Tag Archives: Behavior Change

Behavior Change

Hacking Human Behavior: “Tiny Habits” Start, Maintain Changes

BJ Fogg directs the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University, leads Persuasion Boot Camps and wrote Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do

He defines behavior change targets according to :

Type of change:
• Initiate new behavior
• Maintain existing behavior
• Increase  behavior
• Decrease behavior
• Stop behavior

Frequency of change:
• Dot – One time behavior
• Span – Time-limited behavior
• Path – Continuing behavior

From this matrix, he identifies 15 ways to change behavior, and recommends designing behavior change as a “span” for time-limited behavior, like the Alcoholic Anonymous “One Day at a Time” credo.

He evaluates behavior for ease vs. difficulty and motivation as high vs. low, and designs behaviors for ease and to capture moments of high motivation, to align with his assertion that “Behavior occurs in response to trigger at the same time as motivation + ability.”

Fogg notes that motivation is experienced in “waves”, and recommends seizing moments of high motivation to do “difficult” behaviors, and to capitalize on low motivation to do routine activities.

To enable the co-occurrence of motivation and ability, Fogg links behavior change to a reminder (also known as a “prompt”, “cue”, “call-to-action” or “trigger”) to “exceed the activation threshold.”

He suggests designing behavior change to existing behaviors according to the formula: “After xxx, I will yyyy”, such as “After I walk in the door, I will hang my keys on the hook.”

Fogg recommends reinforcing behavior change by celebrating successful behavior execution, and cited examples of people who tell themselves “I’m awesome”  or actually pat themselves on the back.

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Thoughts Change Bodies, Bodies Change Minds, Roles Shape Hormones: “Faking Until It’s Real”

Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School social psychologist, like Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford Graduate School of Business, studies the impact of non-verbal behavior on perceptions of power.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

She, like Gruenfeld, found that people who “occupy space” are viewed as more dominant and powerful by others.

See Related Posts:

Cuddy takes the research further by demonstrating that non-verbal behavior like erect, “space-occupying” postures and selective smiling affect the way the person executing these behavior feels about his or her personal power, competence, and mood.

She also demonstrated that “power postures” affect secretion of hormones associated with dominance (testosterone) and stress (cortisol).

Cuddy noted that effective leaders, as well as those recently promoted into positions of authority and leadership show a hormone profile of high testosterone and low cortisol, indicating high dominance and low stress.

Individuals in low power role, not surprisingly, tend to have low testosterone and high cortisol, and this is more common among women.

She suggested that small changes in behaviors like posture can make a large difference in how people view themselves, how others see them, and their opportunities and outcomes.

Cuddy recommends that before a job interview or stressful interaction, assume a “big power posture” in private for several minutes.

-*What is your reaction to people who assume a “big power posture” at work?
-*How do you feel when you occupy more space in professional settings?

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Authoritative Non-Verbal Communication for Women in the Workplace

Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman

Carol Kinsey Goman has integrated research on the impact of non-verbal behavior on workplace outcomes for women in two books:

The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help–or Hurt–How You Lead

The Nonverbal Advantage: Secrets and Science of Body Language at Work

She notes that all business leaders need to establish interpersonal warmth and likability balanced with authority, power, and credibility.

Women have been viewed as likeable, but lacking authority, so Goman suggests the following behavior changes:

• Focusing eye contact in business situations on the conversation partner’s forehead and eyes instead of eyes and mouth, which is more appropriate for social situations

• Limit the number of head tilts and head nods, which may signal empathy and encouragement, but may be interpreted as submissive and lacking authority

 Occupy space: Stand tall with erect posture and head, and a wider stance hold your head high.  Claim territory with belongings.

• Keep your hands on your lap or on the conference table where they can be seen to limit nervous hand gestures such as rubbing hands, grabbing arms, touching neck, tossing hair, leaning forward.

  • Use authoritative hand gestures:

o Show palms when indicating openness and inclusiveness

o “Steeple” fingers by touching fingertips with palms separated to indicate precision

o Turn hands palms-down to signal confidence and certainty

o Keep gestures at waist height or above. Drop the pitch at the end of each sentence to make an authoritative statement. Avoid raising tone at the end of a sentence when not asking a question, as this may be interpreted as uncertain or submissive.

• Smile selectively and appropriately to maintain both likeability and authority

• “Learn to interrupt,” advised former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. ”
Like occupying physical space, occupy “air-space.”

• Moderate emotional expressiveness, movement, and animation to signal authority and composure

• Cultivate a firm handshake, with palm-to-palm contact and that the web of your hand (the skin between your thumb and first finger) touching the web of the other person’s. Face the person squarely, look in the eyes, smile, and greet the person.

Goman stated that women generally excel at accurately read the body language of others, and this can be an advantage in intuitively grasping underlying issues in a meeting or during a negotiation.

-*How do you cultivate both credibility and likeability in work relationships?

See related posting on Olivia Fox Cabane’s discussion of non-verbal contributors to “charisma


Deborah Gruenfeld‘s discussion of power non-verbal behaviors

©Kathryn Welds

Two Approaches to Following-Through on Plans, Adapting to Changes

Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal

Stanford University lecturer Kelly McGonigal integrates cognitive psychology and neuroscience in her book, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It

She argues that willpower can be developed by:

• Paying attention to situations that undermine willpower
• Managing stress and mood, maintaining exercise, sleep, and healthy eating habits to maintain willpower
• Practice small willpower challenges to build the willpower “muscle”
• Expect willpower “slips” and plan for alternate responses
• Associating with others who have strong willpower habits
• Recognizing that willpower is not easier in the future, and now is the time to begin practicing
• Disputing thoughts of shame and guilt, and re-interpreting them more optimistically, hopefully, and forgivingly

M.J. Ryan

M.J. Ryan

Several years before McGonigal, M.J. Ryan wrote simply and compassionately about life’s challenges, including responding to unplanned changes and following through on commitments and plans.
Her books include self-assessments, succinct notes of encouragement and de-stigmatization, and practical suggestions and resources.
Several are self-published and though out-of-print, remain available online:

This Year I Will…: How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True

Another of her books deals with managing unplanned changes:
AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For

See related post on McGonigal’s twin sister, gamer Jane McGonigal, whose TED talk discusses the value to games to improve the quality, duration, and experience of life.

-*What practices have helped you develop and exercise “willpower” to change behaviors and thoughts?

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Non-Verbal Behaviors that Signal “Charisma”

Olivia Fox Cabane

Olivia Fox Cabane

Olivia Fox Cabane defines charismatic behaviors as managing internal states and beliefs through self-awareness, emotional self-management to focus on others and “make them feel good,” in her book, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism.

She identified four types of “charisma:”

o Focus: Presence, listening intently, confidence
o Visionary: Belief, confidence, inspires others
o Kindness: Warmth, confidence, eye contact, compassion/self-compassion, gratitude, goodwill, enable others to feel important and heard through asking open-ended questions, redirecting focus to other with question about opinion
o Authority: Power, status, confidence, appearance/clothing, “take up space” posture, reduce number of non-verbal reassurances (nodding)

Her book considers three key contributors to “charisma”:

o Presence – mindful attention, patient listening, avoiding interruption

o Power – appearance, clothing, occupy space, positive wording (avoid “don’t”), placebo effect

o Warmth – chin down, eye contact, Duchenne smile (mouth corners, eye corners), gratitude, compassion, appreciation to counteract “hedonic adaptation”

In an interview, Fox Cabane offered three “quick fixes” to amplify perceived “charisma”:

• Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences (no Valley Girl talk…)
• Reduce the speed and rapidity of nodding
• Pause for two seconds before you speak

She offered a number of self-management and communication tips, including a review of Cognitive Behavior Modification practices:

o Destigmatize Discomfort-Dedramatize
o Neutralize Negativity by disputing thoughts
o Rewrite Reality with cognitive reappraisal-reframing

Other reminders include:

• Increasing resilience by expanding the personal “comfort zone”
• Employing mental rehearsal through visualization
• Adopting equanimity, “radical acceptance”, calm
• Increasing impressions of similarity by increasing subtle mirroring of phrases, posture, gestures (such as handshake)
.Investigating appropriate attire, match level of formality/informality
o Delivering value: entertainment, information, good feeling
o Inhaling through nose to avoid anxious, breathless sound
o Using as few words as possible; be succinct; illustrate with imagery, metaphor, analogy, story, compelling statistics relevant to the listener
o Expressing appreciation for specific help, influence; identify positive impact, and context in which it came to mind
o Avoiding verbal “distractors”: “um”, “ah”, “you know”
o Breathing to avoid self-generated anxiety: ”Pause-Breathe-Slow Down”

-*Which elements of Power, Presence, and Warmth have you observed among the most “charismatic” people you know?

©Kathryn Welds

Lessons from Business Storytelling in Constructive Personal Narrative

Business Storytelling books and resources have proliferated, drawing many lessons from Hollywood’s storytelling business and from advertising, public relations, and marketing.

David Epston

David Epston

Michael White

Michael White

Yet business readers may be less aware that more than two decades ago, Australia-based family therapists Michael White and David Epston asserted that people experience personal problems when the stories they tell about their lives do not represent their actual experiences.

They offered ways for people to “re-story” of “re-author” their personal narratives in their now-classic Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends

Michel Foucault

Years after White and Epston built on French philosopher, Michel Foucault’s Post-Structuralist/Modernist analysis of narrative, Paul John Eakin integrated literature, cognitive science, ethics and social criticism in his intriguingly-titled books, Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative and How Our Lives Become Stories: Making Selves 

Eakin echoes Foucault’s view that cultural and social “discourses” influence the narratives people develop about themselves and others, and he, like White and Epston, suggests that personal narratives can be modified to reduce subjective discomfort. How Our Lives Become Stories

Though White and Epston led their clients’ introspective analysis of personal narrative, philosophers like Foucault, and perhaps even Eakin, would argue for the viability of self-guided introspection.

-*When have you used stories to help others solve problems?
-*When have you heard stories that helped you resolve issues?

Related Resources:
Lead with a Story: A Guide to Crafting Business Narratives That Captivate, Convince, and Inspire

Whoever Tells the Best Story WinsWhoever Tells the Best Story Wins: How to Use Your Own Stories to Communicate with Power and Impact

The Elements of Persuasion: Use Storytelling to Pitch Better, Sell Faster & Win More Business 
Tell to Win

Tell to Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story

The Leader's Guide to StorytellingThe Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the Art and Discipline of Business Narrative

Winning the Story WarsWinning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell (and Live) the Best Stories Will Rule the Future

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Online Brain Training For Attention, Memory, Processing Speed, Interpersonal Skills

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich is Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science and his work has been featured on four PBS specials: The Brain Fitness Program, Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound, The New Science of Learning, and Brain Fitness Frontiers.

He asserts that “you can change your brain at any age…You lose your memory because what you hear is not represented clearly in your brain.”
Posit’s online BrainHQ training is designed to help users develop and maintain accurate listening to better remember and speak

This 30-40 hour training uses tasks validated by scientific research to improve the accuracy of receiving information and using it.
Peer-reviewed research studies support the use of systematic brain training to combat the effects of age-related performance decrements, and to assist children with conditions that slow their progress in learning to read.

Posit’s online brain training helps users:
• Focus attention
• Increase brain speed
• Improve memory
• Enhance people skills

Like a gym membership, this series of exercises focuses on increasing strength, stamina, speed, resilience, and capacity.
Exercises include auditory processing, a foundation of accurate memory processing, and useful field of view, imperative in tasks like driving a car safely.

Merzenich discusses the development of brain plasticity from birth
and his TED Talk expands his remarks.

MyBrainSolution offers a different solution based on similar findings in brain plasticity and training studies.
Free trial .

-*What brain development practices have you seen render more benefits?

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Cooperative Instinct, Reflective Self-Interest

David Rand

Harvard scientists, led by postdoctoral researcher David Rand found that volunteers who were asked to contribute to the greater good at their own expense at first tended toward generous and cooperative behavior, but upon reflection, they chose self-interest.
Evolutionary biologist Martin Nowak and psychology professor Joshua Greene collaborated with Rand in the study published in Nature .

Martin Nowak

Rand, Nowak, and Greene gave money to volunteers for use in games where they could earn more, depending on choices about cooperating with others.

The team found that people acted most generously when they made immediate decisions about how much to contribute, or were asked to report a time when their intuitions and emotions guided them to a good decision.

When volunteers took more time to consider decisions, or were asked to remember a time they benefitted because rational thinking or when an emotional response led them to an adverse decision, they contributed less to the common pool of money.

Joshua Greene

In one situation, four participants were given 40 cents each and told that they could contribute as much money as desired to the common pool, which would be doubled and then divided equally among the four people.

People decided most quickly on their contribution strategy were more willing to contribute than those who considered the choice for more than 10 seconds.

When researchers forced some volunteers to decide a strategy rapidly and others to wait at least 10 seconds before deciding, they again observed that those who decided most quickly contributed most.

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate and author of the book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, which examines the two cognitive systems and the role they play in decision-making.

The researchers suggest that people’s intuitive responses are associated with what they have learned to benefit them, through experiences in various situations.

They asked participants if their everyday interactions with others were typically cooperative or uncooperative.
Those who reported having mainly cooperative interactions made quick decisions to contribute more and gave less when they had more time to ponder the scenario.
In contrast, those who reported uncooperative interactions in daily life gave the same amount when they made fast vs more deliberate decisions.

These studies could suggest policies or incentives to encourage desired behavior.
One complication that researchers consider is that a monetary reward or a fine is introduced, people may begin to ignore their first response and weigh the costs and benefits.
This delay can lead to people acting more in self-interest, and less for the common good.

An example of this paradox is seen in a study of Israeli day care programs.
Monetary fines were levied when parents picked up their children late, and the number of parents who arrived late increased rather than decreased.

This finding is consistent with punishment’s lower efficacy in motivating behavior.

-*In which work situations do you favor cooperation with colleagues?
-*When do you find that “enlightened self-interest” is the more prudent approach at work?

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Developing a SMARTER Mindset for Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 2

Carol Dweck

Stanford professor Carol Dweck distilled Salvador Maddi’s three mindsets into two mindsets in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

She differentiated:
• Fixed Mindset – Belief that personal capabilities are given, fixed, limited to present capacities.
This “nature” mindset can lead to fear, anxiety, protectiveness and guardedness.
• Growth Mindset– Belief that personal capabilities can expand based on commitment, effort, practice, instruction, confronting and correcting mistakes. This “nurture” mindset enables teamwork and collaboration.

K. Anders Ericcson

K. Anders Ericcson

Research by K. Anders Ericsson demonstrated that highly skilled experts in nearly every field are distinguished from their talented peers by practice.
Similarly, Malcolm Gladwell asserted that expert performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice.

The Road to Excellence: The Acquisition of Expert Performance in the Arts and Sciences, Sports, and Games

Expert Performance in Sports: Advances in Research on Sport Expertise

Although mindsets consist of relatively stable beliefs, they can be modified by reinforcing, praising, and rewarding performance strategy and process, not the resulting outcome.

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland introduced a practice of “vetting emotions” using a three step process to investigate and manage emotions

• Validate – Name the emotion
• Explore – What is the broader context?
What are the familiar reaction patterns?
• Tolerate – Transform limiting emotions into information and intelligence to move forward

“Cognitive appraisal” refers to evaluative elements of thoughts, and can provoke emotions.
This type of appraisal is based on three factors, outlined by eminent researcher

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman in his book, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

• Personalization of cause, responsibility: Internal control vs External control
• Pervasiveness of event and impact: Specific vs Global
• Permanence of event and impact: Temporary vs. Continuing

Kivland suggested that mindsets and related attitudes can direct individuals to either of two paths:

• Surviving Path, based on reactive, fearful protecting from anticipated danger

• Hope Path, proactive, thriving, growing, able to let go of fears, observe emotions as information for decision-making rather than as unpleasant experiences to be tolerated

Kivland, Dweck, Maddi, Ericcson, Seligman, and other advocates of Emotional Intelligence practices suggest benefits of the Hope Path.

Dweck model and the mindset of positive psychology

Dweck’s Brainology software for students

Related Post:
Developing a SMARTER Mindset to increase Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 1

-*What “mindsets” help you achieve optimal performance in work and life activities?

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Developing a SMARTER Mindset to increase Resilience, Emotional Intelligence – Part 1

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland

Cynthia Kivland, author of Smart2Smarter: How Emotional and Social Connections Bring Humanity into the Workplace: Seven Skills Every Smart Person Needs, reviewed research-based models that suggest ways to increase resilient attitudes and behaviors.

Her “Smart to SMARTER” model is based on interviews with “smart and competent” people in a variety of fields.
Kivland developed a mnemonic device highlight important elements of Emotionally Intelligent or “Emotionally Smart” people:

S – Self – Optimize strengths via self-efficacy
M – Mastery of emotions
A – Attraction – Positive energy, optimism, confidence to attract the best to self, others
R – Resilience – Adapt, reinvent oneself to overcome setbacks
T – Tolerance of emotional experience, changing circumstances, diverse people and beliefs
E – Evolve – Innovate, improve new ways to manage emotions, reactions, behaviors
R – Reciprocity – Lead, be lead; teach, be taught, give, receive

She noted that positive psychology research demonstrated that positive emotions help people endure and grow from life’s changes and adversities.

To help cultivate positive emotions, she suggests three practices:
• Emotional engagement
Schedule fun, enjoyable experiences and opportunities for positive emotions
• Emotional responsiveness
Be present, attentive, and engaged during pleasant moments
• Emotional savoring
“Evolve” by intentionally enjoying positive moments and emotions of joy, contentment, satisfaction, and carrying positive memories into future situations

Salvatore Maddi

“Mindsets” consist of attitudes that can facilitate or impede executing these three recommendations, based on early workplace research by Salvatore Maddi, who studied people affected by organizational change.

He distilled effective coping skills he observed among affected employees as three “Emotional Hardiness” Mindsets:

Commitment vs Alienation – Active involvement with people, life events
Control vs. Powerlessness – Persistence in trying to improve life situations
Challenge vs Threat – Viewing change as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and craft a fulfilling life

In addition, Maddi found that these employees demonstrated two Emotional Resilience Skills:
• Community vs. Isolation – Engaging with others to mobilize social support, feedback
• Proactive Coping (Thriving) vs Reactive Coping (Surviving) – View adversity in context to deepen awareness

Kivland’s Resilience tools

See Part 2 of this post

-*What practices and “mindsets” help you cultivate “emotional hardiness” in your work activities?

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