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How You Think Links

The “How You Think Links” model depicts an overview of the process that a person typically follows to progress from an event occurring to taking action and ultimately, to getting a result.

The basic steps are:

  • Event
  • Interpretation
  • Emotion
  • Decision
  • Action
  • Result
The How You Think Links Model

The “How You Think Links” Model

Most people think an emotional reaction to an event occurs instantly. The truth is that they have to be aware of the event first, and then interpret it. The way they interpret that event tends to color the emotional response they have. And of course, we know that the way a person is feeling affects their decision-making process. Finally, the person will act on their decision which leads to a result.

The purpose of the “How You Think Links” model is to provide insight into how people react to changing conditions. With more understanding, it is far easier to create a positive result.

Note that the “How You Think Links” model first appeared in the book Whaddaya Mean I Gotta Be Lean?

Let’s look at each of the steps in a bit more detail.

  • Event.  Someone does something or says something. Something happens. The event link contains the objective facts that would be viewed and recorded the same way by everyone witnessing the incident. A person speaking “too loudly” (subjective opinion) is not an event. Your coworker talking at eighty-three decibels (objective fact) is an event.
  • Interpretation.  This is the link where the subjective meaning gets applied to the event. The interpretation link is where those eighty-three decibels become “too loud.” It all depends on how you look at it.
  • Emotion.  emotions are the inevitable byproduct of interpretations. Some feelings are weak, and some are intense. They can sometimes even be hidden, but feelings are always there. In this example, “too loud” could trigger anger.
  • Decision.  In this link, you weigh your options and make a decision about how to act on your emotion. In regards to your anger about the loud talking, you could choose to leave the area, put in earplugs, or confront the noise maker.
  • Action.  Once you make a decision, you must the take action. Sometimes things go according to plan, and sometimes they don’t. But always, there’s going to be a . . .
  • ResultResults are the consequences of your actions. You confront your noisy coworker and call her disruptive. She reacts by telling you that you are critical and that you are not a team player— just as one of the VPs is walking by. That might not be the result that you wanted, but it still is an outcome of how you advanced through the earlier links.

Each of the steps provides you with an opportunity to change the chain of events and create a better outcome for yourself. The key is to recognize which step you are in and decide how you want to adjust the outcome to the results you are looking for.

For example, you have some degree of control over the events in your life. While you cannot control traffic, you do control the time you leave, the environment within your car to make traffic more tolerable, and even the location of your home and work.

You can also change your interpretation of something by gathering more information or by opening up communication with the people involved. Keep in mind that your interpretation is often colored by your experiences, upbringing, culture, training, and a host of other factors.

In general, the earlier you can adjust this chain, the more likely you will be to get a positive outcome. In the workplace, you may be limited in your control of the events. This means that your interpretation of those events plays a monumental role in whether or not you end up with the results you desire.

This model is very useful in managing change within your organization. Not only does it provide you insight into ways to guide you are team when the events are related to major changes, but it also gives you a tangible way to coach them on how to deal with adverse events themselves.

Most people see an event and race through the interpretation and don’t pay attention to their emotions. That leaves them making decisions in the heat of the moment without proper information. Mentor them on how to use this model so that they can make more informed decisions.

Be careful though, about trying to teach them when the emotion is related to you. Believe it or not, employees often have strong feelings about the behaviors of their boss. Try to coach them when the event is external to you. Their response to an irritated customer or how they handle a conflict with a coworker both provide learning opportunities.


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