Appealing to Expectations
We need to reach many different people, but we have only one message. Gretchen Rubin, happiness and habit expert, explains in her book, The Four Tendencies, that there are multiple categories for how we deal with expectations: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. The book is great, but what’s interesting is what Gretchen found to be true of people of all tendencies: that their actions and reactions were always values-driven.
The core of the Red Thread is all about values: the incontrovertible truths that make up our Ideas. We can also keep in mind the tendencies of our audience, specifically the difference between internal and external expectations. We need to explain, for those that care about external expectations, why our Goal makes sense for most people. However, for the contrarians, we also need to show the other side. The same is true for Ideas. Building a message that appeals to both groups will make sure that you reach everyone.
– We run into this experience all the time where we have one message, but it has to reach a whole bunch of people. And not only does it have to reach all those people, those people have to hear it, take it on as their own, and do something with it. And that’s a lot harder, but, if we can think about expectations, maybe we have a clue to how to make that more effective. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com and that’s what we’re talking about this week on Find the Red Thread.
Gretchen Rubin, happiness and habit expert and New York Times bestselling author, says that we have four tendencies as humans. Four tendencies for how we respond to expectations. Now what expectations, you might be wondering. Well as she explains, there are inner expectations and outer expectations. Inner expectations being what we as individuals expect of ourselves, and outer expectations, what other people expect of us. And each of us, she says, has a different but predictable combination of whether or not we meet those expectations, or resist those expectations.
Now, it can be totally fascinating if you’re my tendency, an “Upholder,” to figure out, oh cool, how does everybody sort into it? But what was a big takeaway from listening to her and reading her book was how important it is to speak in the language of the tendency of the person that you’re talking to. It’s much like, as she said, the Love Languages, if you’re familiar with those, that we’re going to respond to the kind of thinking that we have, which means even though I may be an Upholder, I need to figure out a way to give a “Rebel,” my opposite, choices, information, and freedom, to either accept what I’m saying or just let it go. And trust me, as an Upholder, I don’t just let things go.
So, what occurred to me is even though the book is written by and large in this concept of one-to-one that there were many lessons for one to many communications as well. And the answer lies in something that Gretchen found was true of all the tendencies: that their actions and reactions based on their tendency were always values-driven. Well, if you’re familiar with The Red Thread then you know that, when it comes to what’s at the core of The Red Thread, it is values, beliefs, these incontrovertible truths, our Ideas.
And so what does this mean for you if you’re putting messages together and have to think through what are all the different tendencies in the audience? Well some of it can be helpful to go back and watch or listen to the episode I did on “Message Mindsets,” but I love this layering of thinking through these tendencies as well. Because if we think through this balance between outer expectations and inner expectations, and whether or not people are inclined to resist or meet those expectations, then it’s important, particularly when we’ve got a little more time (say in a longer blog post, or in a speech that we’re giving), to make sure that we give that extra information around the pieces of The Red Thread that speak to all those different tendencies.
So for the tendencies that like to meet external expectations, then we want to make sure we’re giving people information about why it makes sense that they operate in a certain way, why most people behave the way that they do. But for the contrarians in the bunch, it’s always important to show the other side. So for instance, there may be good reasons why you have a Goal, and why most people pursue that Goal, and what barriers most people see, but by pointing out that there is still not a solution to that, and that’s not working, you start to appeal to those people that resist those outer expectations. And when you start to give them a new way of looking at something, say the Problem, then you start to give them the information they’re looking for to start to figure out what of their inner expectations they want to meet or not.
The same thing is true when you think about the Ideas, the Ideas get at those values, and if you can speak to the Change that you’re asking people to make through the lens of that information you’ve given people, well now you start to make sure that even if you’re talking to a group of people that represent an even split of these different tendencies, that you’ll be much more likely to make sure that each one of them gets the information they’re looking for.
So, take a look at Gretchen’s book, see what you think, I’d be curious to see how you see it and The Red Thread approach fit together. I think they’re very, very friendly and I look forward to exploring it more myself. If you’re looking for other things to read, or watch, or listen to, go back and look at some of the previous episodes of Find The Red Thread. Even better, go subscribe on YouTube, or find those old episodes on Libsyn or on iTunes. I’m Tamsen Webster of TamsenWebster.com, thanks so much for joining me for this episode of Find The Red Thread.