Two weeks ago a friend called to tell me of extremely unpleasant interaction she had in dealing with the service department of a local car dealership.
To say the least, she was furious. She called and asked what I thought she should do. A few days ago she dropped by the office for coffee and repeated the story.
I asked her if she had done as I suggested, and she replied that she had not.
She then went on to tell me that she’d shared this story with several friends and colleagues all of whom had agreed that her anger was indeed justified. A number of those friends suggested the same course of action as I had.
Her next statement was particularly interesting. She told me she had had a similar experience at that same dealership, some 18 months earlier.
The suggestion she had chosen not to implement was to contact the owner or general manager of the dealership and share her experience with him/her and explain her expectations as a customer, as to how she would like this to be dealt with.
So, now armed with the knowledge that this was a repeat performance. I asked why she had chosen to disregard the recommendations of her friends.
Somewhat reluctantly, she sheepishly confessed that her reason for doing nothing was because she “didn’t want to cause any trouble.”
There is an important lesson to be learned from this, and it is one from which we can all benefit mightily.
We are all familiar with the term Positive Reinforcement. For many of us this means rewarding desired behaviour. For example, we say, “sit” to our new puppy and if the little things sits, we give it a treat for obeying our command.
The old axiom “what gets rewarded gets repeated” is very true. And so we hope that the next time we tell the puppy to sit, it will perform as requested.
There is, however, the darker side to positive reinforcement and it too has an adage attached to it. In fact, it has several and here are a few of them:
- A) People treat us the way we train them to treat us.
- B) We get what we tolerate.
- C) We are what we allow.
Each of the above is a powerful reminder of the strong influence of positive reinforcement.
When we choose not to “cause trouble” or to not “rock the boat” or to say nothing when confronted with errant behaviour then, by our silence, we are now complicit in training those responsible for the behaviour we dislike, to repeat it.
We are not only making their behaviour acceptable, we are encouraging them to do it again.
In talking to me that and several other friends, my friend made the same mistake so many of us have often been guilty of. We whine and complain to those who can and will do absolutely nothing to ameliorate the situation while never directly addressing the guilty parties.
If we choose to say nothing to the deliverers of poor behaviour then when we are next presented with the same behaviour we can only apportion 50% of the blame to them while acknowledging our responsibility and complete ownership of the other 50%.
Which is not a recommended method of positively reinforcing our own behaviour.
Till we read again.