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Introducing the 16 Motivators

Are there universal motivators? Is what motivates you motivating others? And what happens when motivators don’t line up?

These are the questions Stephen Reiss, PhD asked. He began a massive study that now encompasses over 80,000 people in cultures around the world. 

The first batch yielded over 500 identifiable motivators. Dr. Reiss then combined similar ones and worked the number down to less than 200. Then he got computers involved until he had 16 scientifically significant motivators that impact our personalities and how we deal with those around us. 

He discovered that when we are highly motivated in certain areas, we assume that others are and should be similarly motivated. This causes blind spots that create disagreements and strife. 

So it’s important to first understand what your high and low motivators are before marketing or even communicating with customers and prospects. 

It goes like this: Society has determined that we should have three meals a day. If you are motivated by food, you will work extra hard to have more than three meals a day. You might snack between meals, maybe raid the refrigerator before going to bed. Food is important to you. 

On the other hand, if you are not motivated by food, you will find the concept of three meals a day restrictive. You will seek to avoid all the time spent eating and thinking about eating. (Yes, there are such people).

Now watch what happens: How do you think the non-food motivated person judges the food motivated person? How successful do you think they’ll be in convincing the motivated person to quit eating so much?

Have you ever had someone tell you a diet is easy? Or look down their nose at you because you enjoy a certain food? 

Now, check this out: What if society says that 60% of our waking hours we will be in contact with others. If someone is motivated by social contact, they want more than 60% of their time with others. Let’s say they want 80% of their time to be in social contact. 

Isn’t it true that that person will learn traits that will make them attractive to others? Might they learn to be gregarious, humorous, and attractive? They’ll make sure they don’t smell, have a smile, and are generally pleasant to be around. 

But what if someone is demotivated by social contact? What if they only want to spend 40% of their day in contact with others? What will they do to make sure that people don’t bother them? Be mean and surly? Make sure they aren’t attractive or smell good? 

And what is the reaction from highly motivated social contact people? We send the social misfits to seminars on how to be nicer, how to work better with people, even emotional intelligence. 

And it doesn’t work. Why? Because we’re teaching them to get more of what they don’t want. We are actually repelling them. 

The thing is, this happens in marketing and customer retention every day.


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