Monday, February 7, 2011

Honey, not Vinegar

What do you do if someone’s behavior is not as you would wish?

You might have been told “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That is nonsense. Ladies have the right and the duty to complain and to seek redress when things are unjust. Ladies have a proud tradition of standing up for civil rights both for themselves and for others and I hope that you will embrace this tradition.

On the other hand very few things are so rude that they must be directly addressed immediately. When what you are dealing with is a personal preference, an annoying quirk, or someone who simply does not know better that you have a chance to think strategy.

My mother taught me “You catch more flies with honey then you do with vinegar”. To me this means that confrontation is a last choice in all but the most serious cases. This is simply good tactics. When confronted people are likely to become defensive and the whole business can be unpleasant. It is often easier to correct with praise.

Find an occasion when someone does something you approve of an praise. Good praise should be specific and appropriate in scale. Noting is easier to talk yourself out of then the broad glowing complement. Your Awesome! is easily dismissed. I really appreciated how you supported the team by getting up early to be one of the first people here to set up, I know that timeliness is something you sometimes struggle with but you sure were on your toes this morning! is something that it is hard to dismiss. And giving specific praise to reinforce good behavior can help change someone's habit and even how they think of themselves, it can overcome bad habits.

What if you just can't catch someone at their best? Well praise the behavior you like in someone else. For example "Oh there is Marco, he is there waiting for us already. I always feel like Marco values our time because he makes a point of being there when he says he will". People like praise and will often adjust their behavior if it is something that they see other people noticing and complementing.

I know the stick gets a lot of attention, but the carrot can be just as, if not more powerful.