When someone lets you down and does so willfully and with full knowledge of what he or she is doing, you want to deal with the selfish blighter. For instance, remember what your high school boyfriend once did to you? He didn t forget to pick you up for your prom date, nor did he come down with a debilitating disease. He simply changed his mind at the last minute. And then, guess what? He said nothing to you, roared by your house in his candy -apple-red Mustang, and then whooped it up with the little hussy who moved in from California while you sat on your front porch clutching a wilted boutonniere.
When it comes to motivation, these are the thoughtless curs we have in mind. We think of people who have purposely violated a promise and as a result have given us a figurative kick in the gut. Do you know why they cause us grief ? Because they don t care. They don t share our wants and needs. They don t walk in our moccasins. When you think about it, isn t that what life comes down to? If we could find a way to get our friends , our family, our coworkers, and especially our boss to climb into our heads, share our dreams, and want what we want, wouldn t life be one great big chocolate croissant?
When others willfully break a promise, particularly when they cause us loads of grief, we want so desperately to motivate the guilty parties that the whole concept of motivation takes on mythical proportions . We think of motivation with a capital M: arm-flailing speeches echoing through a coliseum with the crowd cheering. Or perhaps we envision motivation as the raw use of power delivered in a satisfying and vengeful strike to the ego. Or maybe we think of it as a tool bag chock-full of clever techniques, just underhanded enough to trick people into compliance but sincere-looking enough to maintain a patina of professionalism . And on a good day, maybe our best day, we think of motivation as the ever-popular art of getting people to do what you want them to do because they want to do it.
Of course, none of these views is particularly helpful. All lead to behaviors that eventually get us into trouble. Even the last cloyingly patronizing statement ”we think it s our job to get people to want what we want ”is fraught with problems. It works only if we re omniscient (what we want is always right).
At the heart of our twisted view of how to motivate others lies an accumulation of outdated methods and tortured thoughts, one piled upon another. We come to believe that good leaders propel people to action by blending two parts charisma, one part chutzpah, and a healthy dash of fear into a perfect motivational cocktail. And we re wrong.
With time and constant exposure to these unhealthy influence theories , here s what eventually happens to our thinking.
The apartment you live in comes with a reserved parking space conveniently located right in front of the building s entrance . Unfortunately, the tenants in the apartment above you have three ”count them, three ”teenage children, each with a car. They appear to take joy in parking in your place. Each time they compel you to station your vehicle blocks away, you re forced to schlep yourself over hill and dale through an unrelenting Seattle-style drizzle while you make a mental note to send a generous donation to the National Association to Outlaw Teenagers.
You once talked to both the parents and the adolescents about the problem. You were on your best behavior. You spared no charm , plucked the old heartstrings, and sure enough, they expressed their deepest and most sincere sorrow. It was rather touching. They then respected your parking spot for a full 12 hours, after which they continued with their old tricks. Apparently they were sorry you spoke to them, not sorry that they were causing you problems.
At this point you re fully aware of your options. You know that if you threaten your neighbors, they ll come around. But you don t want to be that kind of person. You re bigger than that. So you back off, buy a larger umbrella, and take satisfaction in the knowledge that although you may be drenched and aching, you have not yet mutated into that crotchety old curmudgeon you vowed never to become. Just because you despise these cretins, it doesn t mean you need to be unpleasant about it.
This kind of thinking leads to a false dichotomy . You believe that when it gets right down to it, you must either put up with the current problem or motivate the kids through power and threats; those are the only two options. And since you don t want to become threatening and abusive , your monk-like vow of silence isn t a sellout; it s the moral thing to do.
However, if circumstances demand a more forceful approach; you take comfort in the knowledge that the end will justify the means. After all, it is your parking space, and it s not your fault that the bozos you re dealing with respond only to fear. As long as you believe that the principal motivating force behind all behavior is fear, you have a built-in excuse for going to either silence or violence.