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The ‘Iceberg’ Model of change
Why nothing you’ve tried so far has worked

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Most likely, you’re reading this article because you’ve already put a lot of effort into trying to change your relationships at home or at work, ether through couples counseling, coaching, culture change programmes, leadership development or team building But with little long-term success.

This lack of success, in my experience, is because most advisers on behaviour change focus on clarifying the values, attitudes, beliefs and feelings that people hold and that influence their behaviour.

By developing new values, attitudes, beliefs and feelings, it is hoped that people will consequently develop new behaviours – e.g. communication, conflict handling and relationship skills

It’s true that, when someone behaves obnoxiously we accuse them of having an ‘attitude problem’. All we experience is their tone of voice, facial expression, body posture and what they say. But we know that this behaviour is a reflection of what’s going on underneath the surface – an attitude about themselves, the person they’re speaking to, how to bring up children, the different roles of men and women, or social, political and economic issues – whatever is the issues at hand.

This approach sees people much like an iceberg, with behavioural issues above the surface and psychological issues beneath.

Unfortunately, if you’ve been involved in similar work on your relationships either at home or at work, you’ll recognize that your initial understanding and resolve only lasts for a short period of time. Once back in your team or at home, the pressures of life, the behaviour of others or your nagging internal voice, soon contaminate all your good intentions.

The positive feeling and resolutions made during counseling, life coaching, reading, workshops, online forums, blogs, relationship articles and conversations are like a drop of ink in a bath – very clear and concentrated at the time but within days and weeks they dissipate until they can no longer be seen.

To really change your behaviour for good, you need to deal not only with the Behavioural Issues at Level 1 and the Psychological Issues at Level 2 of the iceberg model in Figure 1, but also the Philosophical Issues at Level 3.

It’s my belief that for long-term behaviour change, you also need to acquire a new perspective on your life as a whole; a perspective at Level 3 that constantly reminds you to make the most of your one and only life, to cease living a life of regret and encourages you to act despite your fears.

Iceberg Model

Figure 1: The ‘iceberg’ model of change including your new perspective at Level 3

Copyright © Beverley Stone Confronting Company Politics Published by Palgrave Macmillan 1997 ISBN 0-333-68154-1
Copyright © Beverley Stone The Inner Warrior Published by Palgrave Macmillan 2004 ISBN 1-4039-3677-3
Copyright © Beverley Stone 2010