Actions are things we do — perhaps only once in a while — but identities are who we are. So by using identities to describe ourselves, we can influence how others see us (e.g. as a runner, versus someone who sometimes runs). Through this technique of adding “er” to words, we can also motivate others to perform better (e.g. “You are project leader” versus “I want you to lead this project.”) So say Jonah Berger, author of Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way, and his co-researcher Dan Pink.
When children were asked “Can you be a helper in clean up?” versus “Can you help clean up?”, participation in that activity shot upward. When people were asked if they were voters, versus whether or not they would vote, many more were enthusiastic about voting.
With any pursuit, in time you become the thing you are learning to do. But you can speed that learning curve along – for yourself and for others – by using descriptors that have to do with being rather than doing. Try it: You may well find it will require far less willpower for you and others to reach goals when you choose to embody the goal itself!
What are some of your “er” identities, and what are those of the people you lead? How can you use these to influence behavior? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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