Negative Motivation VS Positive Motivation




Sandy couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her husband Joe. He had become distant and barely uttered three words to her in a sentence. “What’s wrong with you?” she proclaimed to an all familiar response, nothing. Joe just gave her the look.

While having coffee with her best friend, Sandy shared the situation. “Describe to me your typical discussion with Joe when you are trying to get him to do something, in other words what is your crazy cycle” her friend asked. Sandy then pondered their ‘crazy cycle’ and got out a sheet of paper to literally document it.

We ALL have a crazy cycle. No, not a bicycle that looks crazy. I mean when it comes to communication, we get into a cycle that is crazy. Dr. Emerson does a wonderful job describing it in his book Love and Respect. Usually, it occurs when SHE is disrespectful and HE becomes unloving. SHE then responds to his unloving behavior with more disrespect. HE then returns the favor with more unloving actions. Hence….the crazy cycle.

Sandy was completely finished with her diagram and was completely shocked at her finding. One of the first steps in their communication cycle was her habit of LEADING WITH NEGATIVES.

What does that mean? Whenever she wanted to motivate Joe to improve, to start something or stop something, she would lead with all the negative observations she could find on Joe and why he SHOULD change. She was building a negative case against him before her request. Her negatives were de-motivating him. His response was usually NEGATIVE.

There you go. If you want POSITIVE results, DON”T LEAD WITH NEGATIVES. It rarely works. Even if it does work, it will only be temporary as resentment and bitterness will usually grow in the recipient. Who wants to hear how poorly they are doing all the time. Even if they are guilty as charged maybe they are a slacker, lazy, incompetent, rebellious, indignant, even so,  your negative approach rarely will work. It’s not like one day they hear your list of contemptuous remarks and with a smile look at you to say “Oh my, you are right, I think I will kick in gear and rush to be a better person”. On the contrary, usually your negative approach increases their rebellion and can cause them to not ‘want’ to work with you at all.

I am not condoning such behavior, just describing it. So, what are your options?

LEAD WITH POSITIVE speech. Comments like “Honey, it would mean a lot to me if you could ______” or “Joe, do you think you can get to _____________ by the end of the week? It sure would be great if you could”. How about some kind words prior to a request, “I sure am thankful for all you did yesterday honey. Do you think you can also _____________ at some point this month?”

Avoid the long list of accusatory statements in order to make a case against the person you are trying to motivate. It doesn’t work with women, men or children and don’t think that compliance on the outside means they are complying on the inside.

There is a time and a place to share negatives but I would plead with you to keep that at a minimum and try to spend 90% of your speech focused on positive words of encouragement and requests.

Sandy focused on this for one month and the results shocked her. Not only did Joe’s attitude change, he began communicating to her again and his ‘loving’ behavior kicked into high gear. She even caught him whistling while he was helping with the laundry.

Why? Because Sandy stopped shaming him and started encouraging him. God wants us to be loving, kind, patient, understanding and treat others as we want to be treated.

Let’s follow HIS plan and see what happens.

Go and be different.

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