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What is behavioural flexibility and why does it matter?

June 15th 2012

The idea of behavioural flexibility is at the core of Do Something Different. But what is it and why does it matter?

We all have predominant behaviours. It’s what describes our ‘personality’. “She’s a real live wire.” “He’s a very quiet guy.” The problem is that we get comfortable with the behaviours we know well and don’t often try out different ways of behaving.

Does this matter? Yes. It could be the reason why so many of us are stressed or anxious. It could explain why some people are less effective at their job than others. Or why some people have poor relationships or unfulfilling social lives. This is potentially important stuff.

Behavioural flexibility explained
Behavioural flexibility describes our ability to ‘flex’ our core behaviours so that we respond to each circumstance in the most effective way.

Take a boss at work. A super-assertive leader who makes things happen. Drives the business. Wins the big battles. Assertiveness is great, right up until a key team member comes to them with a personal problem. Barking a solution doesn’t work. It feels uncaring to the employee and creates an instant problem that could have been avoided.

Take someone who is quiet and dependable. Everything is neat and safe and accounted for, but actually they are quite lonely. They go out with a group of friends. There is someone they connect with, but they just can’t quite find the courage to ask them out for a coffee. A possible soul mate missed because they couldn’t take a risk.

Behavioural flexibility is about having both sides of the same behaviour. So the assertive boss can see when to tone it down and try less in-your-face behaviours to get better results. The wary person can take a controlled risk from time to time to enjoy a richer life.

How do we become more flexible?
Well, you could just nod sagely about what you have read. Vow to make some changes in your life. And then go on exactly as before.

Or you could do something different. You could identify one aspect of your behaviour you seldom use. Perhaps the opposite of how you would normally behave in a certain situation, like listening more, or speaking up. Then you could actually see what happens as a result.

That, in a pretty short, crude and simplified nutshell, is what Do Something Different is all about.



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