Changing Behavior: It Can Be Done! What I’ve Learned from Georgianna Donadio

I was asked to review Georgianna’s newest book, “Changing Behavior.” I was immediately intrigued by the title, because I know firsthand how hard it is for many people to make lasting change. In fact, we often view “changing behavior” as the other person’s work! I want my boss to change, or my spouse to change or my sister to change. Give me a book that tells me what I can use on the other person! But as we learn from this book, we can often change the other person’s response by choosing a different approach with them. Georgianna talks about “respectful inquiry” – instead of demanding something from someone, or entering directly into conflict with them, this requires being more interested and active in my understanding of their position. In my work I often refer to this as “Interested Observer” mode where I can be a curious detective, more detached as I interact with others.

One of my coaching clients recently talked to me about this. He said, “I never even knew I had filters on the world before. Now I watch every interaction, every meeting and every exchange so differently. It’s like I am outside looking in, trying to understand the dynamics.” In his case this has been so powerful because of being drawn in and emotionally drained by it all, he is actually finding it fascinating to watch!

Georgianna refers to this type of experience as emotional shifting. I love the concept of shifting – where we have the chance to see something very differently and decide to move in another direction as a result. Her key point is that the awareness and moments of discovery need to occur on both a thinking and a feeling level before we can make positive, sustainable behavioral change. Both head and heart need to get involved!

Perhaps one of my most favorite aspects of the book is the section on pages 54 and 55 about the Golden Rule. She’s researched every religious teaching available and brings out how in each one of them, the principle of the Golden Rule is present. I used this section with my kids – first to talk about the Golden Rule (Did they even know there was one and what it is? Thankfully, the answer was yes!) and then to look at each different religious sayings on the matter. The Golden Rule can be so difficult to apply – I think I am treating you as I want to be treated, but what if what you want isn’t what I would want? It brings us back to the concept of discovery, and respectful inquiry where I take the time to learn more about you.

There are so many aspects of our lives where we want to change our behavior: I want to be a nicer mom. I want to be a more confident employee. I want to be able to stick up to the bully I have as a friend. We become so frustrated with our inability to make a desired shift – and to sustain that shift.

Georgianna offers many tips and ideas in this book – grounded in a great deal of research and education. I really enjoyed “Changing Behavior,” and I think the people who read my blog would enjoy it too!