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Don’t you think so? Look at this cartoon strip carefully…

Want to hit someone? Praise him!

2023 March 02 | by Arduino Mancini Effective communication - Feedback - Stratagems to succeed

The situation in the cartoon strip seems to be paradoxical? Let’s analyze it carefully.

For Mario and Julie, Tom is hardly on time (“he is always late about everything“) and also not so cooperative (“as soon as he can, he puts a spanner in the works“): a person like anyone happened to work with at least once in life.

What we can expect to happen in the meeting is for Mario to reprimand him for both his lack of punctuality and cooperation: an effort to prompt a change in Tom’s behaviour inspired by common sense that so many of us would take.

How likely is such an attempt to be successful?

How many times did you succeed in making a person change his/her behaviour simply by asking him/her to do so?

I don’t know what results you achieved; I know for sure that mine were not so brilliant…

On the contrary, Mario decides to give the situation a new structure, choosing to praise Tom for the qualities he does NOT display.

What results can this stratagem achieve?

Let’s look at three of them:

  1. Tom, aware to be not so cooperative, may be surprised by Mario’s approach. Why does the colleague praise him in a meeting, publicly? Probably Tom feels uncovered, but he is unlikely to ask Mario the reasons for his praise because that would mean for him to admit that he is aware of not being a cooperative colleague. It will likely be more difficult for Tom to hold a competitive attitude in the future;
  2. Tom is so full of himself that he is unaware of his poorly cooperative attitude toward his colleagues. He may therefore be unsurprised by Mario’s stratagem and collect the praise. In the future, Tom may be influenced by Mario’s praise, especially if repeated, and change his behaviour to secure his colleague’s approval. The worst that can happen is that nothing changes;
  3. What will the other colleagues in the meeting think when listening to such unbelievable praise? The irritation is most likely to be followed by general amusement: in short, a praise that hits, more than a punch.

On balance, Mario’s stratagem involves the only risk of having no effect, while it seems to be so likely to induce a change in Tom’s behaviour.

What do you think?

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