The Ugly Face of Small Steps

Going in small steps is a virtue that has its ugly side that we all should be aware of. Three recent comments from leading thinkers shall serve in the explanation of what I mean.

Aldo Delli Paoli commented, “In reality, I believe that we don’t trust people but their behavior”.

Harvey Lloyd commented, “Behavior is typically driven by intentions. When our intentions are not being met, emotions follow, generating certain behaviors”.

Alan Culler wrote, “I trust the person’s information, based upon a track record of timely and accurate information”.

In essence, the three quotes show that the intentions-behaviors-track record serves in understanding human behavior.

Is this conclusion valid always? To answer this question I want to remind the readers of an old Arab Fable about the camel in a tent.

It was a cold night. The camel asked his owner for his permission to put his head in the tent for warmth. The owner granted him permission. Soon after the camel asked if he could enter his neck in the tent to feel warm. The owner said OK. The camel kept asking for more permissions until all of his body was in the small tent. It was too tight to accommodate both the owner and the camel. The camel then told his master “It will be best for you to stand outside and will then be room enough for me.”

The camel used small steps to move in and occupy the tent. There are examples in life where humans do the same.

One case is a man who used to ask his friend for small loans. He promised to settle each loan on time and he did. The man established trust with his moneylender friend. He then asked for a much bigger loan. Being trusted the loner agreed only for the man to disappear. He established good credibility and gained the trust to cheat. The behavior had hidden bad intentions behind.

Another example of doing things in small steps to gain trust is an employee who logged out a few minutes more than he actually worked. The next day he added more minutes and so on till he added more hours than he worked.

Intentions hiding behind behavior are examples of the dupers’ delight. People who act this way find delight in wrongdoings. Delight increases with the increase of their cheating. Nerve cells release a shot of the neurotransmitter dopamine into the brain, which brings on pleasurable feelings of self-satisfaction. And this high is what can lead to a desire to repeat the behavior until it becomes an addiction.

I conclude that behaviors hide intentions. It is the identification of those intentions that will make the behavior of humans more predictable.


Ali Anani
Ali Anani
My name is Ali Anani. I hold a Ph.D. from the University of East Anglia (UK, 1972) Since the early nineties I switched my interests to publish posts and presentations and e-books on different social media platforms.

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  1. Happen to come across your article Ali, very interesting in regards to “Behavior”. For the nearly 22 years as a cop, working in various details and assignments, as well as the streets, a lot of my encounters that allow me to be safe, was looking at the behavior of the person of interest. You said “If” in your response to Aldo, of what a persons thinks, that is true, for it takes a certain individual to assess all that you say in a matter of minutes. Many officers have to do just that in a matter of seconds. I believe there is a certain instinct one carried above the rest that allow them to do that, “IF”. Great article.

    • So glad to read your comment, Lynn.

      I thank you for sharing your rich experience. I have a question for you.
      You mentioned a cop needs a certain instinct. How different is this from intuition? Or, do both reinforce each other.
      You invoke an idea for me to write a post. Thank you

  2. Passionate about human behavior, and after various readings about it, I developed the idea that the mind is a sort of mediator between reality and the person: if we can understand what a person thinks (in terms of intentions, emotions, desires, beliefs, inclinations, feelings , fears, weaknesses or strengths) we will also be able to understand their behavior.
    And also that this understanding of the mental states of others is based on empathy, on the ability to experience the same emotional state of the other and therefore to place oneself in the same perspective as the other.
    Beyond this I do not go!!

    • if we can understand what a person thinks (in terms of intentions, emotions, desires, beliefs, inclinations, feelings , fears, weaknesses or strengths) we will also be able to understand their behavior.
      Great idea, Aldo. It takes a very observant person to do so and an experienced person like you as well.