In Mandt we talk about using our RADAR to be aware of what is going on around us. The first R in our RADAR stands for Recognize. We are to be using our RADAR to be aware of other people’s actions and the environment. While this sounds like an extremely simple, basic concept, we frequently make many mistakes at this initial stage.
What types of things do most teachers, parents, staff, and managers pay attention to? They are usually looking for negative behavior. We do this for a variety of reasons. Often, we are looking for the ‘bad behavior’ in an attempt to try to stop it before it goes too far. By looking for ‘bad behavior’, however, what we are doing is turning our RADAR on and tuning it to only look for ‘bad behavior.’ When we do this, by definition, we are not going to notice appropriate behaviors, because we are not looking for them. Appropriate behavior will fly below our RADAR.
In other settings, think about the types of paperwork or documentation staff are required to complete. How many forms do we have for documenting ‘bad behavior”? At the same time, how many forms do we have for documenting appropriate behavior? When we require staff to document every little negative thing that occurs, we are telling staff to tune their RADAR to the ‘bad behavior’ setting. How many studies show that attention of any sort is better than no attention? Even negative attention can serve as a reinforcer to ‘bad behavior.’ So, it almost seems as if our systems are designed to teach people how to behave negatively, even though we talk about helping people learn new, more appropriate behaviors.
We can teach and role model reinforcing positive behaviors for as long as we want. As long as our systems focus staff RADAR by requiring them to look for and document all inappropriate behavior, however, that is what our staff will primarily see- inappropriate behaviors. Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating for additional paperwork where staff are required to document appropriate behavior. Staff are already overloaded with paperwork. We all need to practice having our RADAR set for all things, not only for the negative.
Try this little experiment, the next time you are around your husband/wife/significant other/child/best friend pay special attention to everything they do well. Maybe they did a great job of getting the kids ready for bed or taking care of the animals. Maybe they helped you get ready for the next day. If you turn on your RADAR and tune it to look only for good things, which implies that you are not paying attention to any ‘bad behavior’, how will your time with that person be? It should feel great!
I’m not suggesting that everyone focus their RADAR on only positive things while at home or work all the time. By occasionally practicing looking for the positive that should help us see how much we have been missing. The goal is to be able to have our RADAR on full and be aware of everything that is going on around us. This takes time and practice!
Dr Dale Shannon – Director of Instructional Design & National Faculty