Thursday, May 14, 2009

Half Empty or Half Full?

Whether by nature or nurture (a discussion that can be applied to many topics), it can be tempting to approach bird behavior by stating what we [do not] want to happen as opposed to stating what we [do] want to happen. Is the glass half-empty or half-full?

When speaking with folks who have identified a behavior in their bird that is undesirable to them, I will ask this question:

"What behavior would you prefer to see?"

It is a question that can take some by surprise, and often brings the response:
"Anything but... x-y-z!"

However, important benefits are derived from determining the answer!

1. The focus is on the positive - what we would prefer to see; and

2. The focus is on the solution - how the preferred behavior can be increased.

In other words:
A positive solution !

For example:
How can I get my bird to stop screaming, may become:

How can I train my bird to use a desirable vocalization when it wants my attention?

The ability to identify a desirable behavior (either an incompatible or an alternate behavior) is a key foundational tool to begin the process of becoming a behavior-changer. It initiates a change in our perspective.

Additionally, we must remember that behavior serves a function, and behaviors that continue, or increase, are being reinforced by something. While contemplating the behavior(s) we would prefer to see, it is useful to consider why the present behavior is working for the bird. Otherwise, we can inadvertently continue to reinforce the undesirable behavior in the midst of training an alternate behavior. An example of this would be continuing to yell 'quiet' (if this was reinforcing the screaming behavior) while at the same time attempting to train the bird to say 'hello' when it wanted our attention.

Time is a commodity that once expended, cannot be regained. Why not spend the 'time' on developing and implementing a solution!

A positive solution !

The glass is now half-full!



lmj said...

I find your blog fascinating. The topic of body language with birds is very interesting,and I have started to pay much more attention to my budgie's body language. I never realized before how much she is communicating to me through her body language,and I think she is happy that I finally took notice! Thanks for posting information on this subject,I would really like to learn more.

Robin said...

How exciting for you, lmj! It really is a whole new world! It reminds me of the first time I put my face in the water to snorkel in the Bahamas... I had no idea so much life and activity resided just beneath the surface! It sounds like you are already becoming an ardent student of your birds' body language! I'm so glad you stopped by!

Anonymous said...

Nice post again, Robin! Positive Solution...I love it! Focusing on what you want your bird TO DO is a much clearer way to communicate and gives your bird more information compared to what NOT TO DO. This works well with people, too! Paraphrasing Steve Martin, we should all try and take "don't" out of our vocabulary.

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