How Do People Make Decisions?

February 16, 2017
Tim Hallbom

The Meta Program distinction that we will be exploring this week has a huge impact on how people make decisions, as well as what motivates them. You will notice an increase in your effectiveness in dealing with others if you know which Meta Program they are operating out of in that specific context.

Decision SourceInternal vs. External:

“Who Decides, Me or Someone Else?” How do we know when we’ve done a good job?  Is it an inner knowing or based on external feedback? How we make decisions and respond to feedback is essential to being motivated or not.

Internal people “just know” and base their decisions on an internal trigger. They will often experience motivation from an internal source.  When feedback, direction or an opinion comes from an external source, the internal processor may be quick to judge the person involved.  What will often motivate an internal person is allowing them to gather the information from the outside first, compare it against their own standards (go internal) and then make a decision. The challenge with being completely internal is you don’t often take criticism or feedback very well. They will often disregard other people’s opinions and may be hard to manage.

In contrast, other people’s opinions and directions are essential for externally motivated people. They often need external direction and feedback to know how well they are doing in a specific situation (again each situation will be different). Many times when a suggestion is given to the externally referenced person, they take it as a command. A lack of clear inner standards brings about uncertainty in knowing which direction to take. Requiring other people’s ideas and input about what is the best action to take, is what motivates the external person, but can also lead to dependence on others to make their decisions.

In Coaching In The Workplace by Tim Hallbom and Nick LeForce, they outline the appropriate language to be used for rapport and understanding, depending on which thinking style is preferred. Some examples are:

For an external person: “experts say…” “You’ll get helpful feedback…” “…this is well respected information…”

For an internal person: “What do you think?” “Here is the information, so you can decide…”


About the author 

Tim Hallbom

Director of NLPCA -- NLP and Coaching Institute of California

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  1. Those trainings sound quite interesting, especially in a marketing application. Too bad they are on the “wrong” coast for me to be able to attend.

  2. The applications of this in the workplace seem endless. I hear complaints from coworkers all the time about how they feel uninspired and under appreciated. Perhaps the higher ups and bosses just don’t recognize or understand how to cater to particular needs in order to improved impressions and production.

  3. Being able to determine this is very helpful and mind sonar is the perfect tool for measuring meta programs. I see lots of people with impulsive behavior problems at the clinic and I think working in meta programs is very effective for most behavioral problems that affect the way people decide.

  4. Who decides the level of internal reference?
    Who defines the required level external reference ?. what happens to us when the context changes. What kind of reference allows us to be happy with our metaprogrammes?
    When we change the context?
    who we are, when we make decisions?

    Definitely the coachee decides their calibration, Mindsonar gives them the information and the coaching process can interpret it.

    Finally the measure of effectiveness that allows us to validate that the coaching process is efficient, it is definitely the comfort level of the coachee.

    These are questions that are answered with input and reflections of this blog.

    Thanks mindsonar!

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