Jul 11

5/19 Understanding Payoffs in Conflict Solutions

In this post we want to talk about a concept we often find in Counseling and Mentoring: “Why do people do what they?”

Life Stratagies - McGrawDr Phil McGraw answers this question with his ‘Life Law #4: “People do what works.”   People do what they do because of ‘Payoffs’.  Think about the concept and begin to see other’s actions actions in the understanding personal payoff.  It might take some thinking but it’s well worth the time and energy to help see other’s through different eyes.

At the heart of this principle is the statement:  “The behavior you choose creates the results you get”.  In trying to understand why we do what we do or why others do what they do, we need to look at why someone is doing the behavior in the first place.

 There must be some positive reward for any behavior to continue.

Otherwise, another behavior replaces the first, unrewarded behavior.  As you change behavior, you change results.  If you do different, you will have different.  No matter how strange or illogical the behavior seems to be, there has to be some ‘payoff’ for the behavior to continue.  Whether you ‘want to want to do it’, you do it.

This is the basic principle behind training animals, except that it happened to you during your childhood.  Reflect on a child’s early years.  They are punished for doing wrong and rewarded for doing right.  Sounds simple but this is how behavior patterns begin and continue into adult years.  Even people who abuse children or enjoy a masochist lifestyle learned such behaviors through a sick but logical progression of rewards and punishments.Raising-Your-Child

As you seek to understand why you behave in certain ways, you need to understand the concepts of ‘payoffs’.  The hardest behaviors to spot are those automatic behaviors, those started in childhood.

Most payoffs for children involved some protective reasons, escape mechanism or coming to grips with abandonment.  These are harder to identify and see what the ‘payoff’ is – but there will be some payoff going on.  These destructive behaviors need concentration and time to sort out what is the cause-and-effort connections in your life now.

These ‘payoffs’ exist in everyone’s life.  ‘Payoffs’ act powerfully to condition you to repeat the same behavior again…..because the person has some reward in that action; some desired reward is found in repeating that behavior. Payoffs are highly influential in driving behaviors.  Also remember that not all payoffs are negative as some can reinforce positive benefits.

The most common payoffs systems include:

a. Monetary payoffs – you work to have money to get what you want.

b. Spiritual payoffs – behaviours which provide the payoff of peace, a sense of rightness, knowing God and healthy morality,

c. Physical safety and security payoffs = People do certain things to keep themselves safe.

d. Psychological payoffs – behaviours build around the payoffs of acceptance, approval, praise, love, companionship, greed, punishment or fulfilment.

e. Physical payoffs – behaviours that contribute to physical health, such as good nutrition and exercise, sleep, proper weight management, etc.

f. Achievement payoffs – a feeling of accomplishment, recognition from others, an inner awareness of a job well done.

g. Social payoffs – feeling part of a group, of belonging as a contributor or leader.

You can be blind to the impact of your payoff system.    Payoffs can even be the support system behind behaviors you don’t want.  We can be blind to our own payoffs as not all payoffs are obvious.  For example, someone might be saying that they are lonely yet staying at home night after night.  Not being with others means that person is escaping the anxiety that can come with the fear of being rejected by others.  Which is the greater payoff?

Sometimes, one’s payoffs prevail only because it is the path of least resistance.  The person is getting some kind of reward for their behavior patterns – even destructive, self sabotage.

The payoff is usually the ‘comfort’ that comes from avoiding the risk and the fear of rejection.  Sometimes, the payoff is because “It’s easier not to…”, taking the path of least resistance.  Most payoffs involve relieving or avoiding serious pain, or minimize the fear and anxiety of potential pain.  These can be as addictive as the most powerful drugs.

Also understand that the appeal of the immediate versus the delayed gratification come into play.  When you choose the behavior, your see the consequences so when you choose the ‘right now’, you reap the reward of ‘right now’ versus sowing for the time to come’.

How do we find these payoffs? 

First, devote some time to identifying the behaviours, choices of thoughts you want to eliminate.  Then ask yourself “What am I getting out of this?  What is my payoff, healthy or otherwise?”

Once you have identified the sustaining payoffs, you can target those consequences for change.

Begin by identifying 5 of the most frustrating and persistence negative behavioral patterns of situations in your life.

Be thorough in your description of each.  For each one, identify the specific behavior.  Then, describe the pattern and try to put into words the degree or intensity.  Next, write down two or three sentences as to why you find this behavior negative.    For each of the patterns, do your best to find out the payoff that is feeding and maintaining this negative behavioral pattern.

Again they may take practice but knowing and changing the negative behavior in your own life will be worth it!

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author


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