How to Change Your Behavior

Adapted From Secrets to Winning at Office Politics by Marie G. McIntyre, Ph.D.
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To become more effective at work, we often need to change longstanding habits or behaviors. The acronym AMESH sums up the five steps required to accomplish any personal behavior change: Awareness, Motivation, Education, Substitution, and Habit Replacement.

If you believe that certain behaviors are creating problems for you – or if others have told you so – then the AMESH formula may help you figure out where to start the change process.

1. Awareness

If you don’t know that a problem exists, how can you fix it?
Without feedback to the contrary, most of us believe that we’re doing just fine. So occasionally soliciting feedback from your manager, staff, customers, or colleagues is a good idea.

2. Motivation

The fact that someone else has issues with your behavior doesn’t necessarily mean that you agree.
If you don’t believe it’s a problem, you certainly won’t be motivated to change anything. When someone indicates that your behavior is an issue in some way, don’t automatically reject that possibility. Instead, try to understand how your actions may be affecting other people. Then perhaps you will be motivated to try some new approaches.

3. Education

Once you have determined that changes are necessary, you need to educate yourself about the specific behaviors that are creating problems.
If your problem behavior has been described in broad, fuzzy terms – like “bad attitude” or “poor communication” or “lack of initiative” – you need to get more specifics. Then you can decide what to do differently. “Poor communication” could mean that you don’t listen, don’t write clearly, are not sufficiently assertive, or make boring presentations. Very different problems with very different solutions.

4. Substitution

Stopping one behavior automatically implies that you will replace it with another.
If you stop speeding, you will start driving more slowly. If you stop yelling, you will start speaking more softly. In fact, any behavior change has a greater chance of success when you define it in positive terms instead of negative ones. Saying “I have to stop getting angry” doesn’t tell you what to do instead. But saying “When I feel angry in meetings, I’m going to take deep breaths and speak calmly” will give you a positive goal. If you want to eliminate a troublesome behavior, you must decide what helpful behavior to substitute.

5. Habit Replacement

A successful behavior change means that new habits have been developed.
You have permanently adopted more effective ways of acting and interacting. But remember that adopting any new behavior takes practice, so be patient with yourself. Since old habits don’t vanish overnight, you are likely to have a few relapses.

Finally, be aware that others will not immediately notice the change in your behavior. If you’re waiting for the applause, it may seem awfully quiet for awhile. There is always a gap between change in behavior and change in perception .