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A New Year's Exercise for Grownups: Changing your View

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Call out the positive

Here’s an exercise anyone can try.

party dog

During the day, make a point of noticing something someone else is doing that you like—someone at work, someone at home, a stranger even. It need not be something unusual. It can be something you already expect them to do anyway.

At the end of the day, find time to tell them they did that thing right. Avoid the word I as in, "I liked the way you..."

"I" is all about you, not about the behavior. Instead, just name the behavior.

"It’s good that you finished your homework." "You handled that phone call well." "The client report is done; that’s great!" "The kitchen’s all cleaned up; that’s so nice."

With kids, learn to watch for one or two things that were notable. Don’t turn it into a big deal; just identify something the child did right.

"Hey, you got down to dinner on time—thanks." "Really appreciated that you fed the dog on your own." "It was great to hear you reading to your sister."

"I" is all about you, not about the behavior.

Don’t make things up afterward; really take notice during the day. What you are trying to train here is not the kids, but your own observant eye.

Find a quiet time at the end of the day, bedtime for instance, to tell what you saw. A thank you at the time is good, but a thank you during a quiet time together can really sink in.

A slow shift, a longterm gain

A thank you during a quiet time together can really sink in.

This new effort may feel weird. You may feel self-conscious. That tells you that you need practice noticing and discussing things you like. (Do you have more experience at noticing and discussing things you don’t like? That’s true for most of us.)

Don’t expect any particular response; this may be new for the other person, too, and may take some getting used to. Just keep it up. The change in the behavior of the recipients of these observations will be rapid and obvious. The change in your own habits and observation skills may take longer, but it will be subtle and profound.

Happy New Year,

Karen Pryor

About the author
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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

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