Appealing to Self-Interest

Note: This posting is based on my weekly “Thank God It’s Monday” that helps you and your company thrive!

This week’s focus: appealing to self-interest

Recently a high school in California faced an usual problem: The girls had started kissing the mirror in the restroom, leaving hard-to-remove imprints. Joe, the dedicated janitor, appealed to the principal for help. The principal immediately announced that the mirror kissing must stop…or else.

The kissing increased. Girls who had not really considered kissing a mirror suddenly saw the appeal. At the end of his scholarly rope, the principal called in a consultant, who brought sage advice to the situation—as we always do.

The consultant suggested that the principal meet with the president of each class in the girls’ restroom to discuss the situation. Initially the principal asked for both their empathy and cooperation in addressing the problem. Then he announced, “I think that once you understand how difficult the girls are making Joe’s job, you’ll use your influence to convince your classmates to stop kissing the mirror.”

To demonstrate the arduous task of cleaning the mirror. Joe took a toilet brush, dipped it in the toilet, and then scrubbed the mirror. That was the last time he ever had to clean the mirror.

Too often we try to effect behavior change by presenting our wants and needs while simultaneously ignoring those of others.

Consultants know better. People change—when they do change—for their reasons, not ours. If we pinpoint their motivations and fears, we take significant strides in the direction of our goals.

When we don’t, we end up with toilet water on our kissers.

Note: This guest post comes courtesy of my good friend and colleague, Linda Henman, Henman Performance Group.

Thought for the week:

“Worrying is like praying for the things you don’t want.” – Source unknown


What do you think? I welcome your blog comments!


Dave Gardner, Gardner & Associates Consulting

© 2013 Gardner & Associates Consulting  All Rights Reserved

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One Response to Appealing to Self-Interest

  1. Just posted this to LinkedIn, Dave…really great example of how “toilet humor” can hammer home a lesson on effecting lasting change. Brilliant!


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