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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Motivation Management: How to Get Almost Anyone to Do Almost Anything

First things first. Please save yourself a potential lifetime of pain and conflict, and accept that you have no control over anyone but yourself. Your kids included. This is a fact. Learn it, live it, love it. It’s very difficult to make someone do something they don’t want to do.
You can, however, engineer the circumstances around another person in your sphere of influence in such a way that you encourage them to want to do what you want them to do. This stems from the theory that people don’t change their behavior until it becomes less painful to change than it is to stay they way they are.
So how do you tweak someone’s circumstances in order to make your desires more favorable in their eyes? You harness their motivations.
Let me offer an example.
When my son was thirteen he discovered that a certain sound gives me the creeps. It’s a sci-fi thing that taps into some visceral fear of mine. And no, I’m not going to tell you what it is. But he took perverse, teenage glee in walking up behind his mother and making that noise.
Generally, I recommend feigned indifference in order to extinguish an unwelcome behavior. If the instigator gets no reaction from his target, he’ll usually get bored and quit trying. But this particular noise provoked such gut-level angst in me, I needed to persuade the kid to stop tormenting me immediately. So I told him:
“Son, every time I hear you make that noise, I’m going to kiss you in public.”
His eyes got big as two golf balls and the corners of his mouth fell. He said, “Oh, please no. Please don’t do that. I’ll never make that noise again.”
And he never did.
However, my husband also heard the threat I made to our son. Hubs’ eyes lit up, and the corners of his mouth stretched toward his ears. “Is that the same for me? Every time I make that noise, you’ll kiss me in public?!?”
And right there you find the heart of motivation.
Motivation is the reason why we do what we do. It’s the driving force behind us doing what’s necessary to get what we want.
People have different motivations: money, fame, sex, power, control, fear, to be perceived a certain way. One of my teenager’s (and most teenagers’) primary motivations is to be viewed positively by peers. Because I recognized that underlying motivation, I could craft exactly the right consequences which would threaten attainment of my son’s Being-Cool goal: Mother’s kisses are social death.
My husband, on the other hand, thinks I’m pretty. He likes the idea of getting kissed by his lady in front of other people. His motivations are radically different from the boy’s, therefore what seemed like a threat to our son (public displays of affection) was perceived by Hubs as an offer.
Can you hold on through a wee bit of a psychology class? There’s a story on the other side of it about how I learned to manipulate motivate my husband.
Motivation theory is pretty simple. There’s a behavior from the other person that you either want to encourage (reinforce) or discourage (extinguish). You have two methods by which to do this: you can provide something to the other person, or you can withhold/remove something from them.

When you link a specific behavior to either provision of something that person wants or removal of something unwanted, you encourage the person to continue (i.e., you reinforce) that behavior. Conversely, removing something a person wants or providing something they don’t want in connection with a particular behavior will have the effect of discouraging (or extinguishing) that behavior.
In the example above, the sci-fi noise was the behavior I wanted extinguished. I threatened to give my son something he did not want (public kisses from Mommy) in order to discourage him from making that noise again.
Hubs, on the other hand, wants his wife to give him smoochies, so that consequence would serve to encourage the behavior (making the noise) if I applied it to him. Which I did not.
If you can figure out what motivates someone, you can get that person to do just about anything you want.
(Please use these powers for good, and not for evil.)
Now for that story I promised.
My husband frowns upon me drinking coffee during church. One Sunday, through a combination of errors, my coffee cup ended up below the pew in front of us, on the other side of my husband. I could not reach it. I knew he didn’t think I should have it. But I wanted it, so badly.
I scribbled on the Sunday bulletin these words, to which I gave little thought, but from which I soon derived so much insight:
Honey, you can’t reach my coffee cup, can you?
The man bent over, contorted himself like an acrobat, snaked his arm under the pew and around the feet of the person in front of us, and procured for me my java. I wrote:
Thank you! But I didn’t really think you’d get it for me.
He wrote back:
I can’t resist a challenge.
Deep inside me rumbled an avalanche of maniacal laughter that roared: I have uncovered the key to EVERYTHING!!!
Since that day, when I want my husband to do something he might not prefer to do, I need only phrase it in the form of a challenge: “Honey, you probably can’t (whatever), can you?”
Oh, dear. He reads this blog, doesn’t he?
Maybe he’ll miss this one…
If you’re struggling to get someone—perhaps one of your kids?—to do something that’s important to you, give motivation management a try:
1. Pinpoint the behavior you want to extinguish and/or reinforce.
I want my kid to stop leaving his dirty clothes on the floor (behavior to extinguish) and start putting them in the hamper (behavior to reinforce).
2. Identify what motivation is currently at work. (This may inform step 3.)
Re. the dirty clothes, it’s likely nothing but simple laziness coupled with no reason to want to change.
3. Brainstorm some possible ways to reinforce or extinguish the behavior.
A. Remove Something Wanted (Extinguish): Charge the kid 25 cents for every item of clothing you have to pick up.
B. Remove Something Unwanted (Reinforce): If all clothes make it into the basket for a week, s/he gets to skip a household chore s/he usually has to do.
C. Give Something Wanted (Reinforce): If all clothes make it into the basket for a week, s/he gets an extra half hour of media time.
D. Give Something Unwanted (Extinguish): For every item of clothing you have to pick up s/he gets five minutes of massaging your feet.
4. Pick the one that best fits you, your child, and the situation.
The kid is all about money, so A.
The kid wants nothing more in the world than to lie on the couch, so B.
Given the chance the kid would live inside the computer, so C.
My feet hurt like heck, so D.
If you’ve made it this far into this lengthy post, you’ve got the motivation and stamina to work the crap out of this strategy.
But what motivated you to read all of this, anyway? Are you struggling with someone’s behavior? Are you thinking about a friend who might benefit from this stuff? Was this just a really entertaining piece?
I’ll say it again, because it’s simple, profound, and life-changing:
If you can figure out what motivates someone, you can get that person to do just about anything you want.
And you know what else?
You can work this system on yourself, too.

Did you miss the post about Using the Assumptive-Close Sales Technique to Get Your Kids (and Anyone, Really) to Do Stuff Sans Nagging?


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1 comment:

  1. I love how your mind works. And how well you express yourself.