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By Eric Barker
December 20, 2014
IDEAS
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Karen Pryor’s book Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training explains the fundamentals of behavior change. And these methods are effective whether the subject is a dog, a dolphin or your neighbor, Larry.

The main lesson for getting people to do what you want is that positive reinforcement — rewarding behavior you like — is king. Whether it’s with a smile, a cookie or a bribe, rewards work.

But what about getting rid of behaviors you don’t like? This can be far trickier. Pryor lays out the 8 methods that you can use to stop bad behavior.

Method 1: “Shoot the animal.” In our case, we don’t mean that literally. It means firing an employee or dumping a partner. It works, but it’s extreme.

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 2: Punishment. (Everybody’s favorite, in spite of the fact that it almost never really works.)

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 3: Negative reinforcement. (Removing something unpleasant when a desired behavior occurs.)

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 4: Extinction, letting the behavior go away by itself.

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 5: Train an incompatible behavior. (This method is especially useful for athletes and pet owners.)

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 6: Put the behavior on cue. (Then you never give the cue. This is the dolphin trainer’s most elegant method of getting rid of unwanted behavior.)

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 7: “Shape the absence”; reinforce anything and everything that is not the undesired behavior. (A kindly way to turn disagreeable relatives into agreeable relatives.)

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

Method 8: Change the motivation. (This is the fundamental and most kindly method of all.)

Via Don’t Shoot the Dog!: The New Art of Teaching and Training:

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree. Join over 145,000 readers and get a free weekly email update here.

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