6th March 2017

You are probably familiar with the saying ‘it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it’.

This is true in the vast majority of cases.  However in terms of the brain, what you say makes a big impact.

Towards motivation is based on reward.  This means that you will say a statement and if it is positive, it will light up the part of the brain responsible for reward.  Dopamine will flow and this is when creativity and innovation starts to happen.

Away from motivation is based on fear.

You may say a statement that says ‘If you don’t do X, then Y may happen’.  This creates fear in the brain which fosters a stress response in the recipient.  When we are stressed our pre-frontal cortex (PFC) which is our Executive brain is not functioning.  Therefore the amygdala which is the emotional centre of the brain goes on full alert and the recipient functions from an emotional place.  This is not the best place to make executive decisions because logic and rationale have been temporarily switched off!

Ask yourself as a communicator, which is my preference?  Am I an away from or towards motivator?

Do you do things based on fear because you do not want to be seen as a failure or do you worry about the aftermath if you miss a deadline?  If so, then you are probably more ‘away from’ as a motivator.

Alternatively do you do thing because you view them as opportunities and challenges and an opportunity to learn? 

If this is the case, you are probably more naturally a ‘towards’ motivator.

Although there is nothing wrong with being an ‘away from’ motivator, keep in mind that you are coming from a place of ‘fear’ and that is not good for the body.  The stress hormone will be present and as already mentioned, creativity and innovation will be very much reduced or non-existent.

In addition to this, you need to consider your audience.  If they are a ‘towards’ audience and you have delivered your message in an ‘away from’ manner, you will have switched them off.  What might work for you, might not work for them.

The good news is the brain can learn to rewire itself with new neurons.  This means you can learn to be a ‘towards’ motivator if you practise regularly with positive language/requests.  Make sure you keep this up for at least 8 weeks so the brain can install this new habit of being.

In summary, understand your preferences and consider what benefits your motivation style brings to you and others.