Last Updated on January 25, 2017 by Dave Schoenbeck
Over the years, my interest in understanding and predicting human behavior has deepened significantly. I am constantly amazed and bewildered at what shapes the way humans think and act. Usually, sorting out someone’s behavior appears to be fairly straightforward. You get what you see and expect. Oh, I wish it was that easy.
Please visualize an iceberg like the one shown in the photo above. You probably learned in grade school that the largest mass of an iceberg is predominantly below the surface, leaving only a small portion above the waterline. (Ask the captain of the Titanic how that worked out for him.)
Think about the icy frozen part above the water as the visible behavior that we see in how people react. What we see are actions and decisions. The language that they use, the tonality of their voice, and their body language is the way we traditionally size up people.
The bulky human ice mass below the surface are all of the contributors to their behavioral actions. People act the way they do because of their self identity, their skills, their values, and their beliefs.
My theory is… “the most important component in understanding someone’s behavior is by understanding their belief system”.
Before I agree to coach a business owner or executive, I spend quite a bit of time interviewing them about what they believe in. I want to know about their life story, their experiences and decisions. I probe them about what they believe to be true, and what their life philosophies are. Usually, I get halting, incomplete thoughts until I start giving them ideas. I quiz them about their beliefs about honesty, loyalty, competence, cooperation, enthusiasm, flexibility, etc. Soon, they explode describing what they believe in and what they value. It doesn’t take long to get a high definition picture of the life events that have shaped them. Suddenly, I can magically see underwater and I can view the underside of their personal belief system iceberg.
I challenge you to take 30 minutes and write a list of bullet points about your personal belief system. I did it myself a year ago, and I struggled at first. Once I got rolling, it became much easier and I now keep a “belief system” document that I frequently update with new ideas. I have found this to be incredibly insightful about what makes me think and act the way I do.
Someone famous said “the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior”. I suggest that the best predictor of future behavior is how you view your place in the world, the values that you hold, and the belief system that guides you in making decisions.
Please take some of your precious time and examine the underside of your behavioral iceberg. I am very confident that this will be very interesting and helpful! You may also want to check out my e-book, “10 Critical Responsibilities of a Business Owner.”