Rewarding Bad Behavior

In Creating Happiness by Barbara Jacoby

I found it interesting that some people were mean and nasty to others and just kept up that behavior on a regular basis.  So I decided to try an experiment.  When someone found it necessary to treat me in such a manner, I decided to do something nice for that person.  The results were amazing.


For most people who choose to act in a negative manner, they are using their behavior as a defense mechanism.  I am going to get you before you get me.  These people are very insecure and believe that if they make someone else look bad, it makes them look better.  They always blame someone else for their mistakes and love to pass around all of the negative gossip that they can accumulate even if the information is not true.


Recently I was faced with such behavior and I was really fuming when I was blamed for the actions of another person when it was that person who had created the problem.  She incorrectly thought that I would never know about her lies but someone else who was involved in the action shared the information with me.  I decided to deal with her in a different manner than I had ever dealt with someone who behaved that way.  I was going to reward her.  Not only was I no longer angry but I actually found myself laughing out loud when the troublemaker received her reward.


I must say that she was first shocked and then beside herself with guilt for what she had done and she didn’t even know that I knew what had happened.  She had assumed a completely different demeanor and all of a sudden, she started acting like I was her best friend.  Now please realize that I am not stupid enough to think that she will never do this same thing to me again but it does seem to have substantially reduced the likelihood.  She has already moved on to another individual who is now the recipient of the majority of her bad behavior and I seem to be off the hook for the moment.


So now that I was on a roll, I decided to employ this same technique with another person who was really in a bad mood and seemingly taking it out on all of those around her.  Even in the midst of any display of bad behavior, you can usually find a positive note and this was no exception.  So I seized the moment and rewarded her for that one feature and of course, her demeanor immediately changed.  A smile returned to her face and she started to embrace the ideas of the group in a way that no one had seen for quite some time.


I have employed this technique many times since that initial test and I have found it to be extremely helpful.  Not only does it change the behavior of the person behaving badly but also it changes me.  If the focus of the bad behavior has been directed toward me, instead of focusing on myself and responding emotionally, I focus on finding a point where I can flip the issue into something that is positive and there is immediate gratification when that happens.  It also portrays me in a good light with everyone else who may also be interacting with the negative person and that is of major importance in the professional world.  Even if you are not convinced that such an approach is wise or can potentially diffuse a bad situation, I would suggest that you give it a try.  Then you can sit back and laugh at how easy it was to create a positive situation rather than letting the negative take over the moment.  It won’t be long until you find yourself living a much easier life.