The Psychology of Micro Commitments

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The Psychology of Micro Commitments

Are you frustrated with people who will not make a commitment? Even in regards to cleaning their room, eating their veggies, or participating in a family event? How about a commitment to the next level in a relationship? In some areas of commitment, we may talk about the spiritual aspect of folks unwilling to commit, sometimes calling it a "spirit of this" or a "spirit of that." But, is there psychology that is directly connected to someone’s inability to make a commitment?


An interesting area of mindset construction that I have been researching is in the area of commitments. This is naturally an area of interest to coaches and leaders of any team or organization. I wanted to share a couple of quotes I found to be interesting with respect to this issue:


Dr. Robert Maurer, director of behavioral sciences for the Family Practice Residency Program at UCLA Medical Center writes, "Whenever you ask someone to do something or make any sort of change, the brain perceives that change as a threat, triggering the fight or flight response in an area of the brain known as the Amygdala." 


Investment expert David Thomas interestingly says, "The amygdala is the reason we are afraid of things outside our control. It also controls the way we react to certain stimuli or an event that causes an emotion, that we see as potentially threatening or dangerous. The amygdala is a limbic system structure that is involved in many of our emotions and motivations, particularly those related to survival. The amygdala is involved in several functions of the body including fear responses, emotional responses, hormonal secretions; arousal, and memory." 


"Whenever you ask someone to do something or make any sort of change, the brain perceives that change as a threat, triggering the fight or flight response in an area of the brain known as the Amygdala." - David Thomas


Consider this fear or activity in the amygdala happens when you ask someone to commit to something. The results are people will either FREEZE or FLEE (“fight or flight” phenomena). Think about that! Think about when you had a conversation with someone and you encouraged (or demanded) some kind of change commitment.


So, how do you get someone to move in the direction of a commitment? Shrink the size of the step of commitment that you are asking someone to take by encouraging them to take a simple, first step. Watch what happens.

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