The thing that strikes you immediately when visiting a baseball stadium for the first time is the grass. Trimmed to perfection, it sports stripes, diamonds, a checkerboard, or even arches. Over the years I heard many theories about how they’re created. The grass is colored, has different lengths and so on…but the real reason is a lot simpler.
It’s the direction of the blades that tints the grass in different shades. When the sun hits a perpendicular blade, its whole body reflects the light–making it look brighter than a blade the points directly towards the sun. Most professionals create the patterns by mowing in different directions. But the craftiest among them have another trick up their sleeve: they use a simple roller behind their mower to direct the blades with even more force.
And the same way the mowing and rolling directs the grass, our values and beliefs direct our behavior as humans.
What influences our behavior?
On the surface, most of our human behaviors don’t seem rational. More often than not, we act with the impulsive of a Captain Kirk than with the logic of a Mr. Spock. But if you follow these impulses down to their roots, everything starts to make sense.
Behavior < Attitudes < Beliefs < Values
It’s called the Value-Behavior Chain. Our Values influence our beliefs, which determine our attitudes that guide our behavior. That means if a business wants to influence its customers behavior without a baseball bat in hand, it has to change their attitudes, beliefs or values first. But before going into that, let’s look first at each individual link of the chain.
Values are a measure of worth we attach to something. We can value something very little–meaning basically don’t care. Or we can value someone a lot–going out of our way to do something for that person. Going even further, values are often guide us between what’s good and what’s bad. Universal values are for example happiness, love, freedom, respect, equality and justice. But they can also be as specific as this:
One of my values is altruism: the fortunate should share their wealth with the less fortunate.
A belief is a feeling that something is true. As a whole, our beliefs represent all the bits of information we collect about people, events and things in life. They don’t necessarily have to be rational or based on facts. They can even be false beliefs and we still cling on to them. They grow stronger the longer we keep them and the more we keep repeating them to ourselves or others. Following our example chain, this could be a belief that’s based on the value above:
I believe a good company donates some of their profits to charitable causes.
Our attitudes are based on our values (good and bad) and our beliefs (what we know). And they express our relationship towards the world around us 5cxer9c. Based on what we value and belief, we like something or dislike it. Or we are ambivalent. An example attitude in our chain might be:
I like TOMS shoes because they help people in need. For every pair of shoes I buy, they make a donation.
Our behavior is simply what we do and say–our words and actions. Based on the attitude above, the chain would be concluded through the following behavior:
Buying TOMS shows.
How are they connected again?
I admit, the definitions above might still feel a little abstract. So let’s try a visual instead. Your attitudes are like buoys. They are attached to a chain (your beliefs). And the chain is anchored to the ground (your values).
Like the ground, your values will rarely change. Depending on the tide–the circumstances in your life-the buoy will go up and down. Meaning your attitudes will adapt to what’s happening to you. But they will always depend on your beliefs, as these can be stretched only so far before they break.
The only missing piece in the picture is our behavior. Not hard to guess, they are the ships which are guided by the buoys.
But what does any of this have to do with my business?
Nothing if you accept your business as it is: with people who are convinced of your product buying and people in doubt aren’t.
But if you at any point consider changing their behavior–by proving them how much better than your competition you are, convincing them of the value of your product, or straight up sweet talking them into buying–you’d need to change their attitude first. Heck, even if you tried to “persuade” them with a baseball bat, you’d actually tap into their belief that buying is better than getting hurt.
Influencing the attitudes, beliefs or values of your customers is legally less expensive. Not to mention the morally, economically and sustainably superior choice.
Values > Beliefs > Attitudes > Behavior
As soon as you dive below the surface, customers are a lot more rational than they often seem. In fact, their behavior becomes quite clear when you take their motives into account:
- their values: what they find good and not good
- their beliefs: what they know
- Their attitudes: how the relate to their surroundings
And once you know their motives, convincing them why your product is the right choice for them becomes as easy as creating a perfectly shaped checkerboard on a baseball field. Read about changing attitudes here.