Home Research Emotional Intelligence: EI/EQ Behavior Attracts Behavior

Behavior Attracts Behavior

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Let’s talk about how behaviors attract behaviors: Interactions are a dance. Our behavior impacts those around us and how they respond. Our steps influence theirs and vice versa. If we don’t like the way the dance is going, the most efficient way to change it is by changing our own steps. If one person changes the dance, the whole dance changes.

In the Responsibility-based Performance Management training, we define emotional intelligence as: “the degree to which we are able to be aware of our own internal experience (needs/feelings), accurately read or discover the internal experience of someone else (their needs/feelings), and respond, rather than react, in order to create a desired outcome.” If your behavior is not creating the outcome you want, your most powerful response would be to first look there, at your own behavior, and see what it is attracting to you. Since you can control your own behavior, you create the most effective and elegant change by addressing it rather than strategizing to change the other person. Doing so wouldn’t be successful anyway if your behavior does not welcome that change, so you can’t lose by looking in the mirror first. Let’s look at some behavioral attractors. Of course, this is not a complete list but you’ll get the idea.

Positive Attractors

• Collaboration attracts partnerships
• Listening attracts participation.
• Positive recognition attracts enthusiasm
• Accountability attracts accomplishments
• Safety attracts transparency
• Conferring attracts creativity

Negative Attractors

• Control attracts resistance
• Telling attracts passivity
• Blame attracts defensiveness
• Avoidance attracts mediocrity
• Hostility attracts fight or flight
• Knowing it all attracts boredom


Take a look at an interaction that typically doesn’t go well. Reflect first on your
feelings when you’re in the interaction (become aware of our own immediate internal
experience). What’s the feeling? Then, what’s the thought behind the feeling? Answer
these two questions and you’ll see how your behavior gets created from the inside out, rather than by the person you’re dancing with.

Behavior expresses feeling driven by thought, so first let’s change the thought.
1) How do you want the interaction to change (respond intentionally to create a
desired outcome)?
2) What new behavior on your part would best attract that change?
3) What new transforming thought do you need to hold to support your new
behavior? Remember, having the new thought focus on you and your response
rather than the other person is the most effective and elegant way to create change.
Repeat that new thought, stick it on your computer with a PostIt, read it regularly to
reprogram your mind and support the new behavior.

Of course, employees also are responsible for changing their behavior when needed.
These strategies work to support that as well. As leaders, we must model the behaviors we want to see in our teams. Taking responsibility for understanding ourselves and mastering the ability to change our behavior to match our values (the definition of integrity) will attract the same from those we manage.

Copyright Rick Piraino 2009

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