Going back to the idea that they have a tendency to be pessimistic.

If someone is prevention focused, the worst thing that you can do is try to make them become an optimist. What happens is, if you reinforce that they are not going to have any trouble adopting this new behavior and they buy into that and they buy into the optimistic approach, when they have a setback, it’s going to be far more damaging because they do not deal with negative aspects as well as someone who has anticipated that this is a possibility that might happen. Therefore, I have Plan A, B and C in place to adjust for that so that they have backup plans that will allow them to compensate for things that they have anticipated.

What about you? What do you think is your primary focus? Obviously it’s going to be hard to find that in all cases you are going to fit in either category. But you are definitely going to have a tendency to move towards prevention or promotion.




When you’re buying a car, are you thinking more in terms of safety and gas mileage or are you thinking more in terms of horsepower and acceleration? One is more promotion focused while the other one is more prevention focused.

Are you more likely to run out and get insurance on someone on something because you are concerned about the potential loss? That’s a tendency towards prevention focus.

Let’s go back to the list of some of the habits or characteristics of people with a promotion focus or prevention focus.

For yourself, try to think in terms of which one are you? How can you use that to benefit changing your behavior? If you are prevention focused, you shouldn’t be setting yourself up with a carrot for achieving your goal. It should be more about avoiding the negative consequences, therefore you need to do what you need to do to get your goal accomplished because there’s going to be negative consequences.

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You need to do what you need to do to get your goal accomplished because there’s going to be negative consequences..Photo credit: intuitioninbusiness.org

So the goal is to be structured in terms of avoiding the negative consequences for someone who is prevention focused and more on the positive aspect for someone who is promotion focused.

I want you to think about your current situation and just take 15 minutes to write down on a piece of paper or on your computer and brainstorm some messages when you’re thinking in terms of when you’re talking to someone to encourage their behavior to change, how are you going to word the phrase when you are dealing with someone who is prevention focused or promotion focused. Are you going to be focusing more on the negative aspects or the positive aspects?

You should be wearing this personal protective equipment, you should be wearing this eye protection to prevent yourself from getting injured. That’s more focusing on the prevention. The promotion focused message might be: you should be wearing this this eye protection so that you can do the fun activities that you enjoy doing. Perhaps if you enjoy going out and snowboarding or you want to see your children, those are positive aspects of retaining your eyesight. It’s something that is more promotion focused than prevention focused.

Focus on the positive or the negative and in terms of addressing a larger group where you’re going to have people who have both a prevention and a promotion focus. You want to provide messages that will appeal to both and so then you’re talking to a group throughout both examples that you want to wear the personal protective equipment to prevent eye injury because it can have all these consequences. At the same time, you want people going home safe so that they can see their loved ones. That’s a positive aspect as well as addressing a negative impact and you have addressed all of the focus possibilities that could be in the group.


You want to provide messages that will appeal to both, prevention and a promotion focus. Photo credit: www.vistage.com

As a recap, when you’re thinking in terms of focus, you need to provide a message that is both prevention and promotion focused to address everyone that is hearing your message. When you are dealing more on a smaller scale or one-on-one, you can have the advantage of trying to tailor your message to that one person but ideally what you want to do is you want to be providing both messages so you can address the majority of the population.