Friday, June 05, 2009

How to motivate people

First of all, a disclaimer. If I really know how to motivate people, this will really be my ticket to financial freedom. To motivate someone, you really need to understand both the science and the art. I've been doing this for 6 years, with varying results. Still trying... Broadly, to motivate people you have to maximise their pleasure and minimise their pain. I'll try to include accompanying examples.

Where applicable, I'll use a common example to illustrate the finer points. The example is this scenario where you are bringing your kid to the toy store. But the kid wants to buy a particular toy which you are not so interested in purchasing.

1. Threat of punishment

It's the classic "If you do this, I will do this" kind of motivation, though the "do" part is more like a disincentive to do certain things. I've always seen parents who said this. It's more a perceived punishment rather than actual punishment. But if the promise of punishment is not carried out, then the threat gets weaker over time.

Example 1: "If you are still so naughty, I'll will make sure you'll get caned when we get back"

2. Lure of rewards

"If you do this, I will do ___" - that's the key point of this method. The "do" is followed by something positive and pleasant. The promise of reward is usually good enough to motivate someone, not the actual reward itself. If the reward is not carried out after the promise, the method gets weaker over time.

Example 1: "If you get 80% of his final year exams, I'll buy you the toy. Do you want to study hard for your exams?"

Example 2: "If you don't make a scene here, I'll bring you to eat ice cream. The weather is so hot, you do love a nice cool ice-cream don't you?"

3. Reduce disapproval

I find that women are better at using this. Humans need to seek approval from significant people in their life - either parents, partners, spouses, friends, classmates etc. By putting your criteria in which you disapprove people, you can put a disincentive for others not to act in a certain manner.

Example 1: "Look at the little boy there who is crying. He is so disobedient and don't listen to his mummy. I don't like kids like that. Are you going to be disobedient like the boy too?"

4. Maximise approval

Same as disapproval. You set your criteria for your approval, then you compare how someone is approved by you because he/she fulfilled the criteria.

Example: "See your brother sleeping in the pram. He's so nice and quiet. I love kids who are quiet and obedient, so please don't make me angry ok?"

5. Appeal to ego/pride/vanity

Self explanatory? A bit similar to approval but the motivation is clearly different. Ego/pride is more internal.

Example 1: "You are such a big kid now, still crying at this age? Look that uncle is laughing at you now"

Example 2: "You are such a big kid now. Big kids don't cry over toys. You don't want to cry over little things like toys right?"

Example 3: "If you cry more, then you will be ugly already. No more pretty face. You like to be pretty right?"

6. Fulfil basic needs

Basic needs of a living thing are the ability to reproduce, to eat, to excrete and to move about. Essentially, this is the need to survive (or the survival of one's genes). This is one of the most important yet primal motivator in anyone's life. Crude but it works very well. In modern times, the need to survive can be rested on one commodity - money. Thus, wanting to earn more money is classified by me as a primal need to survive.

This method is so effective. Just look at what people will do just to survive an earthquake or tsunami.

7. Satisfy curiosity

To discover the unknown, to find out 'what if'...these are motivated by the need to satisfy one's curiosity. It's the motivation that makes one read a book (to find out what happened) and perhaps to finish one whole drama HK drama series in one seating. I suppose scientist are quite motivated by this. It's quite hard to find people who are motivated by curiosity in Singapore, from my experience. It's a rare sight.


dream said...

why do you have to motivate people? Everyone should be self-motivated like you. Dutifully making your rounds every day to make sure Gotham city is safe. :)

Createwealth8888 said...

Many of you have undoubtedly seen the recent commercials from Leroy Smith, “the man who motivated Michael Jordan.”

In Gotham City, guess who is the man who motivated the Citizens of Gotham?

la papillion said...

Hi dream,

Well, I guess everyone needs a dose of motivation every day to keep them moving. By exploring the motivation that keeps you moving on, I think you can help them help themselves :)

la papillion said...


I read the link you sent me, haha :)

I've absolutely no answer to your question on who the man is that motivates the citzens of gotham. I know it's definitely not Batman :)

Admin said...

The most effective way I find is to trigger one's intrinsic desire in attaining the outcome and increase it until inaction becomes unbearable.

The key lies in the desire for the outcome itself, not the carrots to reward the achievement.

PanzerGrenadier said...


Different people respond to different types of motivation.

I like the phrase, "pressing his/her button" because each of us can be motivated (manipulated?) by the appropriate buttons that affect him/her.

For instance, I don't really bother too much if people want to get into a pissing contest with me about whose income/house/etc is bigger.

But I can get very upset by people who label me as lazy or careless when I've tried my utmost efforts.

Different strokes for different folks.

la papillion said...

Hi pG,

Actually wondered about the difference between motivation and manipulation. I realised that the difference lies in the intention. If you intend to gain personally, it's manipulation. If you intend to help the other person, it's motivation. However, sometimes, the distinction is not so clear :)

Btw, I'm quite similar to you in the sense that I can get pissed when I'm working hard and pple said that I'm not :)

Createwealth8888 said...

Why u guys get pissed off when people said that you aren't working hard unless the people who said that are your bosses?

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

I think for mine case, it has to do with something deep inside. I've always seen myself as someone who is willing to go the extra mile to achieve my goals - if that is questioned or criticised, it'll affect my own self esteem or self worth.

I believe everyone will have this pressure point that makes you who you are.

Createwealth8888 said...

People by human nature intends to be lazy. If we can pass the buck most of the time we will, and that is why we always try to automate, and hopefully have more time to laze around.

Don't give up, even lazy people can be motivated with the right approach. Let us know what approaches you have try out so far. Good luck and cheers!

Anonymous said...

I recently learnt about motivational DNA, which says that people get motivated by different ways just because every person is different! The DNA here stands for Desire, Needs, and Awards. This concept, I believe is described in detail in the book 'Get Motivated' by Tamara Lowe. Or you can perhaps google it to find more about it.

la papillion said...

Hi breakfreenow,

Thanks for the post :) I find it quite interesting :)