Man will become better

This is the simplest technique I know to help people grow. It works. Every time.

Sport coaches use it. All the time. They capture behaviors in video. They take pictures. They replay, again and again – to understand, and to improve. Public figures also do this often to rehearse speech, but rarely for much more than these perceived high-stakes moments, but much less for everyday skills acquisition. And I do not see this done in a lot of other domains.

I have been using this principle in three domains:

  • Parenting my daughters without all the fighting
  • Coaching client executives or staff with less words
  • Turning around crises within or between teams or organizations with less efforts

In all cases, the purpose is the same: help them become aware of detrimental, unproductive behaviors, to get rid of them.
In all cases, the technique is the same:

  1. capture a behavior in pictures, voice or video recording (if you can totally impromptu the first time, but it does not change much in the long run)
  2. give it them and ask them to look, listen or watch
  3. observe the result, the magic at work, while seeping your favorite drink

Well, it is not new. Checkhov shared it in a letter written in 1900:

Man will become better when you show him what he is like.
— Anton Checkhov

And Chekhov is right. Every time. When people see how they act; when they suddenly become conscious of what they do, how they are perceived, they change, miraculously fast.

Have you ever used this principle, for yourself or other? If yes What was your experience?

Man will become better when you show him what he is like

Man will become better when you show him what he is like.

Here is the complete passage from Checkhov’s letter, should you want to understand his own focus at the time: 

I will be reproved for writing only about mediocre events, for not having any positive heroes…
We are leading a provincial life, the streets of our city are not even paved, our villages are poor, and our people are worn out. In our youth, we twitter like a bunch of sparrows on a pile of manure. At forty we are already old and starting to think about death. What sort of heroes are we?…
I only wanted to tell people honestly: look, look how badly you live, how boring your lives are. The important thing is that people should understand this, if they do understand this, they will certainly invent a different and a far better life. Man will become better only once we have shown him as he really is.
— Anton Checkhov

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *