Positive Reinforcement Training. When we use this term, most people now a-days are referring to animal training. The most basic breakdown of this is, what is rewarded is repeated. This can be with food, play, attention, or anything else the animal deems rewarding.
Now it is time to bring it to the human level.
Why do we advocate for humane interactions with animals that we do not also utilize with ourselves? When using Positive Reinforcement with animals we see an increase in relationships and trust, plus stronger bonds. There is respect without fear, and joy when interacting together. Isn’t this what we would also like with other humans as well?
When I first started thinking about this I found myself laughing at the idea. “Why do we need to go out of our way, when what we’re doing now works just fine?” And then I heard myself. Disregarding something purely because it is not “how we have always done it”. Those are the same hot button terms we hear when talking about aversive or compulsive training versus positive reinforcement training. That’s when I decided it was time to look at this new idea closer.
How can we use Positive Reinforcement with each other? I’m not going to take my friends and family to a training center to practice how to get along. How do I incorporate this into daily life? Let’s start simple. Verbally acknowledge when someone does something you like. My Dad washed my tea mug for me this morning when I was busy dealing with my cat. I made sure to tell him that I appreciated he went out of his way to help me, even though he waived it off and said it was no big deal. My friend noticed people walking through a door behind us and held the door open for them. I told her how thoughtful she was. She smiled and continued where we were headed. These are all things we know are nice and don’t expect to be told to do them or receive acknowledgement afterwards. Taking a quick moment to verbally mark behaviors are an easy way to start increasing them, large or small.
After a few weeks of being cognizant of the smaller behaviors, I decided it was time to start tackling larger behaviors. This included writing thank you cards, thanking coworkers in front of the rest of the employees rather than in private, and doing small tasks for others as a thank you as well. Each of these were easy on my wallet, had a significant impact, and made all parties feel a little lighter afterwards.
What’s the result so far? The people around me have been smiling more. I’VE been smiling more. I now look for positive things to remark on rather than holding on to the negatives. We’re seeing the start of improvement on our relationships, our attitudes towards our environment, and in daily life. Do these sound like improvements you’d like to see as well? Take up the #PRTChallenge and see how you can use Positive Reinforcement Training techniques in your daily life.
Written by Kimberly Rappaport, B.S., CPDT-KA