What is the nature of reality?
Are we living in a giant, computer simulation? Are we puppets of an indefinable force? Are we alone in a vast, barren expanse of nothingness? Are we just the swirling atoms of a grain of sand on a giant desert?
Does it matter?
Let’s leave metaphysics behind for a second. If we want to change behaviour then you have to realise that there is a fundamental difference between what is true and what people think is true.
Let me explain; we perceive the world through our sensory organs. This input, as it were, is reflected back to us through our language. We talk about the world and mistake that talk for reality.
We say a thing is red but red is merely the agreed upon way to talk about certain light waves. Even the word red is merely something given to us by an accident of our birth. Had we been born in France we would say Rouge. If we had been born in Turkey we would say kirmizi.
Interestingly research does suggest that the language we use colours our perception of the world – hence the rather odd translates of Homeric text which refer to “the wine coloured sea”. Of course the sea is not wine coloured but oddly enough Homeric Greek did not have a word of deep blue. So he had to use an odd linguistic approximation that made sense to other Greeks but doesn’t really make sense to the modern Anglophone.
So our language changes the way we see the world – which incidentally is the premise of the hugely complicated Relational Frame Theory – but what does this have to do with changing behaviour?
Well our behaviour is driven by our environment – but more specifically it is driven by our perception of the world. To whit one person may enjoy chocolate and so be reinforced on the receipt of chocolate. Some suffering from intense lactose intolerance may find the gift of chocolate somewhat less rewarding and therein lies the rub.
It is virtually impossible to change a persons behaviour by imposing our view of the world on to them from afar. We need look no further than the Brexit debate to see that you may as well be yelling across the grand canyon for all the good it does trying to argue your point with the opposition.
We perceive the world in a certain way and that perception drives our behaviour. if we want to change a persons behaviour we have to change their perception of events or reality. There are a number of ways you can do this and I’ve discussed them before on this blog and my other blog (The Behaviour Guy).
The central technique is this; avoid logic and rhetoric. Instead focus on changing salient consequences in the environment so people contact the important things in their reality.