dDifferent things move different people in different ways. The better we understand the nature of how a person is motivated, the easier it is for us to adjust our communication to match their natural motivational tendencies. The key is to pay attention to their language because it contains subtle clues to their underlying motivational characteristics.
What are motivational traits? Everyone has many reasons that motivate them. Once you understand this important difference, you can adjust your communication style to match these characteristics, empowering you to be more attractive to different people. For example, knowing that your staff, Michael and Afua, are motivated by high financial compensation is important. In addition, the details of their motivational characteristics will help you make the most of this knowledge.
Understanding Away and Towards Motivation
One motivational trait that you can easily understand and adjust to is the direction of motivation. Some people are motivated by “away from,” that is, what they can avoid, prevent, or eliminate. In other words, they are encouraged to move away from what they have done don’t want that will happen in their lives. In contrast, other people are motivated by moving “toward” the things they are want to achieve, accomplish, or achieve.
For example, Michael and Afua both value money, and they both strongly negotiate for more pay in performance reviews. But why? Are they moving away from or toward something that money is offering them? You can find out by asking them questions and listening to their language.
When you talk to Michael and ask him what is important about money, he reveals that he is stressed about what his financial situation will be after retirement. He tells you that he doesn’t want to struggle in retirement like his parents. Michael moved away from a retirement reality he dreaded. When you talk to Afua, he revealed that he wants a higher salary so that he can more easily afford the vacation rental that he has wanted for a long time. Afua is on her way to her ideal vacation.
Michael and Afua can be motivated by financial incentives, and they can also be motivated by framing a discussion about that incentive in the context of what they are moving away from or towards. Money is just a means that brings people closer to achieving what they value, after all.
Say you want to encourage both Michael and Afua to agree to put in extra hours of work over the weekend to meet a fast-approaching deadline on a major project. For Michael, you might suggest that the bonus he receives from doing this extra work can be invested in a fund to build his retirement nest egg so he can. avoid worrying about financial struggles when he retires.
With this knowledge about Afua, you can realize that he is motivated by money as it relates to the possibility of taking more luxurious vacations. For him, you can suggest that the bonus he made can be kept on his way to spoiling himself and booking his dream vacation rental.
There are many other ways to apply your understanding of the direction of motivation, and as you begin to recognize people’s motivations, you will think of interesting ways to appeal to their specific orientation.
Understanding Options and Methods Motivation
Another key characteristic of motivation is when a person is focused on options or methods. An options-oriented person is motivated by possibilities, choices, and change. A methods-oriented person is driven by pattern, process, and the “right” way to do something. You probably find it easier to encourage people who share your passion for options or methods. There must be people of the same orientation in your organization, and both can be found in the same number of workers.
To find people who are focused on options, look for those who like to create, design, and develop. Those with this impulsive tendency enjoy figuring things out as they go, rather than making a detailed plan. They want to break the rules and do something unique. However, they also tend to suffer from a lack of follow-through and become easily distracted.
On the other hand, those who are method-oriented want to find the “right” way to do something and then avoid changing the process that leads to the “right” end result. They like to plan well, and they have an uncanny ability to follow a process or an entire project to completion. They care about the “how” and can be so focused on the process and details that they may miss the bigger picture or alternative ways to achieve goals.
It’s best to think of motivational traits as a spectrum rather than a specific label you can apply to someone. All people vary in these (and other) motivational traits depending on many factors. Some people, almost 20%, appear to be a combination of motivation in both options and methods. Determining which motivational styles someone is currently exhibiting will allow you to better match them, resulting in an increased ability to motivate them.
People who focus on methods are more responsive to phrases like:
- What do you think are the best steps to take to do this?
- Where do we start?
- What is our plan from there?
People motivated by options may be more responsive to phrases such as:
- Let’s brainstorm our options to do this?
- Which of these choices do you prefer?
- How many ways can we approach it?
Applying Motivational Tools
Options/methods and away from/toward motivating behaviors are great tools to help you identify the best language patterns to use with different people as you seek to motivate them. Note, there are many more motivational traits for you to explore, including internal/external and same/difference. As with all knowledge that enables you to be highly persuasive, you have a responsibility to use this information ethically and with utmost modesty. Exploring and applying your understanding of any of these traits will equip you to become more knowledgeable as you Ignite a Shift.
Stephen McGarvey is an international speaker, an expert in persuasion and influence, and the founder of a boutique consulting firm, Solutions In Mind. He helps corporations and audiences around the world solve difficult communication problems by leading them on a fascinating, fast-paced, fascinating journey inside the unconscious mind. His new book is USA Today and Wall Street Journal #1 Best Seller Igniting a Shift: Engaging Thoughts, Guiding Emotions and Driving Behavior (Morgan James Publishing, July 2022). Learn more at solutionsinmind.com.