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  • Wants: The thoughts that drive all behavior

  • Perceptual Awareness: One key to successful communication

  • Behavior: How you get things done

  • The Triangle of Choice: How human beings work.


Wants - They drive all your behavior:


You are a wanting machine. You want something every waking hour of the day. Your nose itches so you want the itch to go away. You want to get to the other side of the room, or make some money or change how the world works.  Approximately 35,000 times a day, you want a small or big result.  


All your behaviors are driven by something you want. They are purposeful, even if they don't deliver what you wanted.


Your wants fall into one of three categories.

  • You want things you don’t have.

  • You want to maintain some things you already have.

  • You want to avoid some things you don’t want.

They are all wants.


There are at least 70 words and phrases you can substitute for the word “want”. They include words like goal, result, objective, vision, and criteria for success.


Other people are also wanting machines. They may want different things than you want. They may be possessed by nested wants; they want to make a lot of money because they want to pay for their grandchildren’s college tuition because they want them to be successful. They may be confused by competing wants; they want that new management role with more power but they don’t want the responsibility for all those direct reports.  


Most people are far too casual when they ask for what they want. We’ve identified 30 ways that asking for what you want can go wrong. Your requests are always filtered through the perceptual systems of other people.  Every person has slightly to grossly different perceptions.


Ask yourself the question: Is what I want realistic?


Perceptual Awareness - You are communicating into a fuzzy world.


If you want to be an effective communicator, you must take into account that people do not hear, see, contextualize, understand and value exactly the same things that you do. Each of us has different experiences, training, strengths and limitations, behavior styles, motivations and biases through which we filter everything that comes our way. People are subject to multiple distractions and they unconsciously distort, delete, and generalize what you say and write to them. You must keep in mind that you are communicating into this extremely fuzzy world in which people may not apply the same meanings of your words that you intend to communicate.  


If you have important information you want to share with others, including requests that drive your expectations, be prepared to share details you normally leave out and be explicit about what you want. If you are providing complex information verbally, slow down, break the content into smaller chunks, and stop periodically to confirm what people have heard. If you are writing your message, ask for a response that indicates understanding. Break your message into separate parts and ask for specific actions in response to each request.

Before you hit send reread what you wrote and ask yourself four questions:

  • What do I want people to know?

  • What do I want people to do?

  • How do I want them to confirm their commitment?

  • Does this message communicate all of what I want?


You are as responsible for what people hear, read and understand as are the people to whom you are communicating.   If you want people to act on your requests, get aligned with what you want and deliver what you expect, you must consider the challenges of perception.


What can you do to communicate what you want? Decide on the level of appropriate detail that you must communicate when you ask for what you want, based on your past experience with the person or people that you are addressing. If a person is always late with what they deliver, craft your message in a way that emphasizes timeliness. If they are always on time but short on details or quality, emphasize those aspects of your request. Be deliberate.


This may require that you slow down, attempt to understand what people have heard, ask for specific detailed agreements and have them confirm those agreements in their own words while you listen to or read the details of what they say or write. With those who always deliver on time, at the level of quality and detail that you expect, you can leave out some of the detail. If you have never worked with a person before or you are asking for something you’ve not previously requested, provide more detail and get clearer explicit agreements.

Never ask, "Do you understand?" In almost every situation, people say yes, even if they have no idea what you are talking about. Until they repeat what they think they've heard you have no idea if they heard what you intended. Ask for a response or confirmation of what they heard in their words. 


By investing more time upfront communicating what you want, you will help people avoid mistakes and poor performance and you will set up accountability. You will be more likely to receive what you want.


Ask the question: Are my perceptions accurate?


Behaviors - How you get what you want.


Behaviors get you what you want. They are made up of four components; thinking, actions, feelings and physiology. You can directly control what you think and do; your actions. You can only control your feelings and physiology through what you think and do. Your feelings are signals that tell you something about your emotions. Your physiology is made up of physical sensations that tell you about your muscles, skeleton, biology and nervous system. Every behavior includes all of these components.  


You are continuously comparing what you perceive to what you want and, if what you want is important to you, you choose a behavior, consciously or unconsciously to get what you want. Most of your selections are unconscious, habitual behaviors you default to every day. If you had to consciously choose a behavior to close the gaps between all your wants and perceptions each day, you would get very little done. Habits help you manage your responses to the triggers that repeatedly appear in your perceptions. Your defaults are useful.    


There are three basic reasons that explain why you act or behave: You want to:

  • Acquire what you perceive you don’t have

  • Maintain what you perceive you already have and continue to want

  • Avoid what you don’t want that you perceive you have presently or may have in the future.


Ask the question: Are my behaviors effective in getting me what I want?  


The Triangle of Choice – Putting it all together.  


Everything that human beings do can be explained by the interaction of these three components we call perceptions, wants and behaviors. They can be represented in a diagram we call the Triangle of Choice.

Ttianlge of Choice No Gap.jpg

We call it the Triangle of Choice because you can always choose how you interpret your perceptions and change them. You can always choose a different want. You can always choose a different behavior to get what you want. These are the three most basic choices every human being has.


Even if you are chained to the wall in a dark cave, you have choices about how you want to respond. You may perceive it as an opportunity to think without distraction and take the time to review what your life has been about. Or, you may frame your incarceration as inhibiting and choose to fight against the chains until you or they wear out and break down or break free. You always have these three choices of perception, wants and behaviors.


Almost everything we do at ChoiceWorks is guided by this model. It explains how you work and why you do the things you do to get the results you generate.  

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