Give Someone a Compliment when you Stub your Toe

What’s your first reaction when you stub your toe? Do you yell? Do you scream? Do you blame someone?

Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University wrote a whole chapter on “long term effects of short term emotions in his latest book The Upside of Irrationality (affiliate link). The gist of it is that when we make decisions while in an emotional state, the emotions will pass but the decisions we make can stay with us and set our behavioural patterns for a long time.

Had a Bad Day at Work?

Imagine that you have a really bad day at work. Your boss dumps all of his problems on you, your co-workers leaves on vacation and you are responsible for picking up his mess and you spilled your coffee all over your desk. After your long commute home, you are greeted by your kids fighting with each other, as kids do. Your reaction is to yell at them and unintentionally, take out some of your frustrations. Although this is a common reaction, what you are doing is setting a behavioural pattern to scream at your kids if they are not behaving.

Had a Good Day at Work?

On the other hand, you may have a great day at work, you get that promotion that you’ve been working toward and to top it off, your favourite sports team just clinched a playoff spot. When you get home to find your kids fighting, you deal with them calmly and set the behavioural pattern of not yelling when your kids are misbehaving.

Blame Someone, Anyone!

When I was a kid and would fall down, people told me to “make bad” to the floor, which would cheer me up. As I grew up, whenever I got hurt, my immediate reaction was to blame someone, usually the closest person to me. I eventually caught my behaviour and worked hard to change the pattern but it wasn’t easy.

Rewards don’t Work Like That!

I had a similar experience with my study habits. I would reward myself for certain amounts of studying for school. Sometimes, I would reward myself a little early because I deserved it, which led to me expecting the reward earlier the next time and not being able to study properly without it.

Predictably Irrational

It’s irrational but it’s how we work. The upside is that if we are conscious about this and work at it, we can condition ourselves to be better people.

So the next time you stub your toe, give someone a compliment. You never know what it will do to your character down the line.

Pic Credit: Katerha