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The Human Iceberg

That is only the tip of the Iceberg!

Everyone understands what you mean when you use this phrase. Referring to the fact that things are not the way they seem... there is a lot more to it than meets the eye, you have to look deeper, do some homework, some research, and ask more questions… think for yourself! But when it comes to human behaviour, we all too often act on face value. We assume that we understand what the person says or understand why she did what she did. We think that by telling people (our children, partners, staff members or friends) what they should or shouldn’t do would change their behaviour… We don’t understand why they don't listen, and why we seem to be talking to the wall? There is always more to it than meets the eye!

We as human beings share the following core needs. You may refer to them as the bottom of the Iceberg. They are the same across cultures, gender and age. We all have the need for certainty, uncertainty, connection, significance, growth and contribution. For the purpose of this article I want to focus on two of these core needs:

1. We are all born with the need to be connected to others; to belong; to be part of. You’ve heard it before: “Nobody is born an island.” We are pack animals, and have a need to be part of other people's lives. With this need goes the fear of rejection, the fear of loneliness. We need to love, and to be loved by others.

2. We need to feel/have a sense of significance. To make a difference, feel important, appreciated. Here we are striving to gain a sense of significance and importance in other people’s eyes. Your objective is to create a sense of identity. (Adam Sicinski)

The reason I want to focus on these two is because we are focusing on the dilemma of changing behaviour. When we are not happy with something we do, or somebody in our lives that do things that are not good for themselves or the ones around them. The fact of the matter is that we CAN address the above mentioned two needs by doing the wrong things. We could possibly lie to be accepted or because we fear rejection. We could belittle someone else to feel more important. People could even steal and murder as a result of this need… just think about the recent shootings at schools in the USA, and the profile of those individuals.

If we think of changing behaviour we need to be able to connect the things we do to these two core needs, to have a deeper understanding of the reasons for the unwanted behaviour.

Our core human needs feed into the next level, the heart, of the human iceberg… our values, our beliefs, our world view, and our assumptions. Our convictions about a person, a company, an institution, forms the colour of the lenses through which we view every situation we encounter. That becomes our reality, our truth. If we are convinced that somebody has ulterior motives or that a company/board has only its own interest at heart, everything that we experience within that reality will be experienced through those lenses.

These experiences feed our minds with specific thoughts; different thoughts for different individuals; based on the different convictions. The result of the thoughts we're having are emotions (feelings); different feelings for different people according to our lenses. The combination of our thoughts and our feelings form our “state of mind” also called one’s attitude – the big differentiator between success and failure. According to one Harvard Review up to 85% of a person success in life can be attributed to his or her attitude. John C Maxwell says:” Your attitude is your best friend or your worst enemy; it either draws people to you or repels them. It is the librarian of your past, the speaker of your present and the prophet of your future.”

My state of mind (attitude), which is the combination of our thoughts and emotions as a result of our convictions and values, leads to our behaviour. If we therefor want to change behaviour, we need to change attitudes... One of the biggest discoveries in human nature is the fact that one CAN alter one’s attitude… The challenge is how? And the answer lies hidden under the surface in the human Iceberg.

The first step would be to recognise that at the core of this behaviour is the need for connection and or significance. How does this behaviour link with this core human need? The next step is to get to understand the convictions and assumptions that this person (I) holds with regard to the situation:

1. Why do you feel strongly about this?
2. What is you view on this?
3. Why do you think is this happening?
4. How does it make you feel, and why?
5. How did you get to see things the way you see them? Etc.

By asking the right questions, we can gain insight into the feelings, thoughts, and convictions underlying the behaviour. The mere fact that we get a deeper understanding will already help us to connect with the individual or in the case of own behaviour helps us understand ourselves a bit better:

If there exist incorrect assumptions and the facts are communicated in the correct way; an open mind will assist in accepting a new reality. This inevitably leads to a change in the colour of the lenses I (or the other person) look at the situation. The result of this is a chain reaction… a change in thoughts, leading to different emotions, leading to a new response, coming from a new truth!

I know that I can't change anyone; but I have been privileged to see many individuals embracing new convictions; ridding themselves from incorrect assumptions bringing about major changes in their own lives. I have been on the receiving end of many significant changes in my own life and my own behaviour, where I successfully managed to challenge my own thinking, assumptions and convictions. Choose more empowering values, leading to more constructive behaviour, and favourable results.

It all starts with a recognition and understanding that every human being is indeed an Iceberg.

Enjoy the journey!

Stefan Lessing