Part of my job as a financial planner is to help clients change behaviors that aren’t serving them well. I’ve tried to do that in many ways. Some work, and some don’t.
The late Thomas Gordon, author of Parent Effectiveness Training and Leader Effectiveness Training, created a list of common methods we use to try to influence one another. Most of these are so ineffective that Ted Klontz, Ph.D. renamed them Gordon’s “dirty dozen.” They are:
1. Ordering, directing, commanding. Nike ads notwithstanding, “Just do it!” isn’t a very good motivator. Neither as most parents have learned is “Don’t do that!”
2. Warning or threatening. “You’re asking for trouble if you keep doing that.” All this usually does is dare listeners to prove you wrong by continuing exactly what they are doing.
3. Giving advice, making suggestions, providing solutions. “If I were you, I would . . .” “Why don’t you do this?” Telling people what they “should” do is usurping their power to make their own choices. It’s even dicey to give advice when asked and much more powerful to say, “I don’t know what is really right for you and when I was faced with a similar situation this is what I chose to do.”
4. Persuading with logic, arguing, lecturing. This is the one I have the most trouble with and that I still find myself doing unconsciously. I’ve learned that when someone can’t seem to make a decision, quite often the problem is more emotional than logical. The person simply can’t take in a logical argument until he or she has dealt with the emotion that is blocking the decision.