Since today is my 1st wedding anniversary, I thought this recent wedding behavior meme (see below) would be a perfect inspiration for a blog post!
What this image slyly and light-heartedly implies is that, let’s be honest, when you are planning a wedding it sometimes feels like our closest family and friends seem to be conspiring to send us bat-S@#$-crazy down the aisle.
As the bride, you start assuming motivation left and right. And frankly with everything you are dealing with, the motivations you conjure up in your head, are not great ones.
One year later, as I think back, I am reminded of one of the most important things that behavior analysis has taught me: Behavior is rational.
Once I really understood this statement, it really influenced my ability to have and show empathy in a new way.
At the time of my wedding, empathy wasn’t exactly at the top of my priority list but today, what I can confidently say is…
My family is not just “crazy!” There is a reason they do the things they do and a rational one at that.
So what does this phrase mean? Behavior is rational.
It means that in the context in which it occurs (given the antecedents and consequences for it) the behavior makes rational sense. The behavior will result in a consequence that influences the future probability of the behavior. So if it’s worked before, chances are really good that the person will engage in the behavior again. Good, bad or ugly, behaviors occur because the environment created them.
To make this point more salient, I’ve elicited the help of a colleague who is currently planning her own wedding and she provided me with an excellent example.
For her, one of the more eccentric things she is currently facing is scheduled conference calls with her mother. Agenda, calendar invite and all. In my colleague’s words, “she treating my wedding like work.”
The best way to understand a behavior is to do an ABC Analysis, so let’s start there.
Remember that when we conduct an ABC analysis we want to understand this behavior through the eyes of the person performing it. Therefore, we take the perspective of the person engaging in the behavior. In this case, it’s my colleague’s mother.
SIDEBAR: It doesn’t really matter what WE think of the consequences when conducting an ABC analysis. What matters is what the person engaging in the behavior thinks. How does it affect them? For example, perhaps you have a colleague that is constantly late for a morning meeting. It bugs you like no other but nobody ever says anything to them and the person doesn’t seem to be bothered by it. It would not then be appropriate to include “it’s annoying” in the consequence section of an ABC analysis because it’s annoying to YOU but not to them. As much as you hate it and think it SHOULD be one, it is not a discouraging consequence for the person’s late behavior.
What I really love about the meme referenced here is that it (if actually used) could serve as a great new antecedent to try and prompt different wedding guest behavior.
Imagine if you received this? You might be thinking, “That’s adorable and now I know what things might drive them batty so I’ll try to steer clear of making unnecessary dinner requests.”
It treats this typically difficult situation it in a funny way that actually might make people think twice.
However, this is a good example of how antecedents alone are not going to get the job done. Just because our boss sends us an email reminding us that XYZ report is due on Friday (Antecedent), does not mean it will get done. If we have a history of being recognized for on-time and high quality work (Consequence), THAT is more likely to get us to have our reports in on time in the future, with or without the email reminder.
In the case of weddings, these particular behaviors come with a whole slew of sensitivities. So, quite frankly, establishing new consequences may be too time consuming (planning a wedding here after all!) and walk a fine line of back-firing. Therefore relying on these kinds of well-executed and light-hearted antecedents seems like a fun and appropriate solve.
The moral of the story is, in the end, this happened....
...and THAT is what I will remember today and forever.