In my marketing days, I was taught to present the benefits of the product, service, or idea I represented. It may be effective in the short-term to utilize scare tactics, but for the sake of long-term success, it’s important to address genuine needs with real solutions.
And you’d be wise to explain why and how your solutions are the best.
So what does this have to do with teaching?
What does a marketing “value proposition” have to do with your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, or your kids, for that matter?
Marriage, Divorce, Connubial Chaos
In yesterday’s remarks on the whirlwind Kardashian Wedding-Divorce drama, I bemoan the lack of commitment that is reflected in popular culture. Likewise, I am concerned about our utter lack of skills when it comes to dealing with the realities of marriage.
Granted, we don’t know what we’re getting into – the first time, certainly – especially when we marry too fast, or if children enter the picture quickly.
But that doesn’t mean we have to throw up our hands and say “there’s no way to do better, there’s no way to teach this” when there’s always a way to improve our situations.
In the comments on the Kardashian post, Roller Coaster Rider, a midlife crisis marriage advocate, reminds us that we do have options that we could consider as a culture.
On commitment and considering one’s options, Roller Coaster Rider says:
Consideration implies more than thought, it is thought integrated with time and the amount of time for something to be given consideration varies with what is being considered.
She also suggests it should be harder to wed, and I agree. She suggests Marriage & Family classes, and again I agree. And she adds:
How do we as a society encourage certain behaviours without preaching and discourage certain behaviours without shaming?
And perhaps that’s the hardest challenge. It requires us to let go of judgment and control, allowing others to express differing approaches to gender roles and sexuality, while communicating the benefits of a common framework which nonetheless provides the room for individual and cultural variation.
In other words, if we teach that marriage must consider common values and issues of character – that principle doesn’t require that you adopt my values or beliefs; rather, it reminds you that your partner should share yours.
And the value of sharing values?
A higher probability of a quality relationship.
Teaching Teenagers Life Lessons
Might these same principles of value-based communication apply to our parenting?
When it comes to teaching responsibility and good judgment – especially with the terrible tweens and teens – how often do we resort to the carrot and the stick, or anything else that will help get through another aggravating day? Don’t we dangle the car keys in front of the 16-year old, or threaten to take them away if they don’t comply with household rules?
Don’t we take the same approach when talking about drugs and alcohol?
In a recent conversation with a friend who is a high school teacher, the subject of disciplining teens came up. We covered everything from mild missteps to serious infractions – issues of drugs, drinking, and underage or unprotected sex – as well as parents who blame the schools, and administrators who find themselves caught in the middle. We discussed inadequate explanations for the reasoning behind rules, and excessive punishments as well as those that are arguably too lax.
Whether you believe in “Just Say No” to these issues or not, the reality is – most kids experiment, and sometimes with dire consequences.
But rather than explain why alcohol, drugs, and unprotected sex are bad ideas – and with specifics that speak to the benefits of safe behavior – too often we say “no, because I said so” or “no, because those are the rules.” We don’t offer a clear and immediate picture of the value of complying with reasonable guidelines, and the consequences if they violate them.
Moreover, we fall into the trap of blaming and shaming, particularly in the sexual arena, which adds to the distortion of emotions associated with acceptable adult behaviors.
Finding the Value: Many Truths, No Carrots, No Threats
Whether it’s parenting our teenagers, teaching them about relationships, or parenting ourselves and reconfiguring our communication skills for our relationships – might we try some simple methods to improve on past and current performance?
If you want me to do something, won’t I respond more agreeably if you explain how it’s good for me? Won’t you do a better job of defining that benefit, it you try to imagine yourself in my shoes? If you understand that there are many truths and just as many ways to state them?
If we want our teenagers to behave differently, can’t we replay the tape of our own adolescence? Was “don’t do it because I said so” effective when our parents tried it? Can we reshape the message, acknowledge their feelings, and speak in terms they’ll understand?
- If we wish to encourage change in a relationship, shouldn’t we look to our own behavior?
- Aren’t our words and actions all we can control, without emotional manipulation or dirty tricks?
Shouldn’t we seek to go beyond symptoms, and dig for underlying reasons for falling into the silent treatment, turning cold when we don’t wish to be, or picking a fight over something irrelevant?
When I want to market a great idea (or behavior or product), then I communicate its value in a manner than earns and retains trust. If I’m true to my word and if changes are required, I will explain, discuss, negotiate and compromise – focusing again on the benefits of those changes.
If we want to encourage specific attitudes and behaviors, don’t we need to address their advantages? And don’t we need to model them?