If you work with people to train their dogs, it’s inevitable that you eventually are going to run someone who just doesn’t seem to want to do what you are suggesting. Sometimes it’s because they have a prior belief about training and – like all of us – they look for evidence that supports their beliefs and reject or ignore anything that doesn’t. So be prepared to leave some leave-behind materials with several links to credible third-party information. ScienceDirect provides access to over 2000 academic science and medical journals and is a good place to start.
But sometimes people just do not seem motivated. There could be any number of reasons, but in many cases there they stem from a more unconscious factor. In a previous article we discuss psychological reactance and how it can undermine client compliance to a dog training or behavior program. In this series of articles we outline a process that can help with that.
Step 5: Ask them to imagine what it would be like if they had already done it. What would the positive outcomes be?
If they start to talk about all the obstacles when you ask this question, ask them what if there was a magic trick that got them there with no effort, what would the positive outcome be if they had done it? Right now we are not focusing on how it will be done, but what they think the positive results could be. Once they are no longer thinking about the work that might be involved, they are free to imagine the benefits.
Reflect their motivations in positive language. People are less likely to be motivated by negative motivations (i.e. I will avoid having a heart attack is I lose weight). Your client’s rationale for following a training plan may very well be to have their dog stop being aggressive, but they are more likely to be motivated by the good things that result from the peace of having a calmer dog that they can more easily trust, or the sense of control they get gain by identifying what signs their dog is using to communicate that they need rescuing from a certain situation. This moves them from bad feelings no one really wants to think about and moves them toward a positive result feels like a win-win.
If you want to learn more, check out Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything–Fast. Panatlon discusses in much more detail the language that can help or undermine motivation, how to influence people who don’t want to change, how to identify change and when to move on, how to make an action plan, as well as a whole lot of suggestion on how to deal with various responses.
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