Here’s a great and entertaining TED video by behavioural economist Dan Ariely.

Though his talk is about motivation in the context of workplace relationships, his points are just as applicable for our personal relationships. Fact is, it doesn’t matter whether it’s about workplace or personal relationships, it’s about relationships. If it works in relationships, it’ll work at home as well as at work.

According to Dan, what motivates us isn’t concrete reward or happiness. It’s seeing the contribution of our efforts and experiencing meaning.

In my view, happiness is what comes as a result of seeing our contribution and experiencing meaning.

Particularly of note are his findings:

  • How easy it is to crush joy by shredding or ignoring people’s efforts
  • Ignoring the contribution and efforts of people is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of them

On the up side:

  • Even small meaning makes a difference
  • Simple acknowledgement makes a significant difference to someone’s motivation

Seeing progress is a matter of skill, and experiencing meaning is a matter of what matters. We make the best progress when our efforts utilise our talents, and experience the most meaning when we’re most connected with what’s important. Both are significant aspects of whatever we direct our attention towards and do. Both are affected by how we acknowledge that in others.

Moreover, I find that the more absent the experience of what matters is from their efforts, the more unhappy those we’re in relationship with become and the more they tend to focus on the physical side what they can control, such as what, where and when.

Acknowledgement is often a factor that matters. When we acknowledge someone’s efforts, we help them see their contribution.

So when thinking about those you’re in relationship with and how your actions may influence their motivation:

  1. Remember that it’s not just about the physical things, as the intangibles also matter
  2. Identify how you might be shredding or ignoring their efforts and contributions
  3. Remember how simple, genuine acknowledgement makes a difference

In relationships, the meaning people give to your actions is often more important than the actions themselves.

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