We talked last month about the importance of teaching people how to treat you, instead of passively accepting whatever they dish out. So, let’s dig a little deeper into how, exactly, to motivate others to give you the behavior you want. My advice focuses on dating and romantic relationships, but you can apply these tips to any area of your life.
Don’t Turn Your Prince into A Frog
Do you want to be the woman who goes on endless first and second dates? That can be exhausting and may distract you from finding real, lasting love. Instead, understand that you have the power to influence how men treat you, from the very first introduction. It’s not your job to turn a frog into a prince. But many women accidentally turn a prince into a frog by either:
- Rewarding the wrong behavior; or
- Not rewarding good behavior.
By consciously paying attention to the behavior you want more of (date planning, romantic gestures, respectful behavior) and turning away from the behavior you don’t want (sexual innuendo and crude humor; last-minute dates; disrespectful behavior) you condition your dates to treat you well. That is positive reinforcement, and it is a clear form of feedback that men understand and appreciate. When your date makes an effort to please you, you can immediately reinforce that behavior in various ways:
- Smiling and thanking him
- Leaning in close
- Making eye contact
- Light physical touch
- Direct verbal praise
Mastering effective reinforcement will help you get off the dating treadmill and into a real relationship.
Enjoy Better Dates Through Intermittent Positive Reinforcement
Intermittent Positive Reinforcement (IPR) is similar to positive reinforcement, but it introduces a little unpredictability into the reward. Once a behavior is consistent—he always brings you your favorite flowers on Wednesdays, for example—you can vary the reward itself, the timing, or the frequency. It is human nature to take good behavior for granted, just as being continuously rewarded can become boring; keeping it fresh is good for you and him. IPR works particularly well with men because it is:
- Affirming and feminine, on your side
- Instant feedback for him: How am I doing?
- Clear communication of boundaries—without a lecture
When you understand that your approval is a powerful reward, you can condition any man to treat you the way you want. (If a man doesn’t think you’re “All That,” then no amount of positive reinforcement will influence his behavior; better to move on to someone who does respect and value you.)
SCENARIO 1: Rewarding the Wrong Behavior
Imagine you are on a first date with someone you met online. He is distracted and not very talkative. He fiddles with his phone and checks out other women near your table. If you smile and try to engage him in conversation, you are unintendedly rewarding him for his lack of enthusiasm. By giving him lots of attention, you might prolong a date that wasn’t meant to be or fall into a downward spiral of approval-seeking.
Instead of serving him a Reward (your attention), simply glance at your phone and say, “Wow, I need to get going.” Then politely excuse yourself and leave. Always move away from the behavior you don’t like.
SCENARIO 2: Not Rewarding Good Behavior
Stacey loves it when her boyfriend calls her at work. She is a surgical nurse and doesn’t have a ton of time to talk or text back and forth. With a call, she can keep things short and sweet, and it just feels more special to her. Unfortunately, she has trained her boyfriend to text her instead of calling. How? Because lately, whenever he calls her, she doesn’t pick up. He doesn’t get the reward of hearing how pleased and excited she is to talk to him. Even though he knows she prefers a call, he resorts to texting because he knows that eventually, she will respond. And the texts are dull—like Hey Bae and Wazzup—which they are both tired of. In fact, the daily texts drag down their relationship and make it seem boring when, in person, they have a lot of fun together.
Stacey can set a schedule where she is available for calls if that’s what she prefers. Maybe on most days at 2:00 pm she has a break and can leave her phone on. He has a fair chance of reaching her then. Because her days are hectic, she can’t necessarily talk every day. But maybe 2 or 3 days out the week, he can catch her this way. The “hey” and “wazzup” texting can go ‘bye.
The more a man cares about you, the more important it is to him to win your approval. Learn how to use IPR effectively, and you’ll enjoy more of the behaviors you like and set the stage for healthy dating, lasting love, and marriage.