On scolding - managing staff, children, partners and yourself
ON SCOLDING Selena Sol presents…..
firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.linkedin.com/pub/eric-tachibana/0/33/b53 http://www.slideshare.net/selenasol managing staff, children, partners, wait staff, & yourself
TO SCOLD OR NOT TO
SCOLD Keenly aware that I have in the past, and will probably in the future, ‘scold’ other people – a parent, a child, a partner, a friend, a member of my staff, a service provider, a maid, a peer, a boss, a pet, or a stranger, I am asking myself, why? The most obvious answer is that the other person pissed me off in some way, and I am simply blowing off steam. Thinking back, I am pretty sure that I have scolded other people when I thought they had their heads up their butts and their idiocy had caused me some degree of grief. That’s natural right? I think so. I don’t think I could ever train out the “eye for an eye” DNA base pair that I am sure that I've got, no matter how clearly I know that it is petty. But really, that is probably not the real underlying reason. And I figure, leaving it at that probably limits my own happiness.
Actually, the real underlying and
naturally-selecting reason that I scold is that I want to drive a long-term change in the other person’s behaviour so that they will not piss me off in the future, or because I honestly care to help them grow for their own sake. That seems more enlightened. I suspect that those of us who scold, would probably argue (or cognitively dissonance ourselves into believing) that we are scolding for the greater good, and that scolding is an effective way to create long-term positive behavioural change in someone else. As a parent, I know that I have said that to myself several times this year (whoopsy). So the question becomes, is scolding ‘really’ an effective way to drive long- term behavioural change in someone else? This is not about right or wrong, but about the most effective use of a tool to yield a desired end. I’m going to say no – though I’ll have one caveat at the end of course.
THE DOWNSIDE OF SCOLDING How
do I feel when someone scolds me? Scared? Yes, if the other person has power. Ashamed? Yep, if I respect the person. Angry? Mmmm hmmmm, if the other person is wrong. Hurt? Oh yeah, if the other person is right, and I really did cause them grief. Embarrassed? Definitely, if there were other people who knew that I got scolded. Do I feel happy, motivated, trusting, curious, or receptive? Not really! For now, I’m going assume that all sentient beings have the same reaction to a scolding. Now, it is true that I may modify my behaviour as a result. I know for sure that I have modified my behaviour as a result of being scolded. And, I am sure that I have modified someone else’s behaviour through scolding. So I know that it 'can' work (which is probably why I return to using that tool). But how effective is it? What are problems with using scolding as a live-human sculpting tool? How can I use it most effectively? And are there circumstances in which it actually does not work, or makes things worse? I figure to answer this, we need to look at when it has not worked and analyse the results.
1. Make them agree, but
leave a scar Well, those who have known me for long enough will know that I’m a pretty darn good scolder. I’m slightly proud and slightly ashamed to say that I have made all sorts of people cry when I came down on them. And, I have made them change too. But there is something that I know about all of those people. They may have ended up changing in front of me, because they were afraid of the ramifications of not, but I am not sure that they changed anywhere else in their lives. More worrisome, I also don’t think they ever really opened up to me again, as they were probably always unsure if I was going to give them a resounding whack again. Maybe that wall between us was frail the first time. But I have no doubt that for every scolding they received, the wall became a little thicker and higher, and probably between them and other people as well. 2. Make them dig in or lie A far worse result, and I think a far more common one, is that the person on the stinging end of a scolding either digs in and responds by continuing the bad behaviour to spite me, or launches an immediate retributive strike on some other relationship battlefront. Alternatively, sometimes they simply take it, smile, but subsequently, those sneaky bastards either continue to behave wrongly, but in subterfuge, or potentially they celebrate their Robin Hood-like behaviour with others who are either confused or drawn to the dark side.
3. Fail to see the
truth or partial truth that they could have given me Another danger of scolding is limiting the already limited view one has when sitting atop a high horse. It may, and has often been, true that I was wrong, and was scolding the other person inappropriately. And as such, by transforming the other person into a cowering pile of insecurities makes it impossible for me to see the truth of the situation. As a result, I lose a great personal opportunity and probably a good deal of respect.
4. Escalation or desensitization The
last problem is that once you have scolded, you have taken out the big guns - and what do you do if they do not modify their behaviour. You scold harder, right. And then what happens if there is no change? I guess you take out the belt or the bat and start going at it. And then what? I know from my experience, the more I get scolded, the more hardened and resistant (or maybe just numb) I get. I have to assume everyone is like that. So the result of scolding can easily be an ever escalating chain of naughtier behaviour followed by harsher punishment. What is really dangerous about this escalation of desensitization is that when you really do need to scold, you’ve lost your punch because you have desensitized the recipient by wasting impact on unnecessary minor scoldings. “Jimmy, get your feet off the side table, NOW!” – yes m’am “Jimmy, close the kitchen door!!!!” – sorry mom Jimmy, clean up your room this instant or you’re grounded” – OK, OK “Jimmy, don’t run across the street against the light and without looking” – yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever.
5. It only makes you
unhappy You know what else? Thinking back, I don’t think it ever made me, personally, happy to scold someone. In fact, sometimes, I have been kept up all night fuming post-scold. It is as if in order to scold someone else properly, I needed to actually get riled myself. And after the scolding is done, I’m left feeling upset. Isn’t that what I was trying to resolve in the first place? Worse yet, I need to use someone else as a punching bag to let go of some of that pent up scold run-off. 6. They call your bluff Finally, in today's ever-prominent world of matrix management, or even in the home where corporal punishment of children is less and less vogue, scolding ultimately puts you in a risky position because the scoldy may simple say, "Bring it on!" At that point, you are left totally powerless. You have not built up the trust necessary to work through it, and the kid is now old enough, and big enough to take 'you' out, so you can't really back up your bark with any real bite.
SO IF YOU DON’T SCOLD,
THEN WHAT DO YOU DO? So, given all this, it is clear that scolding has serious limitations as a tool for behaviour modification. But is there anything better? I heard this great story once about positive reinforcement as a mechanism to change behaviour – I think it was in Ken Blanchard’s book High Five. Back in the 70’s, there were these killer whale trainers at Sea World in San Diego. You know, these were the men and women who taught Shamu to jump through hoops, splash the audience on command, and launch swimmers into the air from their noses. Anyway, they had an interesting dilemma. They needed to train these animals to dramatically change their natural behaviours. But they couldn’t really scold the killer whales when they did not perform. If you are awkwardly swimming around in a tank with two 9- ton beasts with teeth the size of your outstretched hands, you are not going to be making your students feel angry, ashamed, hurt, or anything else negative at all.
So what did they try?
Well, they tried positive reinforcement instead of negative reinforcement. Basically, they decided to generously praise and reward the good behaviour, and neutrally discouraged, bad behaviour. The result is a multi-hundred million dollar a year mascot (poor Willy). This then, I think, is the key. • Generously praise and reward good behaviour • Neutrally discourage bad behaviour
How do you generously praise
and reward good behaviour? Pretty simple really. When you see someone doing something right, take a minute to say, “Damn straight! You rock!”, or “thanks, I noticed even if you didn’t think I did”, or, “hey everybody, I’m happy with this person and you should take note and join me in saying thanks,” or “here is an additional percentage point on top of your normal annual bonus.” Even before that, it can’t hurt to remind other people around you (and yourself), let’s say every quarter or so, clearly and quantifiably, what you want (relative to what they can stretch to accomplish), what you are willing to invest in them to get it, and what rewards they can expect if they achieve. I guarantee you that you will feel good, they will feel good, and you’ll see immediate improvement towards your goals of behavioural change.
How do you neutrally discourage
bad behaviour? Also simple. Someone said once that it is a matter of patience. I am not sure it is. I am NOT a patient person. I am extremely demanding and I want things done at my pace, which happens to be very fast. But I think I am pretty good at practicing neutral discouragement (even though I have a LONG way to go by my own yardstick). I think it is simply a day-to-day behaviour change in you. The first thing that needs to change is that you need to be laser focused on bad behaviour. You need to spot it instantly and react just as fast. However, instead of reacting negatively, you need to react fairly dispassionately, but clearly. “I don’t think this is the right thing to do and here is why. I’d prefer if you stopped. Can you help me do that?” In some cases, you need to do that in a quiet and controlled environment if the behaviour is really out of control, like the way kids get when they really get hyped up. Just get out of the context, into a quiet room, and let the intensity run its course. Then talk. Of course, the same is true in the workplace. De-escalate the situation, move to a new environment, shift into neutral. Your mood will be infectious.
The second change is that
you need to be persistent and consistent. In other words, you need to be persistent and consistent. That is, persistence and consistency is key. Don’t react one time to bad behaviour and then let it slide by without note 6 more times. “Hey, hey – remember that I told you to email all your third party dependencies at the beginning of the day rather than waiting until they are about to go home from work? Don’t forget or you’ll be sorry tomorrow!” And appreciate that no city, except Woodstock, was built in a day. That means that you need to be neutrally responding to bad behaviour potentially for quite some time – maybe even months or years.
WHEN DO YOU PULL OUT
THE MIGHTY SCOLD! OK, I did say that there would be a caveat. While I think that we pull out the scolding tool 99% too frequently, I do think that there are definitely times to use it. In particular, I would scold in order to address 1) life- threatening behaviour and 2) truly anti-social or illegal behaviour. In those cases, I think that the seriousness of the situation calls for a crisp, clear verbal slap and, if you have not already desensitized the other by too much scolding, it will have the impact it deserves. Finally, we are not all perfect all the time. I can raise my right hand and honestly swear that I ‘will’ scold when I don’t have to for the rest of my life. I know that. Sometimes, I’m just too tired to do the right thing. Sometimes, I just let someone get to me. Sometimes, the other person is simply evil at the core. Sometimes, that dratted kid simply had too much sugar. Let it slide off, take a breath, and give yourself a break. Remind yourself of your real aims or find a good friend who can watch you and remind you. Try apologizing as soon as you realise what happened. And get back to the regularly scheduled praise patrol.