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 2: Ask your dog training client to tell you about why they might hear you out or do whatever it is you are suggesting
You can use these steps for larger actions, but it can work better on smaller ones. It all depends on how resistant the person might be. Just like dog training, sometimes you need to take baby steps toward change.
If you are seeing a husband and wife team for example, likely one took the lead to consult you. That could mean the other partner may already be experiencing some form of resistance as a result of having to go along with their partner. So start with asking who’s idea was it that they hire you.
Depending on how the couple responds, you might get some idea of the resistance. If you sence the resistance is high, consider focusing on a smaller more manageable goal. Such as simply hearing you out. What might be in it for them to listen to what you have to say. Even if you don’t sense any resistance, no one is ever loses by getting in touch with their own motivations for things. If there is no resistance, you might take them through this process when it comes time to practice after you are gone.
Chances are, when you ask them what is in it for them or how they might benefit, the first things they say will be without too much thought. They will probably say the expected answer. Whether you focus your question on why they might do the training for the week or simply listen to you, try to discover what their personal motivations are rather than why they might be doing this for someone else.
If you hear the word should in the sentence, as in, “Well, we should train our dog, we shoshould have a well-behaved dog, etc.) try again. The shoulds are what they have internalized from what other people have made them feel they should do. There is little personal freedom in a should.
What is in it for them to listen to you? Or what is in it for them to do the session? Or how might they benefit from practicing with their dog over the week? You can use these steps again and again to understand your clients better, but also help them get in touch with their own motivations.
Positive language will help you: i.e. why might you want you, why would if be good for you… will get them thinking about their motivations. Negative language like why don’t you, why haven’t you… etc. can cause them to think about the reasons why they don’t want to do something. Check out: Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything–Fast for more suggestions.
Finally, look for what motivation you can sense and reflect it back to them. They may position it in negative language (i.e. to get the wife off their back, or stop their dog from jumping up). Try to re-position it in a way where you are focusing on the positive (being on the same page as their significant other, having a calmer dog, etc.)
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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