Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Focus Less on Control, More on Influence

Most of us have come to realize that trying to totally control others is futile, even with our children. But by maintaining a positive relationship with people, regardless of age, our influence can be ongoing and powerful.

Not all of our efforts to influence work equally well, however.

For instance, an often used but least effective strategy is to complain and criticize. Somehow we've gotten the notion that to motivate people to do better we must first make them feel worse.

"Why can't you ever hang up your clothes? This place looks like a pig pen.""
"Even your little sister/brother can do a better job of cleaning up than you do."
"Shame on you! That's the sorriest piece of work I've ever seen."

Not only are such attacks exaggerations and untruths, they just don't work well, and often have a reverse effect.

A second and more effective way to influence is to make polite requests, to turn our criticisms and complaints into respectful wishes. If we maintain good relationships with people, they are much more likely to change through our simply expressing our needs and wishes.

"Please hang up your clothes or put them in the hamper. It makes the room look so much better."
"I'd really like you to put all the dishes in the sink or in the dishwasher when you're finished with them."
"I wish you would give this another try. Here's one way I think it could be improved."

Of course, in the case of children, and sometimes even adults, reasonable, agreed upon consequences may need to be in place if reasonable requests aren't honored, but to clearly state one's wishes or expectations is always worth trying first, rather than resorting to demands or threats.

A third and sometimes even better way of exerting influence is to affirm positive steps, even baby steps, in a desired direction, as in the use of frequent "I like it when..." statements.

"I really love it when you hang up your clothes or put the dirty ones in the hamper. It makes things a lot easier for me, and makes your room look really good."
"I always like it when you put your dirty dishes in the sink or the dishwasher. Makes me like you better, too!"
"I so appreciate it when you put your best efforts in the projects your doing. That way I can see you're really trying to do your best."

There are two ways of getting a chick out of an egg, someone has said, one way is to try to apply pressure on the shell, and the other is to provide the right kind of steady warmth over time.
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