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Common Mistakes Give, Not Get

The AE Team

The AE Team

3 min read
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This is a paradigm shift that changed my life, so I'd like to share it with you: When we want to change something about a person, place or thing, it is very common in our society to ask "How can I get X to...?"

"How can I get my daughter to do her homework?"

"How can I get my husband to finally pick up his socks?"

"How can I get my computer to stop freezing on me?"

Yet when we ask "How can I get?" there are some hidden assumptions there that can be very dangerous and damaging to the relationships we've built in our life. When we ask "How can I get?" it implies that we need to exert force and control on someone or something in order to bend it/them to our will. The natural answer to "How can I get?" is to use some sort of force, manipulation or coercion in order to achieve the end result.

How do you get your daughter to do her homework? Threaten to take away her phone or computer of course! How do you get your husband to pickup his socks? Bribe him (or threaten to not do his laundry anymore).

The problem with "How can I get?" is that the use of force has the unintended consequence of eroding trust and damaging good will. No one likes to be forced to do something, and the more you force, the more trust is eroded. This is why websites that constantly use clickbait articles tend to be more hated. Their business model is all about manipulating you and tricking you into clicking, instead of just stating "This happened" and relying on a solid relationship they have built.

The good news is that there is another way to achieve the same result, without the use of manipulation or force! Instead of "How can I get?" ask "What can I give?"

Here's an example: "What can I give my daughter in order to help her do her homework more easily?". This doesn't mean bribe her! It means asking, does she need a calmer environment? A snack? a back rub? You to sit and help her do her homework and explain the concepts again? Help researching? A new pencil?

"What can I give?" assumes that the problem isn't a lack of force, but a lack of resources. Our core philosophy, and the basis of Emotional Resource Theory, states that people do the best they can with the emotional capacity they have. If they aren't doing a great job, its because they are missing one or more resources, not because they are being a willfully defiant mastermind.

And if they are being a willfully defiant mastermind, they are doing THAT because they are lacking one or more resources and cannot think of any other way to change their situation.

How to help someone out of Defense Mode and give them the right resources is well beyond the scope of this article, but fortunately we have a whole separate article detailing that process here.

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