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Positive Behavior: Definition and Illustrations Essay

DEFINITION

Behavior that tends to satisfy the desires of the respondent is posi tive behavior. It will become apparent that by this definition some positive behavior may lead to antisocial (so called “negative”) responses and hence is not recommended. Further more, some behavior that is itself socially acceptable and apparently positive is not, by this definition, actually positive because it docs not tend to satisfy the desires of the re spondent. The reverse is also true: some behavior that is socially not ac ceptable and apparently negative is yet actually positive because it oper ates to satisfy the desires of the re cipient. These propositions and illus trations of them arc to be considered in the following paragraphs, the inten tion being to provide basic under- standings and specific applications of positive behavior.

ILLUSTRATIONS OF POSITIVE BEHAVIOR

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Actions that can be classified under the following headings are custom arily called positive: showing interest, agreeing, making balanced criticisms, approving, showing affection, co-oper ating, protecting, praising, under standing, and forgiving.1 All these are alike in one respect: they take into account the other fellow’s wants and enhance his realization of them. Let us examine a few illustrations to clari fy this point. Four high-school Seniors were be ginning to discuss the Junior play after the first performance. John said, “They were very amateurish and corny, don’t you think?” The re sponses were as follows: Evelyn: They sure were!

Jim: I don’t think so. I think they were O.K. John (to Jim): Whaddayuh mean, O.K.! Helen: They were amateurish, all right; but maybe they’ll be better tomorrow night. Come to think of it, we were pretty awful last year oureelves. Joiin: Oh, I guess we weren’t so hot either. They did all right for their first crack at it. This conversation contained three typical responses to John’s first nega tive remark: Evelyn’s, a positive one; Jim’s, clearly negative; and Helen’s, a balanced criticism. The positive re sponse gave the speaker agreement and had the force of saying, “I stand  with you; your opinion fits in; you be long.” Hence it satisfied John’s desire to be accepted.* The negative response gave him disagreement and had the force of saying, “You stand alone; I do not accept your opinion (which in this instance stands for you); hence I reject you.” This response did not fulfil John’s desire for acceptance. In effect, it did just the reverse, and he involuntarily responded to it with an other negative comment that implied rejection toward Jim. Helen’s answer contained agree ment and also additional truth; it is a balanced criticism and helped John to modify his opinion. In effect, Helen’s comment says, “I accept your opin- ion; hence I accept you; and I add this point of view to complete the pic ture.” John’s desire for acceptance was satisfied, and he immediately was able to return acceptance to Helen’s additional point of view. Then he re vised his previously expressed criti cism by saying that, although the Juniors were amateurish, they did pretty well, considering. When Under Secretary of War Pat terson recently visited the technical training center at Willow Run, the supervisor of training classes said to him, within the hearing of a certain instructor, “I’d like to have you see what’s going on here, General.” The instructor was then introduced to the official from Washington and, when the latter asked, “What does go on here?” the supervisor turned to the in structor and said, “You tell him about it.” Mr. Patterson spent the next half hour keenly interested in everything the instructor had to say. The entire incident appealed to the instructor’s desire to excel, though he may not have been aware of the fact. The su pervisor implicitly praised him by leading a distinguished person to his department; this was as much as to say, “I think this man is doing out standing work.”

Giving him an intro duction to the Under Secretary of War was gratifying; then telling him to do the explaining provided him with an other opportunity to assert himself in a field in which he excelled. The Gen eral, in showing interest and remain ing so long, was positive also because his action, like that of the supervisor, satisfied the instructor’s desire to ex cel. The effect of these satisfactions was to intensify the instructor’s inter est in self-attainment through greater service for the men who had approved of him. Positive behavior thus takes into account the other fellow’s desires and enhances his realization of them. Be coming sensitive to other people’s wants and gaining ability to respond positively to them are, however, far more difficult than listing illustrations in an article. Indeed, this is the life long task in human relations, for which an attitude of affection or un selfishness must be laid down as the foundation. Many persons do not possess either this attitude or the tech niques of positive behavior as uncon scious habit patterns. Though it is possible to develop these patterns even after maturity is reached, it takes time and constant, conscious effort. Ideally these things are learned in in fancy from parents, brothers, and sisters and are then developed further through education.

EFFECTIVENESS OF POSITIVE BEHAVIOR

When education everywhere recog nizes the importance of human rela tions, more people will be familiar not only with the positive techniques that make for happiness but also with the reasons why they do. Why is it that sarcasm, faultfinding, and negation tend to stimulate people to inappro priate responses and that understand ing, approval, agreement, balanced criticism, etc., stimulate people to socially appropriate responses? In the past we have rested with such ex planations as “Give a dog a bad name, and he’ll live up to it,” but this and similar sayings arc not explana tions at all. Positive stimulation is effective in influencing the respondent’s behavior because it either helps him to continue in, or improve upon, present activities or releases him from activities not sought by the stimulator. By referring to the first illustration given above, we can readily see that, when John’s desires were satisfied, he did not re assert his faultfinding opinion about the players. He may have been a little jealous of the Junior play cast; per haps he felt inferior about his own ability in comparison with theirs; or several factors may have motivated his destructive criticism. When his criticism was accepted by Helen, he was able to think more clearly and take other factors into account. He then became positive. Helen’s positive behavior stimulated him to a positive response because it released him from whatever his primary desires were and enabled him to consider Helen’s desire, namely, to evaluate the performance in terms of the play ers’ inexperience.

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On the other hand, when Jim dis agreed with John, the latter reasserted himself negatively with an intimidat ing remark: “Whaddayuh mean, O.K!” This was another effort to obtain agreement, though it was not an effort that could succeed, for cow ing and intimidating are not effective in securing appropriate responses. Jim’s negative response did not satisfy John’s desires but rather thwarted them and served to stimulate John to make another negative statement, namely, the intimidating one. We can see this process repeated in life everywhere around us. One person suggests something; another ridicules him or disagrees; the first person’s wants arc thwarted, and he repeats his suggestion with more force; the other person opposes it more forcefully; the first person is accordingly still more thwarted in his desire and states his case with still greater insistence; and so on, un til a serious argument ensues, friend ship is broken, or enemies are made. The vicious cycle thus outlined is common to all walks of life, yet it would not take place if both were not party to it. If one were positive and helped the other to shift his interest from self to something or someone else, this vicious cycle would not de velop. Here we see the reciprocal nature of human relations. In studying John’s behavior, we are dealing with an illustration in which a negative, antisocial act is responded to by acceptance. His com ment about the players was not the kind that on its face value merited approval or acceptance. Neverthe less, disapproval intensified his criti cal attitude, while acceptance helped him to alter his conduct from nega tive to positive.

The other illustration, that of the men at the training center, is somewhat different because it did not involve acceptance of any anti social act. In this illustration positive behavior stimulated a person to con tinue or improve behavior that was acceptable. Under Secretary of War Patterson and the supervisor fulfilled the instructor’s desire to be impor tant or to excel and stimulated him to further effort along lines of service. Positive conduct was effective in this case because it recognized the in structor’s desire to do superior work and intensified his efforts in the same direction. In situations that involve anti social conduct, whether by speaking or by doing evil, acceptance of the anti social activity may lead to its con tinuation. Such would be the case, for example, if one were to agree with a person who is destroying another’s reputation or if one were to approve of criminal actions. The approval would be positive insofar as it tended to satisfy the wants of the antisocial person, but the approval itself would also be antisocial. Here is the one exception in which positive behavior is socially detrimental and in which negative behavior—disapproval, dis agreement, rejection—is definitely in dicated. Positive behavior, then, is that which recognizes the wants of another person and tends to satisfy them. It is effective in human relations be- cause it either helps the person to continue in, or to improve on, present activities or releases him from purely personal desires. We shall see how complex the practice of positive tech niques may become. niques of positive behavior as uncon scious habit patterns. Though it is possible to develop these patterns even after maturity is reached, it takes time and constant, conscious effort. Ideally these things are learned in in fancy from parents, brothers, and sisters and are then developed further through education.

EFFECTIVENESS OF POSITIVE BEHAVIOR

When education everywhere recog nizes the importance of human rela tions, more people will be familiar not only with the positive techniques that make for happiness but also with the reasons why they do. Why is it that sarcasm, faultfinding, and negation tend to stimulate people to inappro priate responses and that understand ing, approval, agreement, balanced criticism, etc., stimulate people to socially appropriate responses? In the past we have rested with such ex planations as “Give a dog a bad name, and he’ll live up to it,” but this and similar sayings arc not explana tions at all. Positive stimulation is effective in influencing the respondent’s behavior because it either helps him to continue in, or improve upon, present activities or releases him from activities not sought by the stimulator. By referring to the first illustration given above, we can readily see that, when John’s desires were satisfied, he did not re assert his faultfinding opinion about the players. He may have been a little jealous of the Junior play cast; per haps he felt inferior about his own ability in comparison with theirs; or several factors may have motivated his destructive criticism. When his criticism was accepted by Helen, he was able to think more clearly and take other factors into account. He then became positive. Helen’s positive behavior stimulated him to a positive response because it released him from whatever his primary desires were and enabled him to consider Helen’s desire, namely, to evaluate the performance in terms of the play ers’ inexperience.

On the other hand, when Jim dis agreed with John, the latter reasserted himself negatively with an intimidat ing remark: “Whaddayuh mean, O.K!” This was another effort to obtain agreement, though it was not an effort that could succeed, for cow ing and intimidating are not effective in securing appropriate responses. Jim’s negative response did not satisfy John’s desires but rather thwarted them and served to stimulate John to make another negative statement, namely, the intimidating one. We can see this process repeated in life everywhere around us. One person suggests something; another ridicules him or disagrees; the first person’s wants arc thwarted, and he repeats his suggestion with more force; the other person opposes it more forcefully; the first person is accordingly still more thwarted in his desire and states his case with still greater insistence; and so on, un til a serious argument ensues, friend ship is broken, or enemies are made. The vicious cycle thus outlined is common to all walks of life, yet it would not take place if both were not party to it. If one were positive and helped the other to shift his interest from self to something or someone else, this vicious cycle would not de velop. Here we see the reciprocal nature of human relations. In studying John’s behavior, we are dealing with an illustration in which a negative, antisocial act is responded to by acceptance. His com ment about the players was not the kind that on its face value merited approval or acceptance. Neverthe less, disapproval intensified his criti cal attitude, while acceptance helped him to alter his conduct from nega tive to positive. The other illustration, that of the men at the training center, is somewhat different because it did not involve acceptance of any anti social act. In this illustration positive behavior stimulated a person to con tinue or improve behavior that was acceptable. Under Secretary of War Patterson and the supervisor fulfilled the instructor’s desire to be impor tant or to excel and stimulated him to further effort along lines of service. Positive conduct was effective in this case because it recognized the in structor’s desire to do superior work and intensified his efforts in the same direction. In situations that involve anti social conduct, whether by speaking or by doing evil, acceptance of the anti social activity may lead to its con tinuation.

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Such would be the case, for example, if one were to agree with a person who is destroying another’s reputation or if one were to approve of criminal actions. The approval would be positive insofar as it tended to satisfy the wants of the antisocial person, but the approval itself would also be antisocial. Here is the one exception in which positive behavior is socially detrimental and in which negative behavior—disapproval, dis agreement, rejection—is definitely in dicated. Positive behavior, then, is that which recognizes the wants of another person and tends to satisfy them. It is effective in human relations be- cause it either helps the person to continue in, or to improve on, present activities or releases him from purely personal desires. We shall see how complex the practice of positive tech niques may become. wants and enables him to shift to more socially appropriate behavior, its stim ulus value could be positive. The second exception involves an irate customer or client in the act of abusing an executive. More often than not, an attitude of acceptance and quiet listening (both, obviously, positive reactions) will be effective. After a few minutes of abuse the angry one becomes more self-con tained; his desire to punish the ex ecutive wanes; and he can begin to reason. There arc instances, however, when the irate person only becomes more irate as the manager against whom he is leveling his hostility con tinues to control himself and listens with an attitude of acceptance.

A high-school principal once en countered such a person and noticed that, instead of helping the parent get things off his chest, he was actually making the parent more disturbed. He then reversed his technique and for a brief moment put on a scene, made a few caustic remarks, and, to all appearances, lost control of his temper, too. The parent was sur prised; he stood wide-eyed, open mouthed, staring at the principal. Then, at the first opportunity, he seized on an overstatement of the principal, and the following conversation took place. Then the principal went on to admit that he had lost his temper; it was easy after that to be positive in re sponse and to admit the same error. The next thought was a constructive one, back to the problem: “I want that kid of mine to graduate, and I don’t know what to do with him.” The apparently negative behavior of the principal had a positive stimu lus value for the parent because it gave him a bit of punishment, which he unconsciously craved in return for his own conduct, and it also removed his feeling of inferiority in relation to one who had been perfectly self-con trollcd. Before this man could begin to think constructively about his problem, he needed the punishment as well as a common ground for dis cussion. In supplying these needs, the principal was really positive, al though his actions seemed to be the reverse.

As a matter of fact, all his previous conduct—listening, practic ing self-control, and showing a will ingness to hear the man’s story—was negative in its effect, for it heightened the man’s frustrations. None of the parent’s wants was being fulfilled un til the principal became angry. Posi tive behavior is thus positive in terms of its stimulus value for the recipient, and there are occasions when appar ently negative and antisocial conduct is positive. Also listed among the difficulties met when positive techniques arc used is the apparently negative in fluence that such techniques have on children who take them as unwelcome solicitations for their friendship. In stead of responding in like manner to friendliness and courtesy, they dis regard or actually the kindness extended to them. From previous discussion it will be evident that positive behavior is not satisfying to these pupils. They have no desire to develop a friendship with the teacher. Therefore they do not respond with positive reactions. They want to be left alone. In these instances, again, behavior that seems to be negative has a positive value, while behavior that appears to be positive has a negative value for the recipient. Frequently children who are left to themselves eventually make overtures of friend ship to those who leave them alone. Then for the teacher to respond in like manner would be positive in its stimulus value as well as in its obvious content.CONCLUSION It may be felt that undue emphasis has been given to wishy-washy con- duct—agreeing, approving, helping, understanding, forgiving, and so forth—and that positive behavior as outlined here, if logically carried to its conclusion (excepting positive stimulation in antisocial instances), would lead to a “door-mat society” in which everyone fawned on everyone else.

Although there seems to the writer little indication that such a difficulty would rise to catastrophic dimensions in Western civilization, it will be admitted that each person has  the duty of developing his own abili ties to their utmost in the direction of service and that pursuing this duty will involve frequent compromise be tween consideration for others and consideration for one’s own desires. This is a problem unique for each in dividual, to be worked out in the area somewhere between total selfishness and total self-abnegation. We cannot say (for our society has not tried it on a big scale or over any considerable length of time) that a consistent pattern of positive be havior would interfere with self development. Certain kinds of com petition might be modified—competi tion for material gain, perhaps. This type of competition might then con ceivably be replaced by competition for service—a basic cultural aim in which positive conduct would have more congenial soil. Even so, every individual would have to choose at times whether to pursue his own de sires or to deny them in favor of another’s. Life will never relieve us from making choices.

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Positive Behavior: Definition and Illustrations Essay
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DEFINITION

Behavior that tends to satisfy the desires of the respondent is posi tive behavior. It will become apparent that by this definition some positive behavior may lead to antisocial (so called “negative”) responses and hence is not recommended. Further more, some behavior that is itself socially acceptable and apparently positive is not, by this definition, actually positive because it docs not te

2017-10-17 07:57:23
Positive Behavior: Definition and Illustrations Essay
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