Persuasion and the Two Types of Motivation


What motivates you? That’s the fundamental question for every communicator, sales person and for all us in marketing and communication. While there are a lot of different motivators in our lives, we all fit in two big general motivation categories:

1.  Those who look at what they can gain from life: what can I get out of this?

2. Those who look at what not to lose in life: what am I missing and how can I avoid loss?

two types of motivation

Often both groups  of people will come up to the same conclusion and course of action, but they will arrive at their decision through completely different motivations.

This classification goes beyond the “half-full or half-empty glass” perspective of positive and negative people. In my experience, those who look at life for what it has to offer them are always trying to push their personal and professional boundaries in search of the next best thing. Their motivation is tied to achievement and gain. They went to college to gain knowledge and experience and to prepare themselves for a better future. They are always interested in the possibilities and taking chances in search of greater returns for their investments. When I meet people in this category I usually say something like “imagine if we could improve efficiency and reach more people. Look at what this kind of growth this new tool could produce.”

Those who look at life from an avoiding loss mindset often will take the same course of action as the previous group but will do so not to be left behind and to avoid failing at their business, job or calling. Their fear of loss, irrelevance, or failure will drive them to take risks. People with aversion to loss usually go to college not so much to prepare themselves for an adventurous future but to make sure they don’t end up digging ditches or flipping burgers. Often when talking with people whose motivation starts from an avoiding loss perspective I might have a conversation that starts with something like: “the consequences of not moving forward could cause you to begin to lose ground, but if we close the back door and reach more people we can make some great strides soon.”

Understanding the person you’re communicating with and their natural bent will help you be more persuasive and get your point across in a way that has the most impact.

Which type of motivation do you lean towards?

  • There is another category… What can I give? 

    • I wonder if that can ultimately come from “I give because I want to grow” or “I give because I’m afraid of disappointing God or because I will feel guilty if I don’t.”

  • I fit into the “looking at life for what it has to offer” category. I went to college because I love to learn. I started my college ministry so I could help impact peoples’ lives. I started my marketing business because I wanted to try something new. I’m not so scared of loss anymore. I figure the only place I can go is up!

    • Jason, I live in both worlds. The older I get the less I’m motivated by fear and more for opportunity

      • I’ve noticed that in myself as well. I think even losing my full time job at the end of 2008 and not being able to find another one has played a big role in it as well. I’m living on next to nothing, so I’m not fearful of losing my job, losing income and not being able to get by. It really is freeing in that regard.

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