Friday, January 15

Changing Behavior: How Expectation Shapes Satisfaction


For the first two or three weeks every January, one of the most common topic trends tends to focus in on people who made New Year's resolutions. Last week there were almost 30,000 daily articles on this subject. Even the government offered resolution advice.

Most seemed to center on the same advice: Have vision, remain committed, and stay motivated.

While all of these things are true, most of it is centered on common sense. Persistence and will power can be effective tools. However, if people had that much will power, it seems unlikely they would have a habit or behavior they need to change.

Perception Shapes Expectation.

Maybe the challenge isn't vision, commitment, or motivation. Maybe the challenge is something else.

Most people perceive themselves based on what they have done. Whereas most resolutions (and motivational speakers) ask people to perceive themselves based on what they can do. Smokers resolve to quit smoking. Overweight people resolve to get thin. Spendthrifts resolve to save money. And so on and so forth.

The challenge is that if someone perceives themselves to be something defined by a habit, and they view that habit as exceptionally difficult to break, then their expectation will remain unmet in a relatively short time.

Expectation Shapes Satisfaction.

Last week, I wrote a post about living in the present tense as it applies to internal communication. The practice is tied to defining the act of "doing" as the goal. And by "doing," people can meet immediate expectations by making small changes.

So why is that important? Meeting expectations leads to satisfaction. It empowers the smoker to feel satisfied that they are limiting where they smoke (such as no longer smoking in a car, for example) or overweight person that they are following a physical fitness program or spendthrift that they are investing $20 a week before they spend it.

It changes the dynamic from failing (doing something they no longer want to do) into succeeding (doing something they said they would do). And this leads to a sense of satisfaction, which increases will power.

Satisfaction Shapes Perception.

When something satisfies an expectation, people are almost always more likely to pursue it again. And with every satisfied expectation, they will develop a new, perhaps healthier, perception of who they are and what can be done.

Does any of this have anything to do with business communication? Everything, really.

The way people respond on an individual basis is similar to how they respond within the market. When business communication over promises, it's much more likely to elevate expectation and leave people unsatisfied. In turn, unsatisfied people quickly become unhappy customers or demoralized employees.

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