PCM PCM analysis Theory of PCM

“But if I motivate them when they act like that, don’t I encourage negative behaviours?”

Motivating with PCM; Process Communication Model; conflict behaviours; Magda Tabac;

One of the questions I receive at times, when I deliver my PCM workshops (in-house or open) and talk about motivating with PCM, relates to what we call “charging the batteries” of people who behave in rather unproductive manners, in order to motivate them and invite them out of their distress.

Participants ask if, by charging a person’s batteries, who has not been on their best behaviour lately (due to their distress), I am not in fact recognising and encouraging unproductive behaviours. Fair question.

Let’s see what PCM teaches about this and what management studies have highlighted about this subject.

One of the most interesting things that we learn about motivating with PCM, is that we all share nine motivational needs:

  • recognition of productive work,
  • time structure,
  • recognition of principled work,
  • recognition of convictions,
  • recognition of person,
  • sensory needs,
  • solitude,
  • playful contact and
  • incidence.

Some of these needs are more important to us than others and PCM proposes that when we meet these needs, it’s like we charge our batteries: we have energy to adapt to different people, situations and tasks and have more flexibility in using more characteristics and strengths of our personality, even if some might take more effort from our side to energise.

However, when we don’t get these needs covered for a while (and especially those which are the most important for us at the moment), we tend to exhibit distress behaviours – unproductive behaviours through which, unaware to our conscious selves, we try to negatively cover the aforementioned needs. Somehow, our brains believe that rather than not having those needs covered at all, having them covered negatively is better.

However, these behaviours, which I bet you have seen around you (maybe even you have exhibited some of them?) are not really productive and they can demotivate others and invite them to enter distress.

Under stress, our behaviours can see us…

  • becoming over-controlling
  • pushing our convictions on others
  • making mistakes
  • withdrawing
  • blaming others or
  • manipulating

What PCM teaches us, is that when we see such behaviours (which also represent a clear indication of what needs are important to us and we haven’t met in a while), we should invite our communication partner out of stress by covering those needs that led to the unproductive communication in the first place. Thus, if I see one of my colleagues over-controlling and not delegating anymore, I might want to cover their need for recognition of productive work by recognising their ideas and their efficient work in solving issues with a project; if I see somebody preaching their ideas and pushing their beliefs onto others, I might then cover their need for recognition of convictions by asking more for their opinions, really listening when they share their point of view, being honestly curious about it, etc.

And this is when my participants start to ask that question: but if I have such positive behaviours and interactions with those who exhibit such unproductive behaviours, am I not actually encouraging those behaviours?

And, while counter-intuitive – I can tell you that no, we are not encouraging such behaviours by covering people’s psychological needs and motivating with PCM. Those behaviours are in fact just the symptoms of a root cause: that person’s batteries are depleted and they haven’t had their main psychological needs covered in too long. This is why they exhibit these unproductive behaviours. If we just tackle the symptoms, they will reappear…

This is what management studies have shown in the past:

  • Managers reported 54% of their time was spent putting out fires
  • Fires caused by failure to meet needs
  • Those who manage by putting out fires in the end… they create arsonists
  • If fires are treated as symptoms of mismanagement, they will put themselves out

This is why, if we tackle the cause and we meet people’s psychological needs, we are solving the root problem and the source, in the first place, of their unproductive behaviour. It might look counter-intuitive, but it might be the best thing we can do. And even better yet, we could make it a habit to proactively meet their needs (and ours!) so that they don’t even start to get into distress.

I hope this helped you to understand new facets of PCM and see the value in using it, just like I do.

Stay happy,


PS: A big reason I write is to meet people so feel free to say Hi! on Linkedin here or follow my Instagram here, as I’d love to learn more about you.

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