It is better to give positive feedback that does not reinforce an entity mindset. What is your secret?
This kind of feedback promotes an incremental mindset, which acknowledges that most abilities are skills that can be nurtured. Research by Ayelet Fishbach and her colleagues at the University of Chicago shows that positive and negative feedback have different influences on people. Positive feedback helps make people more committed to a goal.
Negative feedback is particularly good for spurring people to make more progress. When people are first starting to change their behavior, positive feedback is valuable because it helps them feel a greater sense of commitment toward the goal they want to achieve.
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Over time, however, people shift their own thinking away from their overall commitment to the goal to their sense of progress. At that point, they are motivated by negative feedback, which reminds them of the distance between where they are now and where they would like to be. Matthieu Ricard asks: "Can People Change? Learn five tips for boosting your willpower.
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Find out how to set up the right environment for changing your habits. Of course, this negative feedback does not make people feel good. Even in the later stages of behavior change, people still enjoy getting positive feedback more than they enjoy getting negative feedback. But at the later stages of change, the positive feedback is not nearly as motivating as the negative feedback.
Although it can be difficult to give negative feedback, it is important to be willing to make people uncomfortable when working with them to change behavior. Studies suggest that when you focus people on the contribution they have made at work, they are happy with their current job but they do not actively seek a promotion. If you focus people on what still remains to be achieved in their careers, then they feel bad about their current job but are motivated to move upward.
Remind yourself that giving negative feedback to people who are already committed to behavior change can spur them to improve.
In his book The Checklist Manifesto , surgeon Atul Gawande extols the virtues of checklists in a variety of situations in which the same task has to be performed repeatedly. When these lines get infected, it can put ICU patients who are already quite sick in serious danger. As Gawande points out, if the ICU staff covers the patient with a drape when the line is being inserted and uses chlorhexidine soap, then the incidence of these infections goes down dramatically. Hospitals in Michigan got a medical equipment manufacturer to bundle the drapes and the soap in a single kit and then gave staff in the ICUs a checklist to make sure that they carried out each step in the same order every time.
This combination of changes to the environment and routine created a consistent mapping that was repeated often. It lowered the incidence of central line infections to near zero, which greatly improved patient outcomes. When you want to change the behavior of the people around you, think about how you can create consistent mappings in the environment. Are there methods of getting people to reorganize their environment in ways that will support the creation of habits? People want to minimize both the amount of time spent thinking about their behavior and the amount of effort required to act.
You want to make the desirable behaviors as easy as possible to perform and the undesirable behaviors hard to perform. California bans smoking in workplaces—and indeed, in any public space. As a result, employees have to walk a long way just to have a cigarette—which in many circumstances makes smoking very hard to do.
There are other ways to manipulate environments to encourage desired behaviors.
The city of Austin has installed a number of dog hygiene stations all over town. These stations consist of a garbage can with a liner and a dispenser with plastic mitts that can be used to pick up dog waste.
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These stations make it easier for dog owners to clean up after their dogs, which cuts down on the number of people who fail to do so. Generating communities around a process is an efficient way of engaging people to change their behavior. That is the function of groups like Toastmasters International, which aims to help people improve their public speaking skills. Toastmasters organizes groups of people who get together, give presentations, and give feedback to each other.
The atmosphere is professional but relaxed, so the community works to help others get more comfortable with speaking in public. Many people who have been helped by this group continue to attend meetings to help new members improve their skills. In this way, Toastmasters functions as a source of both mentors and partners in behavior change.
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Social relationships are a critical part of behavior change—and conversations are a critical part of relationships. A community of other parents facing the same challenges can be a great source of support. Groups like this enable behavior change to be made as part of a larger process, like parenting. The conversations they have on the playground or at PTA meetings can change behavior, growing organically out of networks that are built on discussion.
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