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Psychology Behind the News

Behaviours Explained & Motives Uncovered

Martin Goodyer

Martin Goodyer is a psychologist and corporate coach specialising in the leading and delivery of behavioural change. In addition to regularly appearing, contributing to, or acting as a consultant psychologist on television and radio, Martin is one of the UK's top Corporate and Business Coaches.

Dance Hilary, Dance!

27 July 2016


Does Hilary needs to put on her dancing shoes?

What exactly are the Americans most frightened of and what will be the most attractive response - a battle or a dance?


Fear is a huge motivator but the urge for survival and feelings of control are even stronger. That's maybe why so many otherwise sensible Brits voted in favour of Brexit even though they knew they were being lied to. They excused themselves by arguing that 'everyone' was telling lies, and that the stoking of fears was nothing more to worry about than ghost stories around a campfire. The same will be true for the Americans and a reckless ego-maniac may be handed the key to potential global destruction if Hilary makes the same mistakes as David Cameron. Trump isn't a seasoned and wily politician doing what he can to get votes, who will then calm down and be a steady reliable and trustworthy leader. He is far more likely to believe his own hype and allow hubris to drive his decision making. He is likely to be the polar opposite of trustworthy because he can't be relied on to 'do the right thing', bullies are essentially cowards and collapse into panic, blaming everyone and everything else when things don't go their way. He has no credibility to do the job, even his claims of being a self-made success are spurious, and he'd more than likely be just another angry loud mouth in a trailer-park if he hadn't been gifted a ton of cash to lose by a benevolent family. His sincerity is skin-deep and there is little doubt that his ego is bigger than any skyscraper his company might have had a hand in, therefore, he fails on all counts and measures of being a person on whom a nation can rely. The one thing he has been able to tap into is the survival instinct of people in fear. He recognises that 'the man and woman in the street' has no real power and so is acting as a means of them feeling that they have - through him. It's as if casting their lot in his direction is a way to flex their own muscle and DO something to offset their fear - and when in fear, people feel the need to do something, anything even if it makes no sense just to feel even a little bit as if they have some control. The British vote for Brexit was the perfect example of a confused and befuddled country arguing at cross purposes. One person would say 'I voted for my grandchildren so that they could have their own government' and another 'I voted for my grandchildren so that they have greater opportunity'. In some way both were right and both were wrong, but what actually made them cast their vote was not their intellectual argument but their emotion. For one it was in response to the fear of repression and for the other the fear of loss. Fear, even if it wasn't recognised or acknowledged was at the heart of both, and fear is what sits at the heart of the American Presidential dilemma.

Control and Survival

"Yes you can!". In the upcoming fight for the Whitehouse there can only be one winner, and that winner will be the person who has influenced the most people to believe that they have more personal control by voting for them than the other guy. The loser will be the person who spends their energy and opportunity on trying to convince them that they are the best choice. The reason? It's simple: To convince is to go into battle and bludgeon a person with facts and suggestions in the hope that they surrender and come over to your side. Whereas to influence is to change a person's thinking so that they 'go with you' toward an outcome that they believe is right for them. Convincing is a battle, influencing is a dance. A battle starts with putting the other side down and telling the world why they are wrong. They may be all the terrible things you say they are, but will that help you win? I'm afraid the answer is no. When someone calls Trump belligerent and emotionally retarded they may be correct, but to the ears of the person clinging to the notion that Trump represents their best chance of survival they hear 'blah blah...more people trying to tell me I'm wrong'. It doesn't help their cause to go into battle, but it will help if they instigate a dance. One can only wonder what might have happened if David Cameron had come out with a "Yes you can!" campaign way in advance of having any referendum. If his team had let go of the intellectual arguments and had focused instead on the emotions of millions of people and then addressed them directly, it may all have unfolded differently. Yes you can ...control immigration AND stay within the EU (with changes to benefits). Yes you can...control laws (we will always have the final say and opt out like we have in the past if we really don't agree). Yes you can...control your health service, your livelihood, your family, your little part of 'Great Britain'  and so on and so on. A "Yes you can!" message said over and over again starts a dance. Of course, not everyone will want to dance and there will be many who feel more in control by fighting a battle, but here's the thing; Hilary doesn't need them all to take part in her dance, she just needs enough of them to step onto her dance floor and she will have done enough to win the presidency.

Yes you can!

Everyone can dance, even Hilary. Now is the time for her team to start engaging the American people in the idea (no matter how far-fetched) that they CAN engage with the idea of more control, they CAN feel more in control of, and they CAN see themselves controlling in the future. If she needs to steal some of the themes from the battle hungry Trump camp then steal them; Yes you can ...control unwanted immigration (and keep the possibility of a wall, but only if the Mexicans want one on the table), yes you can...control honesty in politics (even if that means changing the way business is done in the Whitehouse with more transparency), yes you can, yes you can, yes you can needs to be her message, because even if millions scream 'no you can't' she just needs enough to buy into the possibility and she will secure the victory most of us looking in from the outside want to see. 

Psychology tells us that people are NOT stupid, but they do have a habit of acting is if they are. People respond with emotion, it's part of the human condition and all of us have no choice but to embrace that fact. Smart political advisors know this to be true but are just as likely to fall prey to their own emotions as the rest of us and forget what they know in favour of what they feel. They are just as likely as any of us to get caught up in some pattern or other and forget that 'winning' is the goal, and not proving themselves to be 'right'. It's time to dance if you want to get back to the Whitehouse Hilary.

If you could start over with your own education, what would you do?

10 February 2016

 They say "Education is wasted on the young", and whoever 'they' were, their point might be a good one.

While it's true that developing brains can absorb and engage with some information, it's not true across the board, which is why some classroom topics generate as much enthusiasm as a trip to the dentist.

When the education system was designed we lived in a different world; there was no internet, no instant messaging, no mobile phones, no computer games, and no expectancy that most might live beyond their 70's. Yet, the child entering school today doesn't know anything but a world with all those things, and may well outlive their parents by a decade, even though they too may have lived longer than their own.

It begs the question; why are we trying to school our young in much the same way we were schooled, which was pretty much the way our parents, and maybe even theirs before them were schooled, when the environment is not 'much the same'?  We don't shop in the same way, use our leisure time in the same way, and certainly don't work in the same way, so what is it about putting kids through an education system from 7 to 17 that is so sacrosanct that we must do it the same way?

Here's what I would do; forget the tree R's, I'd go for the three L's instead; in those first formative years the most important lessons will be in L for life, L for language and L for learning skills. Children equipped to be curious and skilled in both asking questions and finding answers will be provided with a far stronger foundation that they do now; confidence, communication skills and self-esteem can only get stronger when a child learns that they have both potential and the ability to access it. Only then in the later years of education need we introduce expectations and standards in specific subjects and possible career directions. Trust me, if a 4 year old can figure out how to use an iPad, they can also learn to figure out more than we try and stuff into them in a curriculum, as long as we teach them how to learn. When we ask them better, more relevant questions and leave them to find the answers, they will find them and they will learn. When expectations move from 'our job is to teach' to 'our job is to help you learn' then the expectations of the young will change too; they will learn more because they want to, not because they're supposed to.

At the moment we value 'performance' as determined by the quality of the teacher and their curriculum. I propose that a better future will value 'potential' and be crafted to avoid as much interference as possible, so that each developing child accesses theirs and makes use of it. The sad reality is that most young people leaving our existing system have come no where near realising their own potential; they may have performed adequately, but is that really good enough? Is it really the best we can do?

I really do think it's time we started asking better questions about the foundational thinking around education.



Is it just me, or do some people spout absolute BS?

02 February 2016

 I've just returned from an early coaching session with an MD who's taken a business from almost nothing to close to a very profitable £20m. The MD finds quality time for a family, enjoys spending time in a fabulous home, takes luxurious holidays regularly, and keeps body and soul together with regular exercise and healthy eating. However, to achieve this requires focus and dedication; getting up while other people are still dreaming, putting in the hours when a deadline makes it necessary, always being aware of what's going on, and constantly asking better questions about what needs to happen next.

I got home and sat at my desk after another exhilarating, action packed three-hour session, reflecting on the massive progress the MD has made since last time, and open my emails. Immediately my attention is drawn to two, that although from different people are very similar; both are extolling the virtues of 'slowing down', of 'taking life at a more leisurely pace', and achieving success by 'asking the universe' with sincerity for your heart's desire. To be frank, I found it difficult to believe that so-called business professionals could suggest such nonsense; but then it struck me that this wasn't just any old nonsense, but that these were genuine examples of BS, and emotional BS at that!

By BS I am actually referring to 'Belief Systems' and not the common vernacular associated with the abbreviation. You see, I don't doubt for a moment the sincerity of the writers; I accept without reservation that they both anticipate benefits from the actions proposed, and that their own emotions are tied up in the desire for what they say to be true. The reason being is because I've met so many people like them who desperately want to believe it's true, because at their time of writing it ISN'T yet true for them.

You only have to glimpse at social-media to come across hundreds of self-professed gurus spreading 'words of wisdom' who themselves have hardly a pot to pee in; if they were a massive success themselves they would hardly be spinning vague platitudes, they would not be talking about what 'could' happen, instead they'd be telling what 'will' happen, and would be proving it with their own experience. They don't because, in most of the cases of which I'm aware, they can't. Their office is the spare room, their consulting space is a coffee shop, and their advance systems are copied files on a budget lap-top; they want success, and they want the bits and pieces they've read about being successful to be true, because most of all they want it to come true for themselves.

It's sad really, because on the whole they are potentially smart people, who if they let go of their ego's and got stuck in to a real business challenge, quite possibly have what it takes to be successful. Instead, they attend a seminar, read a few chapters of a book or two, and have an epiphany! They see the 'light' and apparently then want to share it with everyone they know; of course, they have to charge for it or their 'clients' wouldn't value it or them, and they have to post pictures of sunrises with notes on them about 'taking time to enjoy life'. Phar! It's BS, total BS; because believing something does not make it true, believing so meting does not make it right, and believing something sets up a 'system' where everything you see, hear, taste, smell and touch gets unconsciously processed through the filter of your belief. Which is why they become aware of only those things that support their belief, and they are NOT aware of the vast amount of evidence that, if they could only see it would tell them their belief is almost completely without foundation.

The trouble is, they don't want to be wrong, and they would rather live 'pretending' they are a success instead of working to become one.

My early Monday morning client got up today at 04.30, had great fun with his productive coaching session, and is likely to have engaged with the rest of the day with equal enthusiasm and vigour. Tonight when sleep-time comes around that MD will reflect on the day as another set of steps on the way to even more success; there's no need to ask the universe for something when you're crystal clear what you want and what the barriers are you must overcome to achieve it, no need to try and force the unconscious into working for you because it's doing it anyway, and no need to work hard at being grateful because you already are.

Success won't come from just asking for it, but it will come when you stop waiting for it, and start instead to make it happen. No BS required.

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