Archived by date
Sales and marketing
Humor and creativity
Success Harmony Newsletter
WHAT ARE OUR ACTIONS TRAINING PEOPLE?
As more bombs descend on Afghanistan, it's tough
not to think of the messages we (as part of the Western
civilization) are sending and of what those messages
might be training the recipients of those messages.
There's a story I use in management skills and
conflict resolution skills training. I don't know where
the story comes from but it's an effective illustration
of the point that we get what we train, not necessarily
what we want. The story goes like this:
"A couple was house-training their new puppy not to
go to the bathroom in the house. Each time the puppy
made a puddle, they stuck the puppy's nose in the
puddle and threw the puppy out the window into the
back yard (this was a one-storey home, not something
that would harm the puppy physically). They didn't
pro-actively take the puppy outside and praise it when
it relieved itself there. The "nose in the puddle and out
the window" pattern repeated itself until, one day, one
of the owners noticed the puppy in the middle of the
living room, just in the act. The puppy noticed the
owner's look, their eyes locked for a few seconds,
and then - the puppy stuck its nose in the puddle and
jumped out of the window."
The moral of the story is that the puppy was conditioned
to mentally link its behaviour (the puddle) with the
consequences of the behaviour. When we punish but
don't show and reward the "right way", we actually reinforce
the negative behaviour. In the case of Afghanistan, the
wide-spread bombs are more likely to train defiance and
further retaliation than apologies. At best, people learn to
suppress or hide the behaviour while we are "in the room"
but there is no change as soon as we leave the room.
Think about underground liberation movements or teenagers
hiding their drug or alcohol usage - that is when punishment
exists but no preferred method for wanted behaviour.
Think about speeding when you drive - the laws and
consequences of breaking them do more to teach people
how to buck the system with radars and such than it does
to teach them to drive safely. Why is there no positive
reinforcement in place? It is "inconvenient" and costly to
do so, the rulemakers would say. It is cheaper and quicker
to focus on punishment, at least so it seems from a
It may seem more "convenient" now to bomb Afghanistan.
Much of such an attack may in fact be necessary as a way
of drawing a boundary to unacceptable behaviour -
doing nothing would be saying "go ahead, walk into our
country and kill, we're OK with that". But my question is this:
How do we train people for co-operation and peace, rather
than just punish violence? I believe that this is only
possible to do by taking the time to do what is time-
consuming and "inconvenient" - looking for common
ground, giving appreciation for similarities as well as
differences, reinforcing with praise and thanks what is
good, taking the time to understand the other party and
what their needs and wants are. And, above all, helping a
country with no purpose beyond war to find a purpose that
doesn't include war.
Does it take time and effort? Yes, absolutely. If, however,
lasting peace in our own lives and in the world is what we
truly want, let's take the time and effort to do this. As
always, we can start where we live - with our spouses,
parents, children, neighbours, coworkers, clients. The
better we get at understanding each other and getting
what we want through taking actions that train what we
really want to see, the more we can hope for peace
around the world and our own lives.
Back to Archive Page
"In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance,
everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a
cat that will ignore him."
ANY VESTS FOR SALE?
Here is a real ad that caught my eye a while back at the
Law Courts. It was an ad advertising the sale of a piece
of a lawyer's gown, the black-and-white kind worn by lawyers to court:
"I have a Matt & Wozny vest for sale, size 38. It's "Rarely
Been Used" - I kept losing in court and so I became a
solicitor. No reflection on the vest, it deserves another chance."
And the writer deserves a hearty slap on the back for
honesty, ability to laugh at himself, and ability to let go
of something he no longer needs. How many of us have
old "vests" lying around - things that we bought but rarely
used? Or, worse yet, the six-loot-long and five-foot-wide
awful painting that auntie Mary left to us in her will but
that we took only not to offend uncle Harry whose heart
would be broken if we said we didn't want the painting.
We take great pains to hide the hideous thing in the
garage and hope that a fire will selectively and
mysteriously catch it, or that some paint-loving insects
will eat it beyond recognition so that we can regretfully
inform uncle Harry that a natural disaster disposed of the thing.
Well, you get the picture and perhaps you can even
relate to some of those old things with dust bunnies
all over them. So how about letting go in a funny
celebration like the lawyer in the ad did? We may have
outgrown the use for some trinkets, clothes, furniture,
equipment, art, even some habits and attitudes. They no
longer fit us and who we have become, but they may
be a welcome addition by someone who can use them
and get far more use and joy out of them than we can.
People, such as bosses or constantly-negative friends,
can also often be picked up by someone who'll enjoy
them a lot more. They also "deserve another chance"
so give it to them. You will be happier, they will be
happier, and the new person will be happier when a
better fit is found. What you see as negative may be
met with excitement by someone else. I haven't quite
figured out how to implement this with 2-year-olds and
teenagers, but maybe Grandma's house and sleep-overs
at a friend's are a start.
So here's to an afternoon finding those old vests to
pass on to someone else!
Back to Archive Page
"Humor is the absence of terror, and terror the absence of humor."
Lord Richard Buckley
REMEMBER TO LAUGH
One of my all-time favorite quotes is "Today's crisis is
tomorrow's joke." And yet, the events of September 11th
have given even the funny folks like David Letterman
enough of a jolt that nothing seemed too funny for quite
a while. At this point, some people are laughing and
some people are still having a tough time with it. So
here's my own case for humor in times of tragedy.
In communist Czechoslovakia, as I was growing up,
humor was what got us through. When we escaped,
the only actual possession I brought with me was a
humorous book in Czech. We only had $100 in real
cash, but the book was far more valuable in its help
with our ability to cope. Mom read it to me as we
were in an Austrian jail. At first, I wanted to flung it
across at her. As I started to listen, after a while I
forgot where we were and I began to laugh. That
was precious and that book, and trying to see humor
in the smallest things helped us cope.
Similar stories are heard from Vietnam veterans or
survivors of any other horrors - including simple ones
like being kept up at night by babies or dealing with a
less-than-pleasant boss. Humor is a coping strategy
in its attempt to explain the unexplainable. It helps us
find our voice, our expression, our creativity - and
perhaps most importantly, it gives us a sense of being
in control. Even where it is an illusion of being in control,
the emotional and mental benefits are enormous. So - send in the clowns...
"Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality."
Jules de Gaultier
"From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."