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A Behavioral Challenge

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The power of positive consequences…

I’ve been running a lot more during the COVID shutdowns, and am following a training program to continue to challenge myself and keep from getting bored. This program has me running more frequently and running more miles each time, in a way that gradually builds over the weeks.

As I’m running more, I’m naturally seeing more people on the streets and the trails and I’ve found it interesting how supportive people are as they are walking and you run by them.

On the trails I passed a family all on bikes with very young kids, maybe 4 or 5 yrs old pushing their bikes up a steep dirt hill. As I passed, the mother said “Great job!” and both kids started yelling, “You can do it! Keep going!” It was adorable.

On another occasion on my street, soon after I finished my run, a neighbor walking her dog said “You look like you’re on the other side of a run, great work, I’m jealous!”

It got me thinking about how powerful just a few kind words can be, and how we often miss opportunities to use our words to help others feel a little boost.

I know from teaching behavioral science for many years now that some people may have a strong reaction to hearing my story and will start to wonder:

Are you saying you’re running so you can get praise from people?
…Isn’t the feeling that you’re doing something good for your health enough to motivate you?
and, Are you going to tell me that I need to start talking to people now? C’mon. I’m busy enough.

My thoughts on this are pretty simple:

    • We know that praise can help to encourage behavior in others
    • We know that receiving praise or even kind words can encourage our own behavior
    • It doesn’t cost anything at all
    • The time requirement is very low
    • It takes very little creativity to say something to someone that they’ll remember

The benefits of expressing gratitude and praise are well studied, and can fill books. Yes, we know that praise and hearing gratitude statements can change behavior. That’s pretty obvious.

However, one impact we often don’t think about is on self well being. Research in Positive Psychology has shown that delivering a praise or gratitude statement has a positive effect on the self well being of the person who makes the statement. That’s right. It’s good for them, but it’s also good for you when you deliver praise or express your gratitude.

If you’d like to read more about this concept, one of my colleagues Dr. Scott Geller (the creator of Actively Caring for People) published a short article on the power of positive consequences here.
So, I’m sharing this as a challenge to you to be on the lookout for someone doing something good around your house, in your community, or in your organization, and say something to them that shows your gratitude.

You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to hug or even show your feelings (if that’s uncomfortable to you). Just say something genuine and kind…and see what happens.
If you’d like to learn more about how to encourage these behaviors in your own organization to deliver amazing business results, contact me here.

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