"Life is about perspective and how you look at something...ultimately, you have to zoom out." — Whitney Wolfe
In the book Am I Making Myself Clear? the author Terry Felber suggests that everyone views the world through their own representational system. A representational system is the lens through which we interpret the world and it’s created by the experiences of our five senses over time, including the influences of our heredity, environments, and various role models.
A simple example of how this works is seen in a hypothetical trip to the beach. Later, if we were to talk about the experience, our recollections would be translated through our different representational systems. One person might describe how the sun felt on their skin, another might describe the sound of the waves, or the reflection of the sun on the water, or the smell of salt in the air. As for me, I’d probably talk about how cold it is since going to a New England beach in December isn’t always the most pleasant of experiences! Same situation, same set of data, yet we all experienced something different.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw once suggested that “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” This illusion is created when we project our own representational system onto others—by assuming that they have had the same experiences with heredity, environments, and role models—and consequently fail to account for their actual motivations. A proactive approach to addressing this issue is to examine the psychology behind these systems, such as the DISC Behavior Assessment.
DISC is the acronym for a personality and behavioral model based on the work of Dr. William Marston’s 1928 book The Emotions of Normal People. In this model of human behavior there are four dominant personality types:
Each personality type is motivated by different factors based on their dominant world view as conditioned by their heredity, environments, and role models, and the resulting behavior is influenced by underlying fears.
Those with a “High D” personality tend to be more dominant, direct, and decisive. They are active and task-oriented, and are commonly motivated by the fear of being taken advantage of.
Those with a “High I” personality tend to be more influencing, inspiring, and interactive. They are active and people-oriented, and are commonly motivated by the fear of rejection.
Those with a “High S” personality tend to be more steady, stable, and supportive. They are passive and people-oriented, and are commonly motivated by the fear of losing security.
Those with a “High C” personality tend to be more compliant, correct, and cautious. They are passive and task-oriented, and are commonly motivated by the fear of criticism.
Being aware of how people interpret the world around them, and being sensitive to the underlying fears that motivate behavior, is a valuable practice for overcoming the illusion of communication. Likewise, being more aware of your own personality style will help you to better understand how to alter your behavior when interacting with others in a way that speaks to their motivations rather than from your limited world-view.
If you choose to accept the intentional growth practice of developing and fostering a wider perspective—rather than ignoring all available contexts—then you’ll be profoundly rewarded by transforming your relationships, empowering you to facilitate positive experiences regardless of the circumstances.
In an ideal world everyone would be willing to take on this intentional practice, as it would allow everyone the benefit of understanding how their attitudes and behaviors affect others, and thus inspire more open communications and understandings. However, not everyone cares about the greater good—whether at home, in the workplace, within the community, or as a nation or as a species sharing this Earth. Yet, regardless of the attitudes and the behaviors of others, gaining more self-awareness will empower you with greater clarity, empathy, and compassion when dealing with others.
Here is your Positivity Magic Challenge for week:
Whether we admit it or not, everyone is motivated by fear. It’s biologically wired in our DNA. In the book The Biology of Happiness the author Bjørn Grinde points out that we are wired to gravitate towards that which affords us with positive effects, and eschew that which gives us negative effects. For example, we don’t have to think twice before pulling our hand off of a hot stove: the motivation to pull away from pain is built into our body’s nervous system.
With this in mind, reflect on your answers to the following questions:
Jonas Cain is an instructional designer, facilitator of fascination, and purveyor of positivity—helping to initiate and manage positive change for individual, team, and community growth.