stand on this point and look back to 'now.' Spend some time feeling what it's like to have achieved all your outcomes.

Next, walk a little further into the future and turn around. Look back to 'now' again and visualize what you did to achieve your outcomes. Make sure your internal language is in the past tense. Once your mind has grasped the idea that you have already succeeded, visualizing what you did as opposed to what you have to do is a much more creative, insightful and far less stressful process. It's very powerful, and great fun too."
Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:
  • Do a dry run of your future. Mental simulation is a great way to do rapid pattern matching. Stepping through your future and asking your mind how you got there, puts your mind into a resourceful state. It goes into problem solving mode. You might be surprised at the results.
  • Incrementally render your future. You can frame out your future and gradually add detail. Framing out your future will help you figure out the big rocks before getting stuck in details. You can add detail over time.
  • Iterate on your future. Doing multiple dry runs might be better than getting stuck on trying to figure out too much. The more you do it, the easier it will get and the more you'll think of.
  • Pay attention to surprises. Maybe the grass isn't greener on the other side of the hill. Maybe it doesn't feel like you thought it would, and you really want something else. Maybe you find you're missing key skills or abilities. Use the experience for reflection and consider whether you really want another path.

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