Friday, February 5, 2016

Nudge Don't Nag


Governments have found that they can influence your health decisions by giving you subtle suggestions rather than threatening you with dire consequences for your bad behavior. However, each nudge that you are given will only provide a small amount of influence.

For the government this is huge because they are dealing with millions of people and small changes add up to big differences. Not so in your relationship. A small nudge to encourage change may have limited benefits but is still more effective than pushing for change. Why is this?

We dig our heals in when pushed. Admit it. You don’t like to be told what to do. You particularly don’t want your partner telling you what to do.

Pushing for the change you want triggers a counter-argument to not change. When you argue for change, then your partner will inevitably come up with an argument to counter yours. No one has won an argument, they just generate two sides to an issue.

Pushing for change appears self-serving, even selfish. After all, you are telling your partner what you want.  Even though you see the obvious benefits of change, he or she is unlikely to see this as a caring response on your part.

So what would a nudge look like in your relationship?

A nudge is indirect but makes an impression. You can influence your partner through your example, your reaction to his or her behavior and by rewarding change.

Your example can be a source of motivation. Your partner is more likely to quit smoking or lose weight if you also are abstaining from smoking or overeating. Think about self-improvement before thinking how your partner can change.

Your partner can be encouraged to change how he or she reacts if you take responsibility for your reactions in the relationship. This means that you are patient and kind, you are positive and refrain from becoming aggressive or angry in your reaction to your partner's behavior.

Change can be encouraged if your partner can see a clear reward for the change. Letting your partner know how you would enjoy the change is an example of nudging change.

A nudge is by definition weak. Unfortunately, we all want to find that tool that will fix our relationship problems. You imagine the aggressive approach will have the most impact, especially after your “softer” approach was ignored.

The problem is that a nudge is actually more powerful that a push; it is just limited in its power because change is difficult to bring about in another person. All of us resist change, but this is particularly true when change is requested by your partner. So, you must accept the limits of your power in the relationship and stick with your most powerful approach…a nudge, not a nag.