One of the major beliefs that we at RKP hold is that positive motivation always works better to assist people in changing than fear, threats, or arguing. You might be saying to yourself, “Well, duh!” I would agree that it seems like a no-brainer that people would rather be rewarded into doing good works or making change rather than punished for not complying. One of the reasons this might be true is that receiving punishment can be seen as rewarding, especially to those who are looking for any type of recognition or interaction.
For anyone with children, you know that the tougher the punishment, often the sneakier they become about hiding their behavior. It doesn’t necessarily stop just because they were punished. The same goes for the workplace. Threats of being fired or written up are weak deterrents to negative or inappropriate workplace behavior.
Human beings, especially youth, seem to have a built in “it will never happen to me” defense mechanism which allows us to avoid fear of repercussion. This isn’t to suggest that breaking rules or dealing with unruly children doesn’t ever warrant punishment. You must be able to balance out the use of punishment with positive reinforcement, otherwise you will be met with rebellion and fear. Neither of those is a substitute for genuine respect.
Morale boosting, achieving consensus, getting others to buy in, changing from negative behavior to positive requires patience, positive reinforcement, and dialogue all create mutual respect. Honesty and openness is key. While the argument “because I said so,” may be easier to articulate than your fears or worries about your child or the productivity of your company, it is often a weak motivator. Instead of punishing, screaming, or becoming frustrated when employees, lovers, or children act in a way you don’t like, try to offer positive comments when they do things you do like!
Phrases that reflect this sentiment:
“You did a great job today with the client in there….”
“Hey, I just wanted you to know that I’ve noticed how hard you’ve been working for this company…”(this creates a positive response but also employee buy in.)
“I know we’ve been fighting a lot but I can see that you are really trying to make changes.”
“It means a lot to me when you ______, thank you!”
” I know that you have had a hard time with school recently, but I am really impressed that you brought your grades up from failing to a C. That must have taken a lot of hard work,” (even though it’s not an A or a B, your looking at a positive change. The best way for the child to be motivated to get that A is to reinforce them for not failing.)
Most importantly, positive reinforcement builds rapport, improves communication and creates a sense of respect. Usually, this is what we were hoping for but didn’t get and that’s what caused the argument in the first place.