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Mere Information Is Not Sufficient

Most of us overestimate the power of information. Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change. For instance, at five feet, eleven inches tall I used to weight about 330 pounds. I was seriously round. I shopped in the big section of the Big and Tall shop. Friends said things like, “Is that your belt or the equator?” They addressed me playfully as “Your Circumference!”

Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change.

But calling attention to my girth or describing potential health problems didn’t change my eating habits. I was medicating pain with food. I was using food to entertain myself. I was using food to distract myself from anxiety. Those rewards were much more powerful than the information coming from weighing myself on a scale or from the remarks of people who loved me and wanted the best for me.

What finally broke through to me was answering some thoughtful questions put to me by a competent counselor. This gently led me to insights about my relationship to food, and about the inner realities that drove my addiction to it. Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

As a young baseball player I had lots of experience with family and friends sitting in the stands behind home plate and loudly encouraging me with comments like, “Come on Todd, watch the ball!” I had heard this so much by the time I was in high school, I wanted to yell back, “What do you think I am doing here? Watching the birds in the sky? Checking out the pitcher’s socks?”

I was trying to watch the ball! I needed an insightful coach to train me to actually watch the ball. This happened while playing for a great coach in college. He said, “Todd, next time you are up to bat, try to observe which way the red stitches on the ball are spinning.” It changed the way I hit the ball.

Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

For facilitating human change, yelling commands like “Watch the ball!” to a baseball player or “Quit being a jerk!” to a boss are seriously ineffective. But coaching questions, such as, “What did you notice about your heart or state of mind when Mr. Rude spoke up at the meeting?” accelerate human transformation.

Our Character At Work, pp. 112-113 – Todd Hunter


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