Feb. 16th, 2008

heron61: (Default)
A few days ago, [livejournal.com profile] teaotter and I were talking about convincing people to do what you wanted them to. I mentioned Aaron's comment about Becca that he made within the first six months of knowing her well (which is a surprisingly long time ago), where he said that what he found mildly disturbing about Becca wasn't that she was good at getting people to do what she wanted them to, but that she was good at getting them to want to do what she wanted them to do. Becca, of course considers this methodology to be exceptionally sensible, and I'm inclined to agree.

We went on from there to discuss how she gets me to do things she wants, much of which rests on her discovery that not only is positive motivation (in the form of various sorts of minor rewards and praise) the most effective motivation for me (as is true for everthing from humans to mice, a fact that policy makers and moralists all too often neglect or forget). In my particular case, it's also the only remotely reliable or useful way to get me to change my behavior.

I considered this for a while and was exceptionally pleased that this was true, since getting a reward is obviously far better than avoiding punishment or an argument. However, this is not actually a facet of my personality that I put any conscious decision into making true. I suspect that it's largely an indirect result of the rules that I live by.

From my PoV, gaining the praise of someone I care about is worth a great deal, and gaining praise from anyone I do not dislike is pleasant and more tangible rewards range from pleasant to exceptionally enjoyable. As a result, when offered a reward to change my behavior, I always consider the relative values of what I want and the potentially reward given for not obtaining it, or for obtaining it in different manner. Obviously, getting both what I want and the reward is best of all, but not if doing so removes the likelihood of gaining future rewards. Therefore, because I attempt to keep medium, and often long-term consequences firmly in mind, I avoid using trickery or deception to obtain both a reward to not do something and then do that thing, because it's quite obvious to me that doing this is an excellent way to cease being offered rewards to not do something.

In vivid contrast, yelling at me, arguing, or threatening various punishments if I perform certain actions produces entirely different reactions. Since I dislike being yelled at, punished, or threatened, I tend to look less positively on anyone who does any of this, and so their wishes automatically matter less to me than they otherwise might. Also, because the result of not doing what I want gives me literally nothing (in that I receive neither punishment nor the goal I have been thwarted from obtaining), I consider this situation to be vastly sub-obtimal and am never inclined to accept it. As a result, if trickery or deception seems likely to be a way to get what I want and also avoid punishment, then I am inclined to utilize trickery or deception, unless the punishments are both exceptionally harsh and the action I would otherwise is sufficiently tricky to perform of conceal having done that the likelihood of either failure or getting caught is relatively high.

I suspect that much of my response to punishment can be explained by my utter lack of guilt. I quite literally never believe that I deserve to be punished. The closest I ever come to this is being upset at myself because I was sufficiently foolish or clumsy that I got myself caught. To me, praise and similar rewards are fair payment for my actions, while all forms of punishment is nothing more or less than someone being cruel to me. Since anyone who is willing to be cruel to me clearly does not have my best intentions in mine, their opinions and desires are inherently suspect.

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