How to Ask People to Change Their Behaviours

How do you ask people to change their behaviours?

In my experience, leaders often tend to give feedback to people without being specific.

They say something like: “I want you to be less arrogant” or “I want you to have more entrepreneurial spirit”, or “I want you to be more engaged” and so forth.

Meaning: Not sure.

When it comes to behaviours, specificity is everything.

If we take one of the examples above, saying “don’t be arrogant” confuses people because we have a different perspective about the world and the definition of the word “arrogance”

I see arrogance as shouting at people but others may see it as interrupting conversations when people talk. You know the gist here.

So why not be specific and mention a specific situation that explains why you think the other person behaved in a certain way?

This will help massively the other person to understand what specific behaviour is not productive.

So saying something like – using the same example of arrogance – would be more effective:

  • Stop interrupting people during meetings
  • Don’t raise your voice during meetings
  • Change your body posture in meetings as others can be irritated

Etc. etc.

If this looks easy for others to change, think twice though.

For the other person, that behaviour is probably hardwired now in who they are, so it became a habit.

Specificity is then necessary to define the context of our actions.

Next time you want to give feedback to someone, think about how you can help him by being more specific.

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