Perspective's Power to Shape Behavior

Dr. Purushothaman
October 7, 2013

I received a call from one of my clients who was looking for help with his resume and interview strategy for an upcoming meeting. I suggested a different way to look at his resume. A light bulb went off. Suddenly he had new energy and enthusiasm where just prior he was sober and analytical. In a matter of a moments, something shifted and he began to see possibilities instead of obstacles.
What changed? The situation hadn't changed, and neither had his skill set. Only his perspective changed. He was able to see things through a different lens, and that altered everything.
That exchange was a great reminder of the power our perspective has to stimulate and shape behavior. People generally find what they are looking for. I'm not talking about our misplaced car keys. I mean in situations involving other human beings, we generally see the qualities and traits of character that we expect to see. For example, as sales people, we may go into an account with the perspective that this account is populated with small-minded people who are going to squeeze us for every penny they can, and choose the lowest cost provider no matter what. Guess what? Generally, that's what we'll find.
On the other hand, we can go into the account with a different perspective. Let's go in expecting to find well-intentioned people who want only the best for their organization. Amazingly, that's generally what we will find.
Now don't jump all over my example and claim, "Wait, some people really are penny-pinchers, regardless of what I think." Granted. People are different, and there are some in every type and classification. I'm not talking about them, I'm talking about us.
The objective truth is probably somewhere in the middle. They may be well-intentioned, striving for quality, and cost-conscious. Don't miss the point. If we expect people to be untrustworthy, it will be their untrustworthiness that gets detected by our radar scan. If we expect them to be kind, we'll notice their kindness. If we expect them to be self-absorbed, we'll notice their lack of concern for others.
Since we generally notice those qualities and traits that we expect to see, that perspective changes and influences our behavior. That's the point. When people talk about other people, they really reveal more about themselves than they do the subject of their conversation. That's because their judgments reveal their perspectives. Regardless of the objective truth of the issue, if our perspective is that they are penny-pinchers, our experience will generally confirm that, and we'll treat them that way. Clearly the opposite is also true. If we expect them to be value-driven, we'll see them that way, and we'll treat them accordingly. The thing that makes the difference in how we treat them is not them, it is our perspective of them.
As a life-long educator and sales trainer, I have observed a powerful truth of human behavior: Our perspectives about ourselves are far more important than our perspectives about other people. As we see ourselves, so shall we be. If we see ourselves as victims, we will forever be a victim. If we see ourselves as successful, we will eventually arrive there. Therefore, if we can uncover and release ourselves from our limiting perspectives of ourselves, we can transform our behavior and enjoy dramatically improved results.
Countless times I've had people come into my seminars with the perspective that this is just a job, and leave with a vision of themselves as professional sales people, and proud of it. Since they now see themselves as professional sales people, they act that way. As a result of their changed actions, they enjoy dramatically improved results. Here's the equation:
Changed perspective = changed actions = improved results.
The principle is obviously bigger than just sales. It applies to every aspect of our lives. The more I reflect on my life and those around me, the more I see that so much of our behavior can be attributed to perspectives gained during our formative years.
For example, for my entire life I have been both empowered by and hindered by the perspective that I was forever on my own, independent, self-sufficient and self-contained. That perspective was a direct result of my parents' intentional to instill self-reliance it in each of their six boys. My father had a heart condition and was never expected to live a full life. My parents, therefore, intentionally instilled that perspective into us to enable us to get along in a world without a father's presence. That has been a powerful perspective, shaping my actions and character throughout my life.
So, too, for each of us. The perspectives we gained as we grew up shape our actions and reactions. They harden and form into habits, attitudes and eventually, character traits.
If we want to change our results, then we ought to work on changing our perspectives.

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