So you've become a clicker trainer! Naturally you are very excited. You want other people around you to stop using punishment-based methods and start clicking. So you introduce the clicker at your dog club or high school or wherever you are using it. And guess what: people not only don't change, they get mad at you.
What do you do now? Here's a biologist's look at the process of making changes.
What people do when you start to institute a change (in chronological order):
- Ignore you
- Pretend to agree, but actually do nothing
- Resist, delay, obstruct
- Openly attack you (the dangerous phase, but also a sign that change is starting)
- Take credit
What people say in the process of accepting the change:
- "That might work for your population but not for mine." (absorbing)
- "I can use it, but not for anything important." (absorbing and utilizing)
- "Some of my people can use it if they feel they need to." (utilizing)
- "Oh yes, we've been doing that for years, it's quite good." (utilizing and taking credit)
- "We've come up with a really incredible program; you should try it." (taking credit and proselytizing)
How the changemaker can react effectively
- When they ignore you, find allies and persist.
- Don't be misled by lip service. Find allies and persist.
- Meet resistance with persistence. Move around the resistance; try other avenues.
- The stage of open attack is a touchy time. People can get fired, for example. Keep your head down, but persist. Don't take the attack personally, even if it is a personal attack. Attack is information; it tells you:
a) You're getting somewhere: change IS happening, causing extinction-induced aggression.
b) Your attacker is frightened. Empathize.
c) Your attacker still believes in the efficacy of aversives.
- Absorbing and utilizing: this stage can last a year or more. Maintain generous schedules of reinforcement.
- They're taking credit for your idea? By all means let them; your goal is the change. Credit is a low-cost reinforcer and people who want it don't satiate. Give it away in buckets.
- Are they pitching the change? Good. If you want to change something else, you now have new allies.