This is an excerpt from my book Engaging Through Conflict: The Win-Win.

“First are the Three Paradigms of Behavior. If you’ve ever been to one of my trainings or read my first book, this should sound familiar!

Paradigm 1.      Behavior meets a need. All behavior. Yours. Mine. The dog’s. Kids’. Adults’.  Behavior is designed for the sole purpose getting needs met, and mostly basic needs at that. Think about it.

Paradigm 2.      As long as that need is met, the behavior won’t change. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! As long as it works, why would I (or you or the dog or anyone else) consider trying something else? Besides, awareness that something else even exists may very well be outside of my “ball of perspective.”

Paradigm 3.      Behavior doesn’t just stop. It has to be replaced. This is directly related to Paradigms 1 and 2. That need isn’t going to go unmet. Likewise, as long as the behavior is working, it will stay solidly in place. Think about your own desire to change a habit or addiction. What steps did you take? To quit smoking (or eating or shopping or Facebook), we might have to find something else to do with our hands or mouth. Or we might find a replacement for the chemical our body craves with gum, patches, or pills. If we don’t find a way to replace the need, often the plan to quit fails. Sometimes we replace it successfully and end up with a new, just as bad, behavior in its place.

But where do these behaviors come from?

Funny you should ask!

I have what I call the Paradigm Development – the process by which the paradigms of behavior are formulated within us and become almost hardwired. This is based on research and, loosely, Chris Argyris’ Ladder of Inference.

Remembering that we all have unique perspectives (Ball of Perspective) that have never been nor will ever be replicated, it is logical that something has to come within our scope, within our side of the ball, so to speak, to become part of our awareness. Whether that awareness is the result of an experience, a conversation, something seen, something known, or something felt, awareness is the first step.

When we begin to use awareness as our lens of translation and interpretation by which to formulate a belief, – that is the second step where awareness becomes a belief.

Simple example; a young child, at the birth of another younger sibling, no longer experiences the same level of attention from the adults in their world. Now aware that someone else can take away the attention they were accustomed to, that young child may very well take that new awareness and interpret it as the younger sibling is a threat. That interpretation then comes to bear when the younger sibling is the excuse why mommy doesn’t have the time right now to read to them and why the baby has to eat first or why the daddy carries the baby and not them.

The young child starts to see the baby as being liked more than they are, more special, maybe even worth more. That can lead to them to a belief that they aren’t worth as much as their younger sibling, as other people. That awareness has now become a belief.

As a result of that belief, behaviors follow.  Our young child begins to behave poorly, perhaps looking for the attention they have lost, causing the parents to reprimand and, from the perspective of the young child, reinforce they are not as good as the baby, not as good as other people. It may expand to the idea that the only attention they deserve is “bad” attention.

As the behaviors and interpretation continue in a cycle of perpetuation, the once simple awareness, now a belief, reinforced through behavior, becomes a commitment – a belief so true it almost becomes hardwired in the mind.

Thus the Paradigm Process:

Awareness → Belief → Behavior → Commitment

Here’s an infograph that offers another way to view and discuss it.

It depicts the idea that first something has to come through my lens or filter to enter my awareness. My awareness plays around with the bit of information, trying it on in different places, fitting it in where there is space for it.

It then passes through another lens or filter and gets tried out by our belief mechanisms, used as a curb or guide to bump up against to see if it is valid. Once it passes that test, it moves to the next lens or filter.

Here is where behaviors are then set into motion to create an informal research project, a social experiment, if you will, to see if this behavior fits the model and still validates the new awareness and belief.

The behavior is then used to pass through the final lens or filter that clads it in iron as a commitment, something that is “truth.”

Consider the following scenario.

As I am learning a new skill, I am introduced to the guru of the industry, the person who knows all about my new endeavor. Let’s say it’s underwater basket weaving and I have found this all around great person who has years of experience and what she says makes all kinds of sense to me.

She teaches in this one method, THE method. I am now aware of this method.

In the research and information she gives me it makes complete logical sense and begin to use the method. The longer I use it, the more I believe this is THE method.

Other methods are compared to it, of course, but they are always presented as flawed because, after all, THE method is the BEST method. I have come to use THE method exclusively – my behavior is solidified.

Over time, I continue to use THE method quite successfully and exclusively. I am so sure it is the ONLY way, the RIGHT way that I easily discount others and their methods without a single consideration. I am committed to THE method of underwater basket weaving.

While this is a little tongue in cheek, you can start to see how rigid we can become in what we think we know and how we accordingly behave

This example also gives a little insight into how we might better view others perspectives so potentially foreign to our own. It is not unthinkable how each of us comes through life with quite a few blinders regarding the things we identify as beliefs and truths to which we are willing to commit.

Back to Paradigm Development as a tool…

Think now to where the focus tends to be when there is a desire to change a behavior – in ourselves or others.

The focus is generally on the behavior.

What’s the problem with that?

Behavior isn’t until after the belief is established. The brain is well on its way to commitment, well into hardwiring that belief and the subsequent behavior.

Where is a better place to intervene?

Awareness can’t be undone. It’s like trying not to read once you have learned.

The logical place to look for successful intervention is, then, at the belief stage. That means there has to be enough evidence to influence the commitment I have to the belief and the behavior.”

Next time we will look at tools by which to consider, manage, and change our behavior.

See you then!

With Respect,

Leah R. Kyaio, CEO/Founder
With Respect LLC