*By Clifford N. Lazarus / Source: **Psychology Today<http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/think-well/201109/are-you-teaching-people-treat-you-badly>*
Sally's husband was often abusive. One morning, over breakfast, Hank began
yelling at her because she was on the phone instead of keeping him company.
Later, after Hank went to work, Sally picked up his shirts from the laundry,
ran some other errands for him, and decided to cook his favorite dish for
dinner. Do you think Sally did the right thing?
Sally, alas, believed that if she could only create an ideal loving home
atmosphere, her husband's abusiveness would stop. Unfortunately, she was in
fact rewarding her husband's negative behavior. In response to his
outbursts, Hank found his chores done for him and he was served his favorite
dinner. Why would he change his treatment of his wife when she responds so
The events that follow an action will weaken or strengthen the likelihood it
will occur again. In behavioral psychology, this is called the "Law of
Effect" and states that behavior varies as a function of its consequences.
Hence, if Sally is nice to Hank when he treats her badly, she is teaching
him to continue being abusive. By putting up with Hank's abusive behavior,
Sally gives him the message that it's okay to treat her that way. If she
showed him instead that she was willing to be especially kind and helpful
only when he was considerate and loving, a positive pattern would be more
likely to develop.
Similarly, Tommy believed that kindness would overcome unkindness. He sent
flowers to his wife whenever she flared up at him, hoping this gesture would
put her in a good mood. Instead, it only encouraged her to flare up at him
even more. If Tommy understood the psychological Law of Effect, he would not
repay his wife's unkindness with kindness but with a firm, assertive
response that clearly expressed his unhappiness.
Keep in mind:The meek shall inherit the earth because the aggressive people
of the world will trample their face into it! Despite the Biblical decree,
if you always turn the other cheek all you'll end up with is a completely
*To encourage positive and discourage offensive behavior:*
- Do not reward behaviors in others that you wish to eliminate.
- Follow actor Alan Alda's advice: "Be fair with others, but then keep
after them until they're fair with you."
- Learn to speak up assertively.
- Do not reward unkind behavior from others.
- If someone treats you badly, say so - do not smile and pretend it's
- Remember: Think well, act well, feel well, be well!
Edited by: Lawyer Asad