Disclose Your Motives: The First Disruptive Behavioral Technology

Posted on June 26, 2024 by Nate Regier / 2 comments
Share via

This is part one of my three-part series on disruptive behavioral technologies that will dramatically improve relationships and results.

Lack of transparency around motives is one of the biggest causes of trust and communication breakdown. When we disclose our “why” it can instantly improve trust, teamwork, morale, and productivity.

How would you react if you received any of the following messages?

“What are you doing on Friday evening?”

“Send me our current AR breakdown for 30, 60 and 90 days.”

“When will you get off work?”

“Can we reschedule?”

When our friends ask, “What are you doing Friday evening?” my brain goes to, “Well, it depends…why are you asking? What do you want to do? I wonder if their plan is more interesting than what I already had planned.” I’m worried that if I just answer the question, I might get myself into something I don’t want to do or miss an opportunity to do something even better. If I only knew WHY!

When my colleague asks, “Can we reschedule?” my brain goes to, “It depends…Why? What’s more important than our meeting?” If I only knew WHY!

Even worse,  maybe you responded to your boss who asked for the AR breakdown by asking, “Why do you need this?” Her response was “Because I said so,” or “Don’t question me, just do it.” Even worse, have you ever been accused of insubordination for asking why?

Lack of transparency around motives is one of the biggest trust and communication busters.

Four Damaging Consequences When People Don’t Share Their Motives

Defensiveness: All humans want to feel seen and respected. When you hide your motives, you greatly undermine others’ ability to help you. It insults their intelligence by treating them like they can’t think independently or collaborate with you in finding solutions. 

Make Assumptions: In our efforts to interpret the “why” it’s easy to jump to conclusions about another person’s motives. And we all know what happens when we make assumptions.

Guardedness: Hidden motives are a landmine field. Without knowing another person’s motives, we might be tempted to guard ourselves against the unknown. So we hold back and take precautions. We don’t give 100%.

Overadapting: For those who seek to please, hidden motives become an endless “what if” game. We try to overadapt to anticipate all the potential motives, just in case. This is a recipe for overworking and making unnecessary mistakes.

Imagine the difference it would make if people revealed their “Why” when communicating. In each one of the examples at the beginning, imagine the difference if the person shared their motives first. Would it change the quality of the communication?

So why don’t people disclose their motives?

Three Reasons Why People Withold Sharing Their Motives

Lack of Awareness: Often, people don’t realize what they are doing. It’s an honest mistake. When asked, they freely reveal their “why.”

Control: Some people withhold motives, consciously or unconsciously, as a power play to maintain control. When people don’t know the why, they often go to great lengths to anticipate, predict, adapt, and please. This can feel powerful, even though it’s terrible for trust, morale, and productivity.

Fear of Vulnerability: Revealing our motives is vulnerable. It gives up control. It gives others more opportunity to help us. Or hurt us. We worry that if people knew our “why” would they respect it? Or would they dismiss it? Would they be more or less likely to give us what we want?

Which one is most common for you? What experiences have shaped your habit? What keeps you in this pattern of behavior? What consequences are you experiencing?

Disclose Your Motives To Build Connection and Get Results

Here are some examples of how to disclose your motives up front. Let people know the “why” behind your request. Share the real reasons you care about it and why you think they could help. Even better, engage them in helping you find a solution.

Instead of, “What are you doing Friday evening?” 

Try, “Julie and I miss getting together with you and have some theater tickets for Friday night. Would you like to join us?”

Instead of, “When are you getting off work?”

Try, “I’m going to be done early today and would love to try happy hour at the new brewery. What time are you getting off work?”

Instead of, “Will please send me the financials from last year?”

Try, “I’m putting together some numbers for my annual goal review and I’ve been wondering how our performance compares to last year. Will you help me gather the best information so I can get a clear picture of our department’s performance?” 

Instead of, “Why did the promo run on Friday?”

Try, “Earlier today I got some tough questions from my boss about the timing of our new campaign and I felt embarrassed and confused. Will you help me understand so I can feel confident explaining it?”

Instead of, “Tell me what you’ve accomplished this week.”

Try, “I’m angry about slow progress on the project. I want to understand what’s been happening so I can discuss course corrections. Will you share with me what you’ve been working on this week?” 

Each of these alternatives shows Compassionate Accountability® (CA) in action. CA is about treating yourself and others as valuable, capable, and responsible in every interaction. If this feels vulnerable to you, that’s completely normal. It should. This is what it feels like to struggle with people instead of against them. This is what teamwork is about; transparency of motives so that people can fully engage towards the real goal.

Two Caveats

Transparency With Motives vs. Sharing Confidential Information: Transparency around motives doesn’t mean you have to share confidential information. Motives more often involve an emotional end-state or purpose, not specific content. My motive might be, “I want to feel confident going into the meeting.” That doesn’t mean I have to share confidential information about what we are talking about in the meeting.

Valuing Yourself vs. Expecting An Outcome: Sharing motives is as much about valuing yourself as it is about achieving a particular outcome. There are no guarantees and you can’t force anyone to do something. So don’t expect that revealing your motives will magically get you what you want. However, at least it puts everyone on an even playing field and gets the real issues out on the table.

Will you give it a try and let me know how it goes?

Stay tuned for the next two disruptive behavioral technologies coming up in future posts.

  • Stop trying to control negative behavior
  • Place openness before honesty
Copyright 2024 Next Element Consulting, LLC

Compassionate Accountability: The Ultimate Disruptive Technology

Book Your Next Keynote Speaker

Dr. Nate Regier

Author and Co-founder of Next Element, Dr. Nate Regier is available to speak at your upcoming event.

Submit a Speaker Request

Podcast: Listen to Nate "On Compassion"

On Compassion with Dr. Nate Listen to the Podcast

Join Our Community

Want To Republish Our Posts?


Photo of Jill Cox
Jill Cox
Posted on August 23, 2017

Good article Nate! I would think it applies to most in the workforce.
However, those CEO’s , Presidents, etc., have times in their careers they cannot disclose the “why” to their subordinate’s.
Example: they are looking at buying a company, they don’t want to produce panic or be premature in telling others, they are just exploring. Not all CEO’s lack the skill of transparency, but their is a “need to know” at times.

Photo of Nate Regier
Nate Regier
Posted on September 4, 2017

Great point Jill. One clarification is between emotional motives and factual motives. Emotional “whys” are usually more important to disclose up front.

Leave comment for this reply

Add comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.

Leave comment for this reply

Add comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.

Photo of Dana
Posted on August 30, 2017

I’ve not had as much success with motivating people with giving the ‘why’ upfront as I’d expect. But, I think the approach you’re giving may work a bit better.

Leave comment for this reply

Add comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.

Add comment

Your comment will be revised by the site if needed.