Or Else?

“Or else?” feels like a really critical question when we’re trying to enlist people in the thing we care about. And, critically, it feels like the more the answer to “or else?” is something punitive the less effective it will be.

“Or else I’m taking your phone away” doesn’t move a teenager toward taking responsibility.

“Or else you’ll be charged more” might turn your consequence for bad behavior into a fee people willingly pay for the freedom to misbehave.

“Or else we will shame you” (nobody actually puts it like this) only reinforces the resentment preventing people from doing what you’re asking them to do in the first place.

What happens what the answer to “Or else” is that you’ll miss out on something positive and constructive and beneficial? Here, words don’t work as well as actions, and those actions probably have to me multiplied by lots of people to have an effect. We can be conscripted by the positive examples of peers.

“Or else?” must give people a clear choice, and the choice we want them to make has to speak to something they value, rather than something they fear.

One thought on “Or Else?

  1. This made me smile even before I started reading, Rocky. My dad used to hear a lot of “or elses” — probably a side effect of teaching high school. When it came up after his retirement, when he liked to save good words to talk about with me, we would laugh often about “or else.” “What does ‘else; mean, anyway?” one or the other of us would say. Ahhh — just as I typed that, “somebody else” got mentioned on the radio! Maybe that’s an investigation for my blog sometime… thanks for the weekday inspiration!

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