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Criticizing someone is as effective in getting them to change behavior as chewing gum is to solving algebra.

Recently my days have been filled with management trainings. How to change undesired behavior is always a hot topic.

The one thing that doesn’t work? Criticizing the person you’re giving feedback to.

When we criticize someone else, say things such as “this is what’s wrong and you need to fix it” the person receiving the feedback shuts down and becomes defensive. It can even trigger anxiety. When someone is in this state it drastically reduces our ability to persuade them to change their behavior.

Instead, there’s a magic question you can ask! It goes something like this….if everything worked out perfectly what would this situation look like?

This question allows the other person to think in terms of positive, rather than negative. They focus on what could work as opposed to what didn’t. This one magic question actually can light up the rewards center of the brain!

And that’s the opposite of defensive and anxious.

I teach this when working with mangers, but think about how you can use this in your personal world. How might things look different if you looked at your partner or friend and said “if everything worked out perfectly, what would this look like?”

Focus on the possible. It feels so much better for both sides.