sometimes encouraging others fails to change their behavior. Be careful on your journey to discourage behavior, there are ways to do it in an implicit manner.

How to Dissuade, When Encouragement Fails

Your attempts to change behavior through methods of encouragement will sometimes fail. Those around us can have a difficult time understanding why a certain course of action is beneficial to their cause. Smokers know that cigarettes will be a likely catalyst to their early death, and people who don’t exercise tend to know the benefits of physical exercise well. There’ll be times when no matter how much you try to teach others of the benefits involved in taking certain actions, they just won’t want to listen.

The driving forces of their lack of understanding run deep and detailed. Explaining all these details may fit inside a textbook but is definitely out of scope for an article such as this. This article though, aims to show you pathways of dissuading rather than persuading. When persuasion fails, you’ll see openings to change behavior though means of eliciting fear, feelings of danger, and undesirable effects. You will want to scare cigarette smokers as well as those who do not exercise in hopes of changing their behavior for the better. Do not take this advice to be malicious to whomever you choose to implement it on. Fear is a powerful motivator for positive change, but its utilization should be careful and precise.


If They Don’t Yet Fear, Give Birth to Fear by Educating


In-depth knowledge of what is dangerous gives birth to educated fear. The knowledge of how we affect our bodies when we choose to not exercise is scarier the further we investigate. Detailed explanations of how building muscle encourages fat-burning, and how heart disease is drastically decreased by way of regular exercise will provide context for fear to grow. When trying to dissuade others from behavior which is undesirable to their well-being, provide information which garners fear. Do not tell them what to fear, only present information which gives birth to this fear within yourself.


For example:

Let’s suppose you want discourage your teenage son from purchasing a motorcycle. If safety is your concern, then try not to label it as your own opinion. Note the things which make you fear getting a motorcycle for yourself. For this example let’s say these things are:

  1. Other drivers’ rate error
  2. Motorcycle accidents being more damaging than those of cars

At this point, these are merely your opinions until you find facts to back them up. Search up the instances of other drivers being at fault for motorcycle accidents, and the death-rate of those who find themselves in motorcycle accidents vs. car accidents.

Present your findings to your son in an un-opinionated, unbiased manner. Your best bet to dissuade is not to show emotion, but to show concrete evidence for the basis of your fear. If it is enough to birth fear within yourself, then you should trust this information to birth fear in others.


Using negative reinforcement to change behavior should always be implicit in its execution. Do not punish, and do not scold. Focus on re-creating your own way of thinking about an issue in the mind of another. Tap into what you fear about smoking, what you fear about missing a workout, and anything else you’re aiming to dissuade others from doing. This exercise requires for you to be honest with yourself, and to dig deep for evidence rather than simply state your position on the matter.

This method is powerful because it serves to treat people as intelligent beings, not by telling them what to do, but by educating them on what to fear. You can only hope the fears which you instill serve to change behaviors in those you talk to, so make sure to tap into what scares you to the core. Know the logical steps which give birth to fear and feelings of danger, should selling people on the benefits fails to work. Educating them is the first step in this process, with a focus on their behavior being next.


Connect How Their Behavior Contributes to Birthing What They Fear


Once you’ve effectively presented the information needed to give rise to fear in the people whose behavior you want to change, it now comes time to connect the dots. Instilling fear is not enough to change behavior and it’s always better to control this process all the way to the finish line. The fear which is now present in their minds needs to be connected to the behaviors you want to change. Coupling knowledge with behavior means mapping out exactly what they do and explaining why it relates to the information you presented prior. There is a tendency for people to not believe that statistics apply to them. Smokers know cigarettes kill a vast majority, but every smoker hopes they are the anomaly who lives until a ripe old age.

Your job in changing their behavior is to show them that painful information about their behavior directly applies to them. If they commit a certain act, they must be sure what they fear is likely to take place. If you do not eliminate all excuses for why someone is immune to facts, then they will find any hole to squeeze through and believe. It is a must to assure them that what they fear will not discriminate against them. This is an important last step when attempting to change behavior through dissuasive measures.

Book Recommendation: 

The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations

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