Why People Do What They Do

I have always been interested in why people do what they do.   I imagine that is why I am so interested in psychology and the social sciences.  I have found many of the explanations of why people do what they do really quite dehumanizing and very negative.  I think the human being is a complex organism and we worked together as a unity towards a purpose.

I found the psychology of Alfred Adler so sane and understandable.   His theory was that the human being acts as indivisible organism with all parts serving the whole.  Human motivation is to achieve a purpose.  This purpose is often difficult to discern and often not simple.  However the goal or purpose is always kept out of our reach so that we always are motivated.  If you took Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and made them hierarchy of goals it would fit with Adler.   However a person moves towards their goals based on their own private logic.

So let us take a simple example.  Say a child’s goal is to belong and feel a part of things.  The child receives validation by receiving recognition and attention from others.  If the child is feeling discouraged, then the child will try to get attention, thus achieving recognition.  However his private logic says I can get attention by pulling on Mommy’s arm backfires because the attention he gets is negative.  His private logic did not work that time.

Alright so how does this help me with my consulting?   First key is to realize everybody has a goal and likely around feeling they belong and are making a contribution, or making a difference.  Everybody has their own private logic that determines their strategy to achieve their purpose.  So when you see somebody doing something that does not fit with your private logic, pause a consider what their private logic might be.  People do not make mistakes intentionally.  They may not have a good strategy to achieve their goal.  Exploring their private logic might reveal some really interesting things.  Do not dismiss people as being crazy or stupid, think about what their private logic might be. 

I have personal example.  When preparing our house for a party, my wife would always tackle the extra things first, not the essentials.  It frustrated me for a long time because it seemed to me getting the house clean really had priority over rearranging furniture.  However I discovered her private logic was that the essentials will always get done, so do the extras first.  I was certainly less frustrated when I had a model for her approach.  The idea helped me even if it was not exactly right.

Sometimes people goals are not what you might think they are.  Adler said to watch people’s feet not their mouth to discern their goal and private logic.

  1. Mantra Mali Reply

    Nice stuff… tough to keep track of all that is happening. I end up reading 100 odd blogs daily. Plus there is news. You could also enrich your blog by adding current news on your blog… try out the news widget from widgetmate.com

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