The events in the Arab world and beyond are advancing so quickly that it is difficult to write coherently about what is really happening. There are clearly many elements involved, technological, political, cultural, sociological, physical and psychological underpinning and supporting what is unfolding. It defies a simple analysis, but I would like to share my thoughts about the psychological aspects of these revolutionary movements.
There is no doubt that without the advanced communication technologies afforded by Facebook and Twitter, the fires of protest would not have spread so quickly. And these technologies were the kindling that made it possible for the peoples of these countries to find out how wealthy people are elsewhere in the world and how many opportunities others have in comparison to themselves. Is it merely a case of the oppressed seizing an opportunity? Why now?
L. Michael Hall PhD suggests in his newsletter that the uprisings are an example of the need for control over one’s life; from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, level 2. Good point. In the NLP community, we often speak of the questions that operate consciously or at a below-conscious level that enable people to take action or to make a significant change:
Is it possible in the world?
Is it possible for me?
Sparked by the suicide death of the young man Mohamed Bouazizi, Tunisia revolted and proved that it was possible in the world. Their leader Ben Ali left after less than a week of protests. “It is possible for us,” concluded others in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, etc. The Egyptians used a model of nonviolent protest combined with persistence, intelligence, faith and imagination to achieve their outcome of regime change. And as Alan Weiss pointed out in his Memo, neither Tunisia nor Egypt used violence to quell the protests.
Other factors must also be at play to enable people to take action. Take the questions that the Jewish sage Hillel asked:
“If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
“And if not now, when?”
The protesters have answered these questions with their actions, taking huge risks to gain control of their future. The opportunity for action was “now”. As the people took to the streets, they also went through significant shifts in motivation and thinking, which can be described by using LAB Profile™  psycho-metrics. Under normal circumstances, to survive under an oppressive dictatorship, people need to act as if they are External to the regime. “They command, you do.” One’s personal decisions are strongly influenced from this outside authority. As the choice to act was being made, at a certain point, this External motivator shifted to Internal. “You can’t tell me what to do, I decide.” As a group, the protesters would no longer submit to an unfair system or allow external control over their lives. In each instance since January 2011, where the government has used violence or has attempted to delegitimize the movement, the protesters have responded to in a typically Internal fashion by increasing their resolve to get the results they seek.
The leaders from Bahrain understood this shift and have chosen to consult and negotiate with protest leaders. As of this writing the government of Libya has chosen to attack, shoot and kill protesters and bystanders, and this has dramatically increased the determination of these Internally-motivated protesters to succeed.
In addition, several other LAB Profile™ Motivation Shifts are taking place within the groups of protesters. Having suddenly become Internal, they jumped into action to move away from continuing to submit to the dictatorship. (Away From motivation) Instead of following the normal, expected Procedure they are now demanding Options. Instead of accepting that things will remain the Same and never change, they now appear to want a society which is quite Different from how it has been. Instead of being Reactive, waiting to see what will happen, they have become Proactive. Sometimes they became so Proactive that they have acted without thinking. An example of this would be the strikes for higher wages in Egypt, which took place only a couple of days after the Mubarak government capitulated.
One of most significant shifts over the last few days is the move from the results of the “divide and conquer” strategy imposed by the various regimes for decades, whereby individuals did not come together, except for the covert operations of underground resistance movements. Now in Egypt, Bahrain and especially Libya as the people there are literally under fire, there is an inspiring emerging collective consciousness as they stand together determined to face whatever comes their way. This is a movement from the LAB Profile™ Pattern of Independent to Cooperative.
To summarize these shifts in LAB Profile™ Motivation Patterns:
Protestors’ LAB Profile™ Motivation Shifts
|Behavior Before||LAB Profile™ Motivation Pattern||Behavior Now||LAB Profile™ Motivation Pattern||Implications and Needs|
|Decades of submission||External (needs direction from the outside)||Protesting, demanding||Internal (decides for oneself)||Won’t be told what to do or intimidated; need to invite consultation, explore their demands, & negotiate|
|Willing to follow the expected procedure||Procedures (motivated to follow a step by step process)||Want alternatives, choices, option||Options (motivated to break rules to have more choice)||Demand to break with the process of the past to create new alternatives|
|Doing the same thing||Sameness (motivated to keep things the same)||Wanting change||Difference (driven to create change)||Don’t want leaders from the same, old regime to lead the transition; want new leaders|
|Not taking initiative, waiting||Reactive (preference for waiting, thinking)||Taking the bull by the horns, not waiting||Proactive (Need to take initiative)||Want to be in charge of what happens next; need to be involved in taking action and making decisions|
|No movement||neutral||Resisting authority||Away From (Moving away from what they do not want)||Highly motivated to notice and respond vociferously to events considered undesirable|
|Little collective movement, people acting as individuals||Independent (preference to operate alone)||Collective consciousness, working together||Cooperative (acting as a group)||Prepared to stand together, want to be taken seriously as a group|
Why is it useful to interpret the protestors’ behavior into LAB Profile™ ™ terms? Once one understand their Patterns, it becomes easier to communicate with this new group of people by going to their “bus stop” and using language and processes matched to what is driving these people.
But events and motivations are changing quickly. Who knows what will happen next?
Stay tuned for World Shift 2011 version 2.0.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. Meta Reflections 2011 – #8 Feb. 21, 2011 “OUTGROWING DICTATORS”  Alain Weiss, Monday Morning Memo®, February 21, 2011
 LAB Profile, short for Language and Behavior Profile, is a psycho-metric profile that describes what motivates the behavior of groups and individuals in different contexts. It is used to understand, predict and influence behavior. For more information, see my book Words That Change Minds.
Nice analysis, interesting and inspiring ideas on the basis of the lab-profile. For me there arises another question: What will bring the people in the so-called western hemisphere to act against the injustices and exploitation of man and nature brought to us by the universal neo-liberal dictatorship of the last 20 years. Will the same lab-profile features as in Northern Africa today also influence a future uprise against economic injustice and exploitation of the masses by a small group of neo-capitalists all over the world. What might be the reason – in comparison to the oppressed people of Northern Africa – that underprivileged groups in the west do not revolt in a similar way? Does the lab-profile provide any evidence in that direction?
Hi Shelle – again – I was last in contact with you many years ago. Thanks for sharing your LAB perspective on the changes happening in the Arab world. And if I may, can I add one more way of viewing what is happening?
First, very pragmatic material: the work of Gene Sharp has had a powerful impact
His 90 page book “From Dictatorship to Democracy” is available as a free download at
All the best, Ian
This is really great, it’s succint without being too verbose! It takes LAB Profile into that serious world comment realm without being a thesis (which would make it verbose). It follows procedure(s) and offers options. It is true that we have many fast methods of communcation, I’d welcome faster methods of doing wich is one of the most important things LAB profile gives us.
here is a little local story
Just referencing Maslow is enough to put me off. Maslow was a racist, and not a scientist, a PhD referencing it wont change the fact. “the study of crippled, stunted, immature, and unhealthy specimens can yield only a cripple psychology and a cripple philosophy.” Please define these terms before you incorporate Maslow into anything 🙂
I find it more interesting that few people have realized how less like a democracy the western world have become, especially after the advent of the war on terror.
Perhaps these people over there, have not been bombarded with a flood of media telling the endless story of how futile collaboration is. All TV-series done in Europe or the US propagate the idea that united efforts never will bring significant change.
Social media is not a revolutionary tool, but it can be used as one, sure. Only as long as the government in charge is not technologically savvy enough to censure these technologies.
Try using facebook in say China 🙂
You are very astute at pinpointing how the situation has come about! Social medias have permitted this awareness… Chaos may arise before returning to any order… Who will take the lead? Your analysis is quite effective! Thanks for setting forth a clear way to understand how people are reacting!
Dear Shelle, that’s wonderful! Thank you. Let’s go to Shift 2.0.
Great stuff, Shelle, thank you.
The old divide and rule model was sustainable in the days before the internet and social media, but the new communication channels have revolutionised, literally, whole societies who no longer have to live in ignorance of the possibilities (options) they have before them.
Here’s my take on what sparked the change in patterns in LAB Profile terms. Once Tunisia had reached its tipping point and taken action, the rest of the region SAW and HEARD (main convincer channels) that it IS possible to achieve self determination. Controlling access to information, and as a result people control, is much harder in these days of the laptop and mobile phone.
The power of social media also lies in the fact that it’s always “on”, delivering a constant bombardment of information, usually from people we like or trust. As a result, it can satisfy all the convincer modes: number of examples, automatic, consistent – even period of time.
Never before in our history have such powerful, all embracing, communication channels been at our disposal.
That’s an excellent article which makes plenty of sense. As things shift, it will be critical to see how leaders respond and what type of governments will be newly installed for those who will adapt to those changes.
Looks like your plan to “focus” is right on track. Since I did take the Lab Profile course decades ago, I clearly understand your explanation. The chart is a good summary for the visual people, too.
I look forward to your next blog.
Very interesting. It is a classic Power vs. Force confrontation. The “leaders” are trying to use force to overcome the power that the people are showing. You can see this played out in history and during our times.
Your observations and example/analogy are superb!
Thank you for sharing your insights
Firstly, thanks for pointing us to this article. It is quite interesting to have such real-life, fast-evolving situations as examples for applying LAB profiles.
Obviously, the comments I provide will reflect my personal LAB profile. However I feel that: (that’s the procedures in me talking)
– The introductory part of the article was too verbose. I lost interest from 2nd para onwards and skipped straight to the ‘internal’, ‘external’ profiles para…next time you could consider going straight to the point. (Specific info chunk profile)
– The evaluation was absolutely perfect and very interesting
– The table captured all the information I was seeking from the article in one place.
– It would have been worth understanding the ‘triggers’ that caused this shift in the metaprograms. That, in my opinion, would have got us to appreciate the ’cause-n-effect’ model which helps us predict circumstances that make people shift.
All in all, a great article with relevant insights. Looking forward to reading more such articles from you!!
I was at University as I witnessed the revolution in 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down. And now we are witnessing another historical event again. Thank you Shelle for pointing out brilliant but simple the Motivation Shifts. I presume that their was a critical mass who’s Motivation shifted and that this has set the spark to an even bigger number of people. This shift seems not to have stopped yet. Yes, who knows what will happen next?
A timely analysis – watching events unfold as I write. I am curious now about applying LAB profile to those who are faced with this changing and shifting but very real scenario (institutions, governments,the military, the “western” world with invested interests in various outcomes).
Very useful for describing the situation through the LAB Profile lens. I would love to hear more about going to the bus stop. I suspect solutions (both general and specific) are being sought out–and it sound like you may have a few up your sleeve that are quite specific . . . Thanks, Shelle!
As the coiled energy of change launches, from reactive to proactive and independent to cooperative, will it overshoot the mark and descend into mob rule and anarchy? To be followed by another form of totalitary government.
Well said and with change as rapid and tumultuous as this, good communication tools like the LAB Profile are certainly very useful.