The Positives Behind Negative Attention: How to apply the principles of PCM
“You can’t unlock a lock with a lock. You have to unlock a lock with a key.”
This quote comes from a parent discussing the power struggles he had with his children around their negative behavior. He applied principles of the Process Communication Model® to end power struggles by shifting his focus from the confronting the negative behavior to feeding the unmet positive need behind the negative behavior.
Process Communication Unlocks the Lock
PCM is a behavior-based model of communication, discovered by Dr. Taibi Kahler, that’s been used for over 40 years around the world to adapt communication for better communication between different personalities. NASA, Pixar, a past president, Fortune 500 CEOs, and professional athletes have leveraged this behavioral science to stop power struggles and begin motivating people instead.
Here’s what Kahler discovered; most negative behavior is a symptom of an unmet positive need. The logic; if people don’t get their needs met positively, they will lock down and attempt to get those very same needs met negatively, with or without awareness.
This same logic predicts that if we see negative attention behavior, the most effective key to unlocking the lock and reduce or eliminate that behavior is to offer the corresponding positive need. Attempting to control, deter, or punish negative attention behavior only adds fuel to the fire. This is how humans function. It’s like our need for oxygen. If we don’t get enough, we will gasp for breath.
Kahler discovered six distinct psychological needs (motivators), each correlating with a personality type. All humans have all six types within them, arranged in a preferred set order, much like the floors of a six-story condominium. There are 720 different combinations. Only one of these types within us predicts our current psychological needs, and it’s called our Phase. This yields over 7200 permutations of personality/motivation. So, identifying a person’s phase psychological needs is the key to knowing what motivates them, and predicting their negative distress behavior.
Thinkers are motivated by recognition of their efficient work and time structure. They want feedback and affirmation that they are doing a good job and being productive. This includes recognition of their analytical thinking abilities. Time is very important to them, so structuring it efficiently and productively is critical. Valuing the importance of their time and giving them the tools and information necessary to manage time well is a key to their success.
When thinkers don’t get these needs met positively, they get them met negatively in very predictable ways through over controlling. They begin micromanaging others, become overly critical and obsessive around money, time, fairness, cleanliness. They give up efficiency for a sense of control. The irony is that even though they prize efficiency, their behavior wastes everybody’s time. Focusing on the behavior is fruitless. Finding healthy ways to get positive recognition of work and time structure is the best solution.
Persisters are motivated by recognition of their dedicated work and convictions. They want to know their work matters and that they are making a difference. The want respect for their convictions, even if you don’t agree with them, since it’s these convictions that drives their life decisions.
When Persisters don’t get these needs met positively, they attempt to get them met negatively through pushing beliefs. Instead of living by their beliefs, they expect everyone else to agree with them and become opinionated, self-righteous, judgmental, and suspicious of others who don’t share their values. Ironically, they sacrifice respect in exchange for people being afraid of them. The solution is not to ignore or combat these negative behaviors. Instead, find ways to positively meet the psychological needs of recognition of dedicated work and convictions.
Harmonizers are motivated by recognition of person and sensory. They want to know you like them for who they are, no strings attached. Even though they work really hard for you, the motivation is not to get work done, it’s to serve and create happy people and harmonious relationships. They also feed their needs through the senses. Soothing sounds, comforting smells, and comfortable textures give these people lots of positive energy.
When Harmonizers don’t get their needs met positively, they attempt to get them met negatively by making mistakes. They lose confidence and second-guess themselves. The mistakes aren’t conscious or pre-meditated, but they do serve the purpose of inviting criticism and rejection. This is the exact opposite of their need for unconditional acceptance. The solution is not to focus on the mistakes as this only reinforces the negative need. Instead, find ways to offer the positive recognition of person and sensory in order to re-fill their tanks and charge their batteries.
Imaginers are motivated by solitude. Solitude is achieved during uninterrupted time and space free from distractions where they can reflect, imagine, and refuel.
When Imaginers don’t get this need met in healthy ways, they attempt to get it met negatively by isolating. Isolation separates them from much-needed direction and communication so they withdraw, start projects without finishing them, and begin to feel like nobody wants them around. The solution is to provide healthy solitude for the Imaginer by giving them discrete periods of alone-time and just enough structure so they know what to do next and when to come back.
Rebels are motivated by contact. Lively, upbeat interactions with plenty of movement are just the ticket. They love to have fun and love to move. If it can be made into a game, they will do it in order to stay motivated.
When Rebels don’t get their contact needs met positively, they attempt to get those very same needs met negatively through blaming. Blaming others, being blameless themselves, and generally avoiding responsibility is a great way to get negative contact. Parents, teachers, supervisors, and even friends are tempted to fuss at them and engage in power struggles to “make them take responsibility.” This is folly because all it does is reinforce negative contact.
The solution is to offer the unmet positive need, healthy contact. Intervening effectively can be particularly difficult for Thinkers and Persisters who are personally triggered by anyone who seems to be avoiding responsibility. They struggle to get beyond their own frame of reference.
Promoters are motivated by incidence. Incidence is achieved through thrilling, risky, challenging, and competitive activities. Anything that has an element of risk or danger can be particularly exciting for Promoters. They love to negotiate, compete, and chase opportunity.
When Promoters don’t get these needs met positively, they pursue negative incidence instead. They manipulate, push the limits, maneuver unhealthy competition by pitting people against each other, and break the rules. Trying to control their behavior is a losing battle because they can easily turn the tables on you.
The solution is to replace the negative incidence with positive incidence and find ways to provide healthy risks, positive thrills, and win-win competitions.
A radical alternative to what we’ve been doing
Responding to negative behavior with positive needs is a radical and disruptive behavioral technology. It may challenge your philosophy and assumptions about how to influence behavior.
- It completely changes the paradigm of confronting, disciplining, or managing negative behavior.
- It reveals the problem with practicing the golden rule of treating others as you’d like to be treated.
- It gives strategies for individualizing communication based on the behavior you see rather than pigeonholing someone as a particular personality type.
- It offers a new toolkit to trainers and facilitators who want better ways of fostering a great learning environment for all participants.