Motivation Direction

The first pattern is called the moving away motivation and the second pattern is called the moving towards motivation. The same person can exhibit moving away and moving towards for different things, but there tends to be a dominant pattern.

I was waiting for one of my friends to arrive. I was expecting him to arrive by car, but he had come by bus. What motivated him to come by bus? Because he had a phobia for driving and so he would keep his driving to a minimum and would take a bus or walk whenever possible. Now, that is typical moving away motivation.
It is easy to motivate those who have a moving away motivation direction by telling what pain they can avoid, if they choose to take action.

If you are a moving towards person, you may think that the best way to motivate people is through rewards. That is just a generalization. It depends on the person whom you are motivating. Some people are as much as motivated by punishments as much as others are by rewards. To them avoiding punishment, is more important compared to the rewards they are reaping.

Not all of us are motivated equally. To some it is the attraction of the rewards that matter. When speaking with your child, from what frame are you speaking? If your child is motivated by rewards and you try to make your child sit down by telling him that he would fail in his annual examination, if he did not complete the homework today, you are not getting anywhere near his pattern of getting motivated. Instead if you tell how much high score he can earn if he can finish his homework today, that would have a greater impact.

How do you sell Life Insurance to clients who are moving towards motivated, and who would not be bothered by the insecurity of something negative happening to them? Again, now you have the answer with you.


When I walk up to some people and ask them “What are you doing for a living?” they would speak to me non stop for ten minutes. They would not only tell me what their profession is, but their history of it, what challenges they are facing, what research they are doing, what motivates them to take the profession, and what they are here for.

Sure enough, I got a lot more than I what I asked from them. Such people tend to process information in detail and are said to think in small chunk. Small Chunk guys love to give details and love to hear details. So when this small chunk guy asks you something like “Well, what is that you are doing?”, and you tell him “Well I am into software”. And that’s it you stop there. Well how is our small chunk guy going to react? He would get bored with you quickly if you give him one liners. So the best way to keep a small chunk guy engaged is to give a lot of details. That keeps life interesting for the small chunk guys.

And what about you who gives one line replies? People who talk up to the point and stop there are typical big chunk guys. They like it when you speak up to the point. When the small chunk guy goes into the details, the big chunk people pretty soon lose their attention, wondering in their minds “Well, what is the point he is trying to make?”.

When speaking with a big chunk person, give him the big picture first and then give him the details as the conversation proceeds. That keeps the big chunk person engaged. If you give him all the details in the very beginning, the big chunk people feel overloaded and may lose their interest. What excites the small chunk person, is the same thing that quickly bores out the big chunk person. Start with the big picture and as the conversation proceeds give the details one by one, and you will soon draw the big chunk guy into the conversation.

Small chunk people have enormous difficulty keeping things to the point, which can irritate the big chunk person, the same way not giving the details right away can irritate the small chunk person.

You can easily get into whether a person is speaking from a big chunk or small chunk, by asking them to narrate one of their happy experiences. The small chunk person would launch into great detail and you would ask him to stop. The big chunk person would give you the big picture, the full extent of what he had experienced and would stop there. You would be wondering why he had stopped, but he is really waiting for your further questions.

Once you have elucidated the chunking strategy of a person you can use it to motivate them. Give plenty of details to your small chunk client and you have got the small chunk client listening to you. Conversely to the big chunk client, child or subordinate simply give the full picture and stop. You will suddenly find them asking you a few clarifying questions. You don’t have to tell them again “If you have a doubt, you can ask”. Speaking in details is a way to overwhelm the big chunk subordinate who would like to hear the gist of what he needs to do or the information he needs to receive.

Small chunk people tend to see the trees and miss the forest. Big chunk people tend to see the entire forest clearly but are not very good at taking care of the details. Together a big chunk and small chunk person can balance each other’s weaknesses and can form an excellent team.

One small chunk person I met told me my answers were very pointed. When I write I tend to get into small chunk and so I told him, I would write to him. He read what I wrote and for a half page of my email, he sent me back a one page reply. He said when I write I made a lot of sense to him.

The point is, you need to take leverage of a person’s chunking strategy if you need to motivate him or her effectively.

Don’t give your big chunk child a lot of details. That is sure to drown him in boredom. Instead tell him the very point and stop there. You only need to try if a few times to see the change in the way they open up to you.

Your big chunk manager is sure to get bored with details quickly. Talking a lot is not an effective strategy as it is popularly believed. It depends on the person whom you are talking to. If you are talking in a group, then it is generally effective to talk more, but again it depends.

Your small chunk manager would enjoy hearing details from you. In interviews, they will urge you to keep talking. It is a sure way to get them interested in your proposals.

Couples where your spouse has the opposite chunking strategy is common. The big chunk person complains about his or her spouse “She or he talks a lot”.

Conversely the small chunk person would say “She or He never talks”. Both are generalizations.

And finally don’t write a long verse to your big chunk girlfriend. A three line haiku is more effective to convince her.

Before closing the chunking strategies, I would like to discuss how you may have to enhance your chunking strategy if you need to motivate the person of opposite style. Often, getting in touch with such a person of opposite style and practicing would help. For example, you may talk about your happy experience and the other person would have to ask you questions on your experience, and you need to reply back with something that isn’t your style. If you are a big chunk person, you can talk small chunk and vice versa. You will see how different it is to think in a style that is not familiar to you. You need to try just once to find out. It can be a thrilling experience.

Frame of reference

Highly internal referenced people take decisions based on the things they themselves know. Externally referenced people take decisions based on what others do. Internally referenced people are more difficult to motivate, compared to externally referenced people.

So, how do you know whether someone is internally referenced or externally referenced? Ask them what made them take a decision. An externally referenced person would cite a lot of people telling him how good the decision was. An internally referenced person would tell you about his experiences in the past based on which he took the decision.

The best way to motivate an internally referenced person is through the experiences he himself had.

I had a junior colleague who had difficulty getting motivated because he believed that he did not have the necessary skills. He was highly externally referenced. So I just told him that there were a lot of junior people in him who initially struggled, but later got through with consistent practice. His fears stopped and he started feeling confident. After that particular conversation his performance steadily improved.

If this were an internally referenced person, I would have to tell him that earlier in his Life he had struggled always in the beginning but eventually ended up doing well and the same would apply to the current situation also. This is generally the way to motivate internally referenced people.

Your internally referenced son wouldn’t bother the least if you tell him about your own experiences in Life and how he can learn from them. That might be very helpful for him, but he wouldn’t learn that way. You would have to speak from the frame of what he had experienced not from what you had experienced.

To an internally referenced person, an external frame is quite irrelevant. The same way for an externally referenced person, the internal frame is irrelevant.

Thus you cannot motivate an externally referenced subordinate to not to repeat his mistakes by reminding him about his past failures and to learn from them. Instead if you tell him how good a new course of action is as observed by many people similar to him, it would resonate with him immediately.

If someone’s dominant pattern is internally referenced and you are speaking from an external reference, no matter how truthful your arguments are, it wouldn’t ring a bell for him. You cannot tell the sayings of other great people to motivate an internally referenced person. Even when the great person is someone the internally referenced guy admires, it would be very rare it makes any impression on him.

And the vice versa applies for externally referenced people. By asking him to look at all his experiences and thereby become confident about his abilities is not something you can tell an externally referenced person. It wouldn’t make the slightest impression on him. To him, what he observes externally in other people is what matters. They carry more relevance than his internal experiences. This would be hard for the internally referenced person to digest.

You can experience how powerful the frame of reference could be, right now.

You know that whenever you took action in your Life, you got results and life was working. When you went into a thinking spree contemplating what action to take, nothing moved in your Life. So, I would say the best way to live your life is on the basis of action. It is action that produces results, not thinking.

And if you are an internally referenced person you can relate to the above passage quite well. You would think of circumstances in your Life, when you were in action mode, you were being your best. If you are externally referenced, you would be unmoved by the above passage.

Think again. Successful people in Life have always been experts in action. You can look around and see and those who are living their best lives do that not by sitting down and thinking first, but by taking action first. Now if you are an externally referenced person, this would make a lot of sense to you. If you are internally referenced, this wouldn’t make any sense to you.

See how powerful changing y our frame of reference to suit a person’s own unique style can be useful?

You can’t help much your externally referenced child getting influenced by peers until you tell him how OTHERS who had suffered because they got influenced by peers. That would get him listening to you. Any other strategy wouldn’t work for him. It is not his style.

If you are an internally referenced person you would take the time to reflect on this and come to your own conclusions. If you are an externally referenced person you would begin to observe the evidence around you.

If someone is having a tough time making a decision, you can help them out by knowing their frame of reference.

I once had a colleague who had tough time deciding whether to buy a new model of a cell phone. He was highly internally referenced, but now he was asking the opinions of others to decide whether to buy the model. I told him, “You can buy this model and then find out for yourself”. That clicked. It was something that resonated with him.

Matching people’s frame of reference is very important in motivating them to take a decision. When you speak from the right frame, you can easily motivate a person into taking a decision.


Some people are primarily concerned about the past, while there are others who are concerned about the present and there are others are primarily concerned about the future.

Trying to focus a future focused person, to focus on the past is an uphill task and cannot be done. The future focused person is forever looking into the future. He is excited about what the future holds for him and the uncertainty in the future only challenges him to perform well.

The Past focused person would discuss the past with you in almost any conversation with you. His questions towards you will be directed towards the past, what has happened. The past focused person is motivated by the certainty in the past.

Talking about the future to the past focused person is a sure way to turn him off, just as talking to the future focused person about the past would turn him off.
The best way is to engage the person in a conversation about past or the future respectively. This may happen through some open questions about the Past or Future.
“What is your Future Plan?” could be an opening question to the future focused person. “What are you going to do about” is a good way to open a question with the future focused person.

To the past focused person you can ask about one of his experiences in the past. Such as what he did for a holiday, how was his latest trip to a foreign country and take off from there.

Almost everyone is concerned about the present and so most people you would meet would be in both Past and Present or both Future and Present. There would be a rare few who are not in the present, but for all practical purposes we can speak about those who are in the past or in the future.

When two people who are past focused and future focused team up there could be conflicts and misunderstandings. The future focused person might come up with a brilliant idea or plan and our past focused person would come up with objections about how someone else had tried it and it did not work in the past.

An awareness of the differences between the times in which they live is the first key to clear these conflicts.

To a subordinate who is in the Past, you cannot motivate him by speaking about how well his future is going to be. To a subordinate who is in the Future, you cannot motivate him by speaking about his excellent performance in the past. His mind is in the future, nowhere else.

The same strategy applies to a child or a client. By speaking from the frame of the right time that they are in, you can get them to listen to you.


Mismatchers might contradict with whatever you are saying and unless they say “I agree”, you may not know that they are agreeing with you. Matchers find something to say that is quite similar to what you are telling them. If you are a mismatcher you may end up having a good argument with another mismatcher. Mismatching could be quite a wonderful talent in certain professions such as Law, but in our context of motivating people, it is better to match them and speak.
Some people begin their points by first disagreeing. Instead begin by always agreeing.