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More than the tip of the iceberg

Why do you behave the way you do? Are you aware of where your behaviour and that of others comes from? How do you behave in a team? These are important questions. Often a person's behaviour is only explained by the visible aspects of a person, such as the knowledge and skills he or she possesses. American psychologist David McClelland states that this alone is not enough to understand a person's behaviour and that we need to look beyond what we see of a person.

He developed the 'iceberg model' to explain his theory and uses the iceberg as a metaphor for a person's layered competencies. According to him, only ten per cent of a person's competencies are visible and ninety per cent are hidden beneath the surface. In order to get a complete picture of a person, one should not only look at the visible components such as his or her knowledge and skills. It is also necessary to look at the hidden components such as a person's norms and values, self-image and motives.

Two important exercises that can be extracted from this model:

  1. Consider for yourself whether you would like to show different behaviour in certain situations and consider where the behaviour you are currently showing comes from. Example: during brainstorming moments with your team, you do not contribute anything, while you do have a lot of good ideas. You would like to share your ideas. Ask yourself why you don't do this. Does this have to do with fear of rejection or incomprehension? If so, where does this fear come from? Are there events in the past that have given you this fear? Only when you understand this can you change your behaviour.
  2. Try to apply this approach to someone's behaviour. In order to know someone and understand why he or she is behaving in a certain way, ask not only 'What are you doing?' but also 'What do you want?' and 'What do you think?'. Become aware of the fact that a person's behaviour in a current situation may have little to do with the current situation, but stems from an event in his or her past. Everyone has a history that has shaped him or her into what he or she is today. We are all more than the tip of an iceberg.

Author: Philips Experts