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“I consider Bob Burg to be without a doubt, one of the world's leading experts on networking.”

~ Dr. Ivan Misner, NY Times Bestselling Author and Founder of BNI

Posts Tagged ‘belief systems’

Cole Slaw, Carrots, and Limiting Beliefs

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

We’ve often explored the concept of Belief Systems and how our personal way of understanding and relating to the world — typically on an unconscious level — directs our behaviors.

Recently I heard what was perhaps the perfect example of how these unconscious beliefs manifest and affect everyone whose lives we touch.

Last month I was cordially, errr… invited to serve on jury duty. During voir dire Thomas Berger, a long-time successful South Florida attorney, related a personal story to help us understand how our personal belief systems (what he termed, “prejudices”) could potentially affect our judgement.

He’d been in a restaurant with a fellow lawyer and was ordering his side dishes from the gentleman directly serving him the food. After requesting cole slaw and carrots, the server gave him a tiny bit of cole slaw and a large amount of carrots. As Mr. Berger noticed this his colleague immediately said to the server, “You hate cole slaw but you love carrots!”

The server immediately replied, “Yes, how did you know?”

Of course, what the server did was unconsciously impose his beliefs on his customer. “If I hate cole slaw but love carrots then it makes sense that everyone else does, too.”

Mr. Berger’s story was right on the mark. As human beings we tend to believe that the way we see the world is not only correct, but that pretty much everyone else sees the world the same way we do. How could it be any different? That’s all we know; the way we understand it.

This is why I define a belief as a “subjective truth.” In other words, the truth as one understands the truth to be.

In reality, Truth just is. The way it’s understood, however, is as varied as there are human beings.

Unfortunately, when we don’t recognize this we can trip ourselves up, such as the sales professional who had difficulty calling referraled prospects because she didn’t like receiving calls from salespeople referred to her. Like the above server, if she didn’t like it then her prospective customers wouldn’t either.

As leaders; as sales professionals; as friends and family members, do we assume that what we like or don’t like is exactly what others like or don’t like, as well?

If so, we are letting our beliefs hinder us from best serving others, as well as ourselves.

Remember, “Value is always in the eyes of the beholder.”

Value is in the eye of the beholder

We can only know what another person needs, wants, or desires by asking and then listening; without — as Mr. Berger would call it — prejudice.

Sometimes this results in making a huge difference in another person’s life.

Other times it simply means we give them more cole slaw.

Both are important.

Understanding The Antagonist

Monday, August 8th, 2016

See the worldThe following profound quote caught my attention on Twitter:

“You don’t really understand an antagonist until you understand why he’s a protagonist in his own version of the world.”

~ John Rogers, screenwriter, film and television producer, director, comedian, comic book writer

Since the author of the quote is a professional storyteller perhaps he’s teaching a lesson on the importance of an aspiring writer understanding this dynamic.

And, I believe that what he said is brilliant.

It also pertains to everyday life. Our everyday lives.

This blog has often featured lessons regarding belief systems and understanding that we all see the world from our own personal viewpoints based on a number of factors. This is below the surface of conscious thought and I often refer to it as our “unconscious operating system.” Not only do we operate solely based on the premises of our belief systems, others operate solely out of theirs. And, neither are aware of such.

So, it’s often suggested not only to become aware that we are operating this way but that the other person is, as well. This leads to a deeper understanding and makes effective communication more likely. This concept applies to interpersonal transactions and relationships, as well as to observing life, people, and different views in general.

However…Mr. Rogers’ statement brings it to an even higher level.

The current political scene is a fascinating example.

Members of the two major parties seem to operate out of two completely different ways of seeing the world, human nature, causes, and effects. (Please note that I’m not referring to the specific candidates, national, state or local, but rather the general voter committed to their party’s philosophy.)

Not only does each person believe they are correct in their understanding; as we often see, read, and hear, each sees those of the other party as being so wrong that they often subscribe their motives as “evil.”

So, on one level we could say that simply by understanding the other side’s viewpoint it could help us close the gap when discussing issues with them.

But, That’s Not Enough

Let’s move to an entirely deeper level by taking Mr. Rogers’ advice and actually try and understand why he or she (individual members) sees themselves as a protagonist (in this context, the hero, or “good guy/gal”) in their own version of the world.

There are numerous articles and books you can read on the individual thought processes of a person who identifies as a Democrat or a Republican. But, another excellent method is to simply ask them; of course, in a way that does not elicit their defensiveness but rather provides you with an understanding of how they think, and why? I’ve done that a lot with friends in both major parties since, being libertarian, I don’t fully identify with either.

Here’s a thought though. If the very idea of asking a D (if you’re an R) or an R (if you’re a D) causes you defensiveness or even a feeling of anger, please understand that this will not be productive in terms of gaining insight. And, if your goal is to influence that person to consider your viewpoint, then you must be able to first understand it (remember, understanding is not the same as agreeing) from their side.

In other words, you must be able to understand why they see themselves as the protagonist, not the antagonist you believe they are.

Interesting is that the way you see them is most likely the way they see you. And, once you understand them better, perhaps they’ll understand you better.

Next step: Once you’ve completed this “political” exercise, begin to do this with others you find difficult to understand and relate to.

Can understanding why your antagonist sees themselves as the protagonist in their own story make you a much more effective communicator, friend, family member, coworker, supervisor, salesperson, customer, leader, etc?

What do you think? Feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, and examples with us.

Missing The Communication Target?

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Adversaries into Allies - Bob BurgI’ll never forget when an early business mentor told me, “Burg, when the shooter misses the target…it ain’t the target’s fault.”

The older I get, and the more I study influence and communication, the more correct I believe he was.

How often do we try and get our point across but fail? It seemed that “what (s)he thought I said isn’t what I meant.” Or even, “what (s)he thought I meant isn’t what I said.”

Whose “fault” is this misunderstanding? Who is to “blame?”

I believe the answer is . . . “it doesn’t matter.” In my opinion, fault and blame are both irrelevant.

On the other hand, if we were to ask whose “responsibility” it was for the message not being received as intended, I’d say it is the sender’s.

Yes, the onus is on the communicator to ensure their message is understood.

When the late, Dr. Stephen R. Covey, in his classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggested (in Habit #5) that we “Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” he was certainly right on the mark. Doing so is vitally important in the communication process.

Both parts are important. Here, however, we are referring to the second part of that Habit.

You were not understood. Your message missed the mark. It did not hit its intended target.

If that’s the case, first, take responsibility for it. Then, look at why it happened and how to more effectively communicate that message next time.

Nine times out of ten, the major reason was that two different belief systems – yours and theirs – were at work in some way, confusing the issue.

And saying nine times out of ten is probably underestimating the cause by about nine tenths!

Key Point: Be sure that what you said and meant…is what they heard and understood. How? Ask enough clarifying questions to be sure.

The anguish it will save is well-worth those few extra moments.


So happy to announce that the paperback edition of Adversaries into Allies is now available. If you would like to accelerate your people skills and Master The Art of Ultimate Influence…you may purchase the book on amazon.com or at your local bookseller.

Why Unclear Expectations Can Be Dangerous

Friday, August 17th, 2012

disagreementMy friend, the very successful entrepreneur, business coach and strategist, Sarah Robinson recently tweeted, “Unclear expectations are at the root of most upset and disappointment.”

This excellent thought can be viewed in either of two ways (and I did not ask her how she meant it):

1. Not being clear on your own goals and what you expect to accomplish.

2. Two or more people working together on a project either as partners or as supplier and client and not being clear on what each expects from the other.

Let’s look at the second meaning. This is where understanding of belief systems comes into play, as well as communication in terms of an ability to effectively clarify.

“What I believe you heard is not what you think I said.”
-A. Nonymous

We are all products of different upbringing, environment, friends, schools, teachers, news media, television shows, movies, and other experiences. And, how we consciously — but mainly unconsciously — accepted the various information fed to us comprises our individual beliefs. One huge challenge is that we assume everyone else basically thinks, feels and believes the way we do. (Ex: “But, everyone feels that way!”)

Even specific words often mean different things to different people.

So, when approaching any project in which part of that success depends on the actions of another (or others) it is vital to be sure expectations are very clearly defined.

And, that those expectations are agreed upon by all parties and put in writing.

Interesting: While we often pine for the days when “that person was so honest, a contract wasn’t needed; his or her word/handshake was good enough” that is actually an extremely dangerous way to do business.

Not because of dishonesty. No, because of different belief systems, which lead not only to different interpretations but different memories of what was said and expected.

In other words, a written contract or agreement not only holds everyone accountable; it ensures all expectations are defined and clarified, and agreed upon by all concerned.

Yes, clarification and agreement are both so very important! So, before you hire someone, are hired by someone, or enter into any type of partnership, be sure that you dramatically decrease the odds of upset and disappointment.

Discuss and communicate needs and expectations until you’re certain everyone understands everyone else. And, then put them in writing so they are crystallized.

Again, this has nothing to do with lack of trust in anyone’s character — it’s simply an acknowledgment of different belief systems and unclear expectations that can very innocently lead…to dangerous results.

On Taking Things Personally and Re-Programming, Part One

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

The following is excerpted with permission from an exchange with Julie, a subscriber from Nebraska. A while back she asked for my opinion regarding a situation she was experiencing and I encouraged her to read one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

While the entire Book is terrific, the chapters on “Assumptions” and “Not taking things personally” are – in my opinion – absolutely life-changing. I suspect that’s because I needed to work on those two things most of all.

She recently wrote back:

“Hi Bob! I keep meaning to tell you I read the book, The Four Agreements you recommended to me. Amazing!  It really helped me put so much in perspective.  I think about those agreements every day and try very hard to live by them.  I will say it has always been difficult to not take things personally!  But I now have the tools for recognizing it and am thinking about it. And I also work it in with ‘responding’ and not ‘reacting.'”

I replied: “Thank you for your note. I’m so happy that things are going well for you. Regarding it being difficult to not take things personally…I’m with you on that. 🙂 Even after we know all the logical and rational reasons not to take things personally, it’s still a struggle. I know it is for me. That’s why, when I find myself taking something personally and it continues to bother me, I go right back to that chapter in the book and re-read it. Immediately, I feel better.

“Because of our conditioning as human beings, our belief systems and other related factors, I doubt that those of us pre-disposed to taking things personally (which is practically everyone, to one degree or another) will ever defeat that trait 100 percent. However, victory is often not a matter of overcoming something entirely but just doing a little better today than yesterday and continuing to improve over time, regardless of setbacks along the way.”

Julie then wrote:

“That was great, Bob!  Your anecdote – words of wisdom is more like it – is so simple but eloquently put!  I just now wrote out a couple of paragraphs from the book on not taking things personally, put them on a 3×5 card and am keeping the card in my pocket from now on. That way I’ll have it handy when I’m in need!”

Great idea. Let’s discuss that more in Part Two.