Why People Behave The Way
They Do

Have you sometimes found yourself annoyed, frustrated, or confused by someone else’s behavior? Do you sometimes ask yourself questions like this…

Why are some people always late – for meetings, project deadlines or even lunch? Why do some people interrupt you all the time?

Why do some people say good morning and others don’t? Why is it so important for some people to meet deadlines while others don’t?

And, how often do you find yourself saying, “I don’t understand why he (or she) is behaving like that.” Or, “I don’t  agree with that kind of behavior.”?

The answer is deceptively simple and very powerful. People behave the way they do because…

Their behavior gets them what they want. Nothing more or less. It gets them what they want. This is the reason they are behaving the way they do.

And, as a consequence, they won’t change their behavior until it stops getting them what they want.

Now, here’s the interesting part. While you are asking yourself about the other person’s behavior, they may be saying the same thing about your behavior, “I don’t understand why he (or she) is behaving like that”.

In other words, you aren’t alone in wondering why someone behaves the way they do. It’s a universal question. And, the answer is universal.

You are behaving the way you’re behaving because your behavior is getting you what you want.

So, let’s test this.

Why are some people late for meetings, project deadlines or even lunch?

Again, the answer is simple.

The consequences for ‘being late’ aren’t ‘punishing enough’ and there are no real rewards for being on time.

Their behavior is getting them what they want.

You may have also seen something like this in your personal life. For example, if you are around someone who gets mad when they don’t get their way. If getting mad works for them and they get what they want when they get mad, they’ll continue to get mad because it keeps giving them want what they want.

If  you are on the receiving end of this behavior and that’s OK with you, then their behavior will continue.

But one day you might say you’ve had enough and if their behavior doesn’t change, you will end the relationship.

At that point, the other person has to ask themselves, ‘Is the reward for changing my behavior greater than the punishment for not changing it?’. If the answer is ‘no’, nothing will change. If the answer is ‘yes’, they may then be motivated to consider changing their behavior.

In most cases, this journey requires raising one’s awareness around the ’causes’ of behavior.

And, for all of us, these ’causes’ are rooted in many things including our personalities (which includes among other things, our comfort with ‘disagreement’) and our belief systems (which includes among other things, our self-talk).

Here’s what you can do about this: If you are uncomfortable with someone’s behavior, forgive yourself for being uncomfortable and take the risk to let them know you are having an issue with their behavior. You may be surprised with the outcome.

That’s one reason we’re writing this ongoing blog. To help you better understand what happens when your behaviors no longer get you what we want. We want to help you raise your consciousness around cause, leading to enhanced clarity with which you can grow.

  • http://wordpress.org/ Mr WordPress

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in and view the post's comments. There you will have the option to edit or delete them.

  • robbraide@mac.com

    Great points. This situation is fairly easy when managing down but a huge challenge when trying to manage up. You can instruct a report to change the behavior but you risk a superior taking umbrage at the “punishment” needed to change the behavior which concerns you.

    • parikhal

      Good point. Responding to your comment – it’s HOW you approach the superior that will determine whether or not they will take umbrage. In our experience, taking ownership of the issue and asking for help usually defuses any “misinterpretation of intent” on the part of the superior – understanding that the superior is behaving the way they are because their behavior is getting them what they want.

      And, they will continue behaving that way until this behavior is appropriately mirrored back to them. Then, and only then, will they possibly be motivated and encouraged to change. We will soon blog about the specific details of how to do this appropriately.

  • Richard Pfau

    You may be interested to know that Perceptual Control Theory (PCT) developed by William T. Powers provides a solid meta-theoretical basis for understanding why people behave as they do (i.e., as indicated above, to get they what they want). As PCT explains, we do things to obtain perceptions that match important references that we have — for example, depending on the person, references such as “feeling important”, “using time more effectively”, and “not feeling regret.”