Is a nudge more effective than a shove?

© Rhoberta Shaler
www.SowPeace.com

Adam was part of a two-person team responsible for negotiating company-wide salary increases. Trina sat next to him, completing the team. The CEO and CFO represented management and there was one voice from the venture capitalists.

Adam sat at the table after two seemingly very long hours, jacket off, ready to pounce. He was tired, worn-down and fed-up. Health benefits were the final issue. It had been left to the end because of the huge difference of opinion as to whose responsibility it really is. The conversation heated up. Adam, hot under the collar, had had enough. He leaned forward to speak, rising to the bait, exasperation oozing from every pore. Trina, observing the sparks, was determined to keep the fire under control. She nudged Adam, saying,

“We’re doing well. Let’s sit back and listen a little longer.” Adam relaxed. Management spoke. Their offer was close to reasonable. Two quick volleys and the deal was done. A nudge saved the day…and the health care of one hundred families! It was a nudge in the right direction.

PRACTICE THE GENTLE ART OF NUDGING

Are you more motivated by a nudge or a shove? Probably we’ve all been motivated by both. One is easier to hear and accept. By definition, to nudge someone is “to seek the attention of; to prod lightly; to urge into action”. That sounds gentle…and positive.

You’ve heard that you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It’s true.

We are generally under-appreciated and over-criticized. When we’re offered honey, we’re hungry for it and it is much more palatable than vinegar. Who enjoys someone’s acid tongue raining down criticism? I’ll take dripping praise, recognition and acknowledgment over that any day, won’t you?

Unfortunately, manure also seems to be a fly magnet so that may be where the metaphor runs out. It does remind us, though, to be sure that our appreciation and intentions are genuine because any other kind smells!

Nudging is catching people doing things right! Use your time and energy for moving the positive forward.

I used to have a piano teacher who told me to “Keep making beautiful music and let the bad notes fall on the floor.” Of course, each time I played the piece I was careful to have fewer bad notes because she reminded me to focus on the music not the mistakes. Catch people doing things right. You’ll feel better with your focus on the positive. They’ll respond and give you more of what you want.

No, I’m not suggesting denial. Things do need improving and they need to be talked about. If, however, your focus is on encouraging rather than discouraging, you’ll see a significant increase in the behaviors you prefer. William James, the father of modern psychology, said,

“The deepest craving of the human nature is the need to feel appreciated.” So, get out the honey and catch them flies! Nudge them in the right direction and things will go faster.

PRACTICE THE JUDICIOUS USE OF THOUGHTFUL SHOVING

The problem with shoving in general is that it is too careless, too thoughtless and too often a knee-jerk reaction. It can be a street-fighter strategy that leaves your victim bleeding and stunned. Although usually not a felony, it should be!

So, no street-fighting! And, we do need to know what to do when a nudge is insufficient and a death blow is too severe.

I was shoved once…and hard. I was twelve years old and I was called to the principal’s office. Being a top student, president of this and that, an accomplished musician and an all around asset to the school, I was certain that, as it was Awards Day, the principal, Mr. Martin, simply wanted to tell me personally how much he appreciated my efforts.

Imagine my surprise when he said,

“Well, young lady, you are at the top of your game around here in so many ways and you’ll receive the awards to prove it. We have to give them to you but we don’t want to. You think too much of yourself and it shows. So, take my advice, fix the attitude. You’re destined for success, but you’ll be sidetracked by your attitude.”

I felt like I had been shoved against the wall by a Mack truck! Was it effective? Was it the truth? YES, on both counts. Thinking back, several teachers had tried to nudge me towards that truth, but I was not listening. It took the big shove to wake me up.

Mr. Martin was a kind man with my best interests at heart. There was no doubt. It took something out of him to exert the force required to turn my head in the right direction. He knew when to shove…and how. Don’t shove unless you have excellent communication skills and a clearly thought-out strategy.

Shoving from anger creates injury. Unless you are willing to terminate the relationship, you need honest, kind communication and the skills to manage conflict if you want a healthy result from a ‘shove’. Be sure you learn these things before you push your weight around. Without them, you will be a bully or a bull in a china shop!

Know when to nudge, know when to shove, but, first, know when to appreciate.

© Rhoberta Shaler, PhD

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