“Keep Your Feet on the Grass”: a Reminder about the Power of Positive Reinforcement


Those of you who have been reading this Wow for awhile know about my beloved dog, Seymour.

Up until this spring, one thing Seymour could always be counted on to do was to stay in the yard: no fence necessary.

This spring, however, Seymour appears to be exercising the rights of a 9-year-old dog and—among other liberties—has decided he’s perfectly qualified to cross the road by himself.

This does not work for me.

Enter, the dog trainer.

Her point to me was that animals simply don’t take in “No.” So, rather than admonishing Seymour for his walkabouts by saying, “Don’t go out in the road!” I was to say “I love the way you’re keeping your feet on the grass.”

While this seemed insane to me, I firmly believe that if you’ve bothered to ask for advice—not to mention pay for it–  you should take it.

Guess what? It worked.

With this in mind, as I sat across from a client with a tendency to flop around in his seat like a fish on a line, I was inspired to say to him, “It looks great when you sit up and forward in your chair.”

Guess what? It worked.

Now, those of you in the midst of coping with toddlers are probably thinking “Duh…” but for those of us who have left those years behind us, a reminder of the value of positive reinforcement may not be amiss.

Because the fact remains that we all love the feeling of having met—not to mention exceeded—others’ expectations; and few of us are likely to be turned on by being admonished/shamed/blamed.

So the next time you are inclined to say open with “Don’t”, “No,” “Stop”….I would ask you to flip it: to think of a way to remind others’ to keep their figurative feet on the grass.

Frances Cole Jones