Changing Another Person LO20153

John Gunkler (
Thu, 10 Dec 1998 12:09:36 -0600

Replying to LO20140 --

Joe DiVincenzo talks about making a distinction between "what I decide to
be as a person and what my behaviours will be."

Joe, I don't want to revisit the decades-long argument between "radical
behaviorists" and the rest of psychology, but the point you raise has many
practical ramifications.

I guess I'd just respond that there are certainly some contexts in which I
"as a person" and my behaviors should be separated -- e.g., when one
criticizes someone else I believe it is crucial to make that distinction
(that is, it can be okay or even useful to inform someone that their
behavior was wrong or hurtful, etc., but is never okay to tell someone
that they, themselves, "as a person" are "wrong" or somehow lessened
because of that behavior.)

However, as a practical matter, when I interact with you I cannot interact
with (nor even perceive in any direct way) you "as a person" -- I only
have your behavior and whatever inferences I choose to draw from it.
Therefore, in a practical context, it doesn't matter one whit to anyone
else what you are as a person -- only what you do (including, but usually
not placing much importance on, your verbal behavior.)

I added the last parenthetical because the "inferences I choose to draw
from [another's behavior]" are often the things that get us all into a lot
of trouble -- and inferences from what someone else says are often less
reliable even than other kinds. We're much safer acting upon behavior,
and patterns of behavior, than upon any inferences we or someone else
draws -- and we're usually safer acting upon patterns of non-verbal
behavior than upon what someone says.


"John Gunkler" <>

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>