Getting What You Want from Your Partner

Getting What You Want from Your Partner

Pavlov’s Dogs and Skinner’s Theory of Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov, a Russian Physiologist, and BF Skinner, a US Psychologist, are most well known for their experiments with behaviour in the early 1900s.

You might recall hearing about Pavlov’s behaviour modification experiments with dogs and pairing feeding them meat with a ringing bell. Naturally the dog would begin to salivate at the sight of the meat.

Over time Pavlov proved he could change the dog’s behaviour and could get the dog to salivate on the ringing bell even when there was no meat present.

Then Skinner expanded on this theory it into what’s now called Behaviourism. He showed that all behaviours could be modified and that this is how certain behaviours developed in the first place. Then depending on what was done at the time of the behaviour would result in the behaviour repeating or ceasing.

Skinner concluded that there was a demonstrable process that could be employed to get someone to do whatever you wanted them to do which contained certain assumptions:

  • Any behaviour you respond to will happen again. It doesn’t matter if it is a bad or good behaviour – responding to it in any way will makes it happen again. Sharing is caring and we are used to responding to people around us but we do it when something we don’t like happens too. This is typically seen in game playing, even when we don’t want to go there, because ultimately for all of us any response is better than no response.
  • Behaviour that is ignored is most likely to disappear and not repeated no matter if it is a good or bad one. So if your partner brings you flowers and you do not express your gratitude he’ll probably stop doing it. Or if your child misbehaves, for your attention, and you ignore it then that behaviour should also stop.
  • The way you respond to certain behaviour is the key to progress and creativity and should be followed up considerately depending on the outcome you wish to encourage and which you wish to discourage. For example, if a school teacher tells her students that their paintings are amazing, they will keep painting the same every time and they won’t have the motivation to try new styles. So the answer here is to encourage enough and criticise enough without destroying someone’s self-esteem in order to get the best from them.

These assumptions demonstrate the real benefits of taking the time to respond from the Winner’s Triangle using all the skills of assertiveness, caring and awareness.

The point is, if you want a behaviour repeated, praise frequently and lavishly, but not every single time (nor even every other). Give praise irregularly so it isn’t predictable.

People grow through interaction, and interaction can be present in many ways. People most likely discover new ways of doing things through challenge, affection and praise.

These are the most common ways of getting what you want from your partner through their striving for your attention. But that only works when you’re happy and you want more from it.

In the case when you don’t like your partner’s behaviour you can ignore it, and focus your attention on the things you want and are thankful for instead. And, of course, it’s always a good idea to point out and try to explain why you don’t like something, because the other person might not even be aware that there is an issue.

The 5:1 Formula for Getting What You Want from Anyone

When I was raising my children, I used a 5:1 formula which goes like this: every time I needed to reprimand a child, I made a point of finding five things I could praise.

The reason for this apparent imbalance is that, as part of our will to survive (particularly in childhood when we are most vulnerable); we are naturally more tuned in to what might harm us. Consequently, the negative things that happen to us tend to affect us more deeply; five times more deeply than the things that bring us pleasure.

Experiment with these discoveries yourself and let me know what you come up with.

To the wonder of you,





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