One of the ways we can begin to improve our social intelligence and our ability to read people is to firstly understand the mechanics of judgment.
Our judgments of others have a huge impact on how effectively we communicate with them, understand them, and work with them.
There are innumerable reasons why we judge (coaching is a better forum for exploring our personal habits around judgment), but the way we judge others and the resulting impacts, can be easily explained in the Meaning-Motivation Cycle.
I created this simple model as a way to understand how our judgments drive and motivate our behaviour and ultimately impact our results.
As human beings we are wired to jump to conclusions. When we can’t see inside people’s hearts and minds, we often create meanings based on their behaviours and not their actual intentions. This meaning we create then motivates us to respond to them in a certain way, which significantly impacts our relationships and our results. Our ability to work effectively with others, has a lot to do with the judgments we make of their behaviours.
Let’s look at a client example.
Tom* was having trouble with his colleague Jerry. Tom described Jerry as arrogant, abrasive and at times even rude. He lamented the fact that Jerry was an integral member of the team and that he had to learn to get along with him or would not be able to do his job effectively. At our coaching session we went through the Meaning-Motivation Cycle to see how we could improve the situation. Tom realised that the meaning he gave Jerry’s behaviour (arrogant and rude) was motivating his response (snappy and short) and inevitably, the more he responded this way, the more ‘rude’ Jerry became and the cycle continued its downward spiral.
Tom and I explored what other meaning he could give Jerry’s behaviour. Perhaps his ‘arrogance’ was just stress and he didn’t even realise he was being abrupt or rude. When Tom changed the meaning he gave Jerry’s behaviour to ‘stress’, he was able to change his own response to be more ‘supportive’. In the face of Tom’s compassion and support, Jerry became less abrupt and even offered an apology for his recent behaviour, explaining that he had been under a lot of strain lately!
So the next time you hear yourself making a judgment, ask yourself, “Does this meaning support my relationship with this person?” What other conclusion can I make here that would get a better outcome?
*Tom is a real client but his name has been changed.