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Home > BeWise > Positive practices to enhance resilience and improve interpersonal communication-Individual Techniques > Communication Techniques > Means-End Approach

Means-End Approach

Means-End Approaches

•Goal: In means-ends analysis, the problem solver begins by envisioning the end, or ultimate goal, and then determines the best strategy for attaining the goal in his current situation. The goal should be realistic and attainable. Realistic means that the individual can produce the result and attainable means that the environment can produce the result.
•Technique:  Means-end thinking approaches involve setting a realistic and attainable goal, and working towards that goal by structuring thoughts, motivations, and behaviors towards the facilitation of this goal. This does not mean that the goal is always met, but it does mean that the individual has a clearly articulated goal for the specific situation and is actively generating and acting on components that will move him/her toward the goal. Emotions, thoughts, interactions that do not facilitate achievement of the goal are set aside in order to help focus on doing things and structuring thoughts and emotions that will help achieve the goal. If the individual is not having success in achieving their goal, or communication is not effective,  the individual is encouraged to examine their goal and determine if it is the goal that they want to pursue in this moment. Often people have goals that are not realistic, attainable or appropriate for the specific situation and this will cause difficulties. Individuals are encouraged to be mindful to set goals for the situation that are appropriate. For example, a goal of clarifying why certain OR supplies have been discontinued at the hospital, is not an appropriate goal while one is actively in the middle of performing surgery on a patient, but may become an appropriate goal after the surgery is complete. The goal when working with patients in any capacity is to provide good patient care.
•Evidence: Means-end thinking, or the ability to orient oneself to and conceptualize the means of moving towards a goal, develops or is crystalized during adolescence and is deemed necessary for adequate social adjustment. References include Beverage & Goh, 1987; Shur & Spivack, 1972; Kleftaras, Johnson, Stewart, Mace, Rosage & Shaw, 2000. Individuals who operate using means end thinking are more able to set and achieve interpersonal goals and be successful in their interpersonal interactions.
•Suggestion for use: Means-end thinking is crucial for adequate social functioning and should be practiced in most interactions where goals are set. It is important ahead of time to think about and set realistic and attainable goals and evaluate if they need to change over time.  Focusing thoughts, emotions, and behaviors towards the achievement of these goals will help facilitate achievement in a reliable manner.  Thoughts, emotions, and behaviors that do not work towards these goals or are not relevant or helpful in moving toward these goals can be laid aside, and thus reduce unnecessary emotional, behavioral or interpersonal distractions or disruptions towards goal achievement. The individual must be clear about his/her goal and determine if it is something he/she has control over or not, as well as determine if this is the actual goal they want to focus on at this particular moment.

•Potential barriers and how to overcome: It is easy to forget about setting realistic or attainable goals in situations. This puts an individual at risk for reacting to others instead of responding intentionally and working towards an appropriate goal. Additionally, individuals may set goals that are not realistic or attainable and these need to be acknowledged and revised. A helpful thing to do is to intentionally think about what your goal is prior to entering into an interaction and then explore in your own mind if this is something that you think you can control and that the environment can reasonably produce. If these are not the case, think about what is the next most important, urgent and achievable  goal in the situation and work towards that end. You may also find it helpful to imagine where on the interpersonal circumplex you need to be to help move towards achieving this goal.