Understanding People’s Behaviour – Banging Your Head Against a Wall?

Posted January 23rd, 2014

I just came home to find my 13 month old son giggling loudly to himself whilst banging his head against the living room wall. My immediate response was to say, “Son, you’re an idiot.” and only once I’d managed to distract him from this pain inducing activity did I consider the possible consequences of my words.

Maybe this one time I was right to call him an idiot. Certainly banging your head against a wall is not the action you would expect from a sound mind. However, let’s consider I call my son an idiot consistently over the next few developmental years. The likely outcome is…….an idiot.

You see everyone’s behaviour is driven by their own self-image, and that self-image is built around the adult influences they receive in their childhood. These influences come not only from parents, but grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers, sports coaches and pretty much anyone that they have regular contact with.

It is these influences that create our attitudes and ultimately our behaviours. For example; somebody that has always been told that they should stand up for themselves may ultimately become aggressive when placed in a stressful situation. Or somebody that is encouraged to always share and make others happy may develop a need to please people and will display submissive behaviour at times. I experienced this last type of behaviour with an old colleague of mine. Whenever we held a meeting he would wonder why he always walked away with more action points than anyone else!

Think about your own experience. Is there something you believe about yourself, which has been influenced by others? You may find that hard to do, as these beliefs have become a part of you and are shaping your behaviour all the time. However, they are there in all of us in varying forms.

Now, these drivers are not in themselves a problem. We all need drivers in our life, without them we would not achieve anything. It is when these drivers become negative or destructive that issues arise. There may have been times in your own experience where a person’s behaviour has seemed out of control or perhaps it was just that their driver was conflicting with yours.

So what can you do?

One thing you have to accept is that every person’s behaviour makes perfect sense to them at the time. Nobody sets out to make their life difficult and often it is because they feel they have no alternative in the given situation. No matter how bizarre the person’s action seems, it is rarely something they have manufactured.

Now you know that these drivers exist. The best thing you can do is start to identify them in yourself. Realise when you are being driven by an inner desire to react in a certain way and prepare for it. Once you know why you might be acting in a certain way, it becomes a lot easier to adapt and understand the consequences in an effort to minimise their impact.

Next, be prepared to spot behaviour drivers in others. If you can tell that they are being driven by an inner belief, consider how you might be able to have conversations that will provide antidotes. Often we do not consider how we present a message before we do so. Taking a little time to consider how the message is going to be received can really save a lot of time in the long run…otherwise your just banging your head against a wall.

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