Actions Change Beliefs

actions change beliefs 

Photo by w2awfil 

I trained at Telecom for two years and was with the company for about three and a half in total. During this time I trained around 200 people from their beginnings with the company and observed several trends. I recently read an excellent article about cognitive dissonance that resonated with me and got me thinking about the past. The basic premise of the piece was that person’s beliefs are changed – over time – by their daily actions.

The Customer Service Phone Rep

Inductions would range from two-six weeks of full time training, during this time a new employee would learn about the company’s values, products, processes and soft skills for talking to customers. Most people would come to the company believing that the company was a corporate money-hungry monopoly – but they didn’t care, they were there for the money. They would scoff at the idea of associating with the company. During this time I observed that people would follow 3 broad paths;

1. They would adapt, take on the beliefs of the company and actively support it, even in social situations.
2. They would retain what they perceived as negative beliefs about the company but continue to work there and spread dissent. This would affect people differently, one similarity however, was that someone continually doing something they disagreed with would result in a negative emotional state.
3. They would leave. After doing the job – for enough time to see if for what it is – they would realise that they could not, or would not want to put up with the job.

The majority of people were number 1’s. For the unfortunate number 2’s, the continual battering of daily incongruence between their actions and beliefs would put them in a weak or negative state of mind. Emotions would range from anger, anxiety, depression to resentment. This would spill over into peoples personal and social lives, at work the most advanced number 2’s that actively spread dissent were secretly despised by those around them. Not because they were bad or unsociable, but because they were always a drag to be around.

I came to realise that most people are number 1’s; they adapt to survive, usually for their own peace of mind. I have seen 1’s that are smart, stupid, thoughtful, articulate, sharp, all sorts. I have seen many close friends go through the transition and with a detached viewpoint, even myself. It could be months down the track, but eventually the staunch white-knight attitude is soon replaced with an institutionalized reformed-employee-of-the-month swagger. It is as if a switch just suddenly goes off, after someone goes through the motions of supporting a company long enough, their subconscious decides that it will be easier to change their beliefs then have their actions be in continual conflict with them.

How does this happen? How does a smart, talented, strong willed person have their beliefs so drastically changed? People with different backgrounds, beliefs and attitudes all found themselves eventually changing. The only consistent factor is that they all went through the same daily routine, encountered the same challenges and participated in a team environment with targets and goals, actions all intended to further the business.

Consider this situation; someone feels that it is unfair that a customer should have to pay $45 simply because they paid their bill late and need to have their line reconnected. Yet they have to – on a daily basis – tell a customer that there is nothing they can do and that the fee stands. “Those policies are there for a reason Mam, it’s clearly stated in your terms and conditions. Every year Telecom loses over $1000000 due to late payments.” If someone is saying this continually, even though it runs counter to their beliefs, how will that affect them? A common reaction would be feeling pity or sympathy for the customer, but what happens to a person taking 80 calls a day and even for 20 of those calls feeling pity, sympathy, anger or resentment and not being able to do anything about it? The result is that they will feel emotionally exhausted, overwhelmed by the constant barrage, perhaps even bitter about having to enforce it themselves. Eventually something has to change, and for most it is easier to change the beliefs then the actions.

The Consummate Seducer

Everyone has ‘one of those’ friends. The guy that seems to be able to attract any woman but no one knows why. He may not be particularly attractive, he can even be arrogant or intrusive yet it does not seem to matter. If you study the Consummate Seducer you will find that their personalities can be vastly different, they may come from totally different backgrounds and when quizzed as to the source of their success you will get lots of conflicting information. There is no simple trick or canned lines, but whatever they do, they all believe with total conviction that their method works.

So if the Consummate Seducer can have different backgrounds, methods and values, what is the common characteristic they share that makes them so influential with women? The simple answer; Their belief system. When asked, you will find that they all share similar beliefs, for example: that they are the prize, that women prefer to chase then to be chased, that women are attracted to men that have choice or come pre-selected by other women and that nice guys finish last. Another interesting factor is that they may not have always believed this. Most Seducers will have previously held traditional ‘nice guy’ beliefs and at some stage transitioned to their new belief system which has resulted in them becoming much more influential with women.

How does this happen? This is a question that I love to ask to all Consummate Seducers that I meet. Did you always believe this and if not how did you change? I recall one particular friend, he is younger then I am and very successful with women, despite (or perhaps because) being arrogant, crude and obnoxious. This is a guy that will openly tell a woman to fuck off yet it will only make her want him more. We were sitting around one night philosophizing talking about why nice guys finish last; we agreed that if a man chases a woman when he doesn’t really know her and is doing it only because she is attractive then this will turn her off. We agreed that a woman will value a man more if he takes the time to get to know her and makes her win his approval, not the other way around. This however, seems to contradict society’s standard beliefs on courtship and the behavior of most men, who will instantly try cater to an attractive woman’s desires mistakenly thinking it will win favor with her. My question was then, how did he change his perception and what caused him too?

His response was that after being burnt in a relationship when he was younger, he was forced to reassess his beliefs. He noticed the actions that successful men were taking and began to emulate them. Seeing the results and after doing it for enough time, his beliefs began to shift. He was still the same person, with the same values and personality but because he had – and lived by – the beliefs of a Consummate Seducer, this would shine through in his actions and women could not help but respond it.

The Gym Buff

Another excellent example of actions changing beliefs is exercise. I recall back to times when I have been consistently going to gym, usually with a friend. One trend I noticed is that when you are consistently exercising, your beliefs about diet, fast food and your own self-confidence all change. You start to think “if I’m spending this time and effort to improve my health then I should be taking my diet seriously, no point exercising then going and eating Macca’s straight after.”

So what exactly brought on this change? I wasn’t reading books on health or diet, certainly not finding out information on the fast food industry, so why did my beliefs change so much? In hindsight now, it is because I was going through the daily actions of taking care of my body and health. As I mentioned earlier, if there is incongruence between actions and beliefs then something has to change and beliefs are easier to change then actions. If someone consistently goes the motions that a health conscious individual long enough, it is inevitable that their beliefs will change to correspond with their actions.

So if true, how is this information useful? It sounds profoundly simple, perhaps it is. When talking about influencing people, Baltasar Gracian says that the truth is usually seen, rarely heard. Meaning most people will be influenced by your actions rather then your words. It certainly seems that no matter how much you tell yourself you want to change, no great changes take place until you consistently begin to take action. Can it be so simple to influence ourselves, taking simple action to change our beliefs and subsequently our behavior?

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