Carrots and Sticks: Do you run towards what you want or away from what you don’t want?

Everyone moves either towards what they want or away from what they don’t want.   For example, you might say you value wealth – it may be that you do truly value wealth and move towards it or alternatively you might be running away from your fear of poverty.  Or perhaps you might say you value love – again you might really move towards love and are motivated by that concept or you may in fact be running away from a fear of loneliness or abandonment. 

Whether you move towards or away depends on your values.  Values are what are important to us (not necessarily what we like).  They create motivation for our actions and then help us judge what we have done.  They determine ALL our behavior and what we do with our time – they are things that we obtain and use resources to achieve.  Values are simply what we move away from or towards.  I’ll be coming back to values in more detail in a future post.  Now where have you heard that one before?!

In “How to Measure a Personality?” I introduced one of the great tools in NLP – Meta Programs – the conversational personality profile that you can use to learn about a person’s model of the world.  The Meta Program filter related to whether you are motivated by moving towards or away from is the Direction Filter.  This filter is where Meta Programs and your values meet and interact and it is your values that determine this filter.  It suggests whether a person predominantly moves towards their values with an approach, attraction and reward type of personality or away from their values via avoidance, repulsion and punishment.

Why is it useful to know if a person is towards or away from?  Well, it can be used in business or at home or in any context where it’s handy to understand what motivates someone.  Many people try to motivate others by using whatever motivates them, instead of finding out what motivates the person you’re dealing with.  Whether you’re a sales person working with a potential customer, a manager working with one of your employees, a husband trying to get his wife to do something or even a parent trying to motivate a child – wouldn’t it be better to understand that person’s model of the world and use what specifically motivates them?  Do you think that might get better results?

So how do you find out if someone is predominantly towards or away from, or somewhere along the continuum between the two?  You ask a simple question – “What do you want in a job?”  Or you might also ask about a car or a relationship, what do you want to do with your life or even what’s important about what you do? Listen carefully to their answer and ask – “What’s important to you about that?”  Remember you are looking and listening for the predominant direction in their answers.  The way they behave most of the time, in most situations.

Now if they are talking about their values you’ll most frequently get one word, abstract answers.  The easiest way to check if it’s really a value is to consider if their answer is something concrete that you can put in a basket?  If that is the case you haven’t got to the value yet and therefore whatever it is that they move towards or away from.  Values are always abstract and impossible to put in a basket; something in NLP we call a nominalization.  For example, a person might say money – sounds high level as it’s one word, but I can definitely put it in a basket.  So then ask “What does money get you?” or “What will having that do for you?”  That could bring out – it saves me from poverty (a definite away from) or it gets me wealth (likely a toward).

As you accumulate their answers consider are they moving toward their values, or perhaps toward with few away froms in there, or perhaps you get toward and away from equally, away with a little toward or almost only away from.  Remember – a person will have lots of values and some of those may be carrots masquerading as sticks.  Dig a little in those answers.

TOWARD people:  a toward person will be motivated by a carrot i.e. a reward and will fit well in goal-achieving jobs.  They will predominantly move towards what they like and are motivated by their desires.  To motivate a toward person emphasize the benefits, rewards and all the great things that will happen when they achieve that goal, how sales will increase or how much fun they will have.  Perks and benefits with a job are a winner.  Be prepared for their anger if you take out the stick.

AWAY FROM people:  predominantly move away from what they don’t like and are best motivated by their fears.  They are motivated by a penalty, i.e. a stick, and fit well in quality control-related  jobs.  Give them something big, juicy and negative to move away from – for example, you’ll lose your job, or your wife, or your home  – emphasize they’ll be avoiding the “don’t wants”, reducing risk and minimizing the negatives.  Talk about all the terrible things that will no longer happen when they buy your product or service or the way that your product can help them cut costs and avoid failure.  If you try to motivate away from people with a carrot they simply won’t care.  Think of all those people you ask “Have you had a good day?”  “Not bad….” they say.

Understanding your colleagues, your family or your friends’ Direction Filter preference – whether they are primarily towards or away from people – is a fantastic motivational tool.  Keep an eye on how companies use this in their advertising.   Holiday advertising can be focused on having a wonderful, relaxing holiday (towards) or getting away from the bad weather at home (away from).  Now in my last post I extolled the virtues of avoiding generalizations.  So remember that you’re always dealing with an individual that can be anywhere on the continuum between towards and away from….

© Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jacqui Gatehouse and NLP THIRTEEN with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


4 responses to “Carrots and Sticks: Do you run towards what you want or away from what you don’t want?

  1. Pingback: Hearts, Chocolates, Flowers and NLP! | NLP THIRTEEN

  2. Pingback: The Heart of Values (Values: Part I) | NLP THIRTEEN

  3. Pingback: Five Sides of a Circle | NLP THIRTEEN

  4. Pingback: 13 Ways NLP Helps You Achieve Success in Business | NLP THIRTEEN

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