Useful Metaprograms In Business: Towards/Away From

(also known as ‘Direction Filter’ or ‘Motivation Direction’)

Are you motivated towards goals, targets and what you desire, or away from problems and difficulties?

Extreme ‘Towards’ people will be gung-ho, and will overlook potential problems that can trip them up – think ‘invasion of Iraq’ or stock market booms.

People who are very ‘Away-From’ will be perceived as fault-finding and overly negative or cynical by their colleagues, and will lack direction unless given a problem to solve or a crisis to fix.

They also will run out of motivation the further away they get from what they wanted to avoid – so they might never lose that last 8 pounds (or 2 kilos), or get close to their professed goals but let them slide before they finally attain them.

Like all metaprograms, this one is context-dependent. You may find that someone is strongly ‘Towards’ or strongly ‘Away-From’ in almost all contexts that you ask about.

Identifying the Towards/Away From pattern

Ask “What do you want in a job?” (or car, or relationship, or house). This will start to give you the person’s values. For each value, you can ask “Why is that important to you?”

The answers will be either towards, away-from, or a mixture. Some values may be more towards or away-from than others.

Keep asking “Why is that important to you?” – at least three times. The initial answer is likely to be coloured by the prevailing culture – e.g. in the US you are likely to get a ‘towards’ answer – so you need to go a bit deeper to find the person’s real pattern.

Signs of the ‘Towards’ pattern

Language: talking about what they want, what they would like to see, what they can get, achieve, benefits.

Body language: nodding, gestures indicating the vision they are moving towards, ‘inclusive’ gestures.

Signs of the ‘Away-From’ pattern

Language: talking about what to avoid, ‘yes but’, problems (including solving problems), pitfalls, avoiding, removing, “hang on a minute”, comparative deletions, modal operators of impossibility, referring to target dates as ‘deadlines’.

Body language: dismissive or ‘warding off’ gestures, shaking head

Look out for ‘concealed away-froms’ in language patterns – the away-from is not explicitly mentioned but it’s there in the person’s internal representations:

  1. Comparative deletions e.g. “It’s better to have money”. Better than what?
  2. Modal operators of necessity e.g. “You’ve got to have money, haven’t you?” What happens if you don’t?

Job role examples

A “Towards” pattern is useful in: visionary leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives, ideas people. It’s often found in change agents, coaches, and NLP Practitioners.

An “Away-from” pattern is useful in: health and safety officers, process control, proof-reading, maintenance engineers. Often found in medicine, pharmacy, solicitors, accountants, civil service.

How to influence and manage people depending on their Towards/Away From preference 

Towards: this is what we can achieve, this is what it will get you, benefits, results, achievement, winning, advantages, what you can have, just think about it!

If you are an extreme ‘Towards’ person, you may want to look at the massive benefits of doing an occasional ‘minesweep’ to make sure the route to your goals stays clear of potential problems.

Away-From: solve the problem, fix it, avoid, sort out, eliminate, this is what will happen unless we…, these will be the consequences if we don’t do it.

If there are no immediate problems to motivate the ‘Away-From’ person, ask them to look into the future to see the problems that will occur if they don’t take action now.

Advertisements for cleaning products often use a lot of away-from imagery.

Words That Change MindsThe best book about metaprograms is Shelle Rose Charvet’s Words That Change Minds: The 14 Patterns for Mastering the Language of Influence, now in its third edition. Highly recommended!

© 2019, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.

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