Insults Don’t Motivate

I once had a boss who thought it was OK to hurl insults at me across the room; shout out directives; curse and belittle. This was how he encouraged me. It didn’t work.

There are countless stories about Joe Jackson – dad of the famous Jackson 5 – which of course Joe-and-Michael-Jacksonincluded the infamous Michael Jackson. Joe, apparently, was a failed rhythm ‘n’ blues singer who worked as a machine operator and was determined to turn his sons into a successful pop group. He forced his children to rehearse to the point of exhaustion, and would whip them if they missed a step or note.

What motivates you? Is it gentle nudging?  Or do you need to be slapped around?

Brad Isaacs, owner of Persistence Unlimited shares this observation,

I have to wonder if a large segment of society responds better to abusive motivation than persuasive nudging. Maybe these people had domineering parents who kept them on their toes while they lived at home. But now they are out on their own, they have nobody to kick their butts.

In an article ‘Self-help books get the tough love treatment’, author Caitlin Carpenter says “Pointed and politically incorrect titles like “He’s Just Not That into You” and “Skinny Bitch” are burning up bestseller lists and inspiring copycats. Experts say their popularity reflects a demand from young, mainly female readers for in-your-face entertainment mixed with advice. While some say this new writing style may work where traditional prose or experts have failed, others question whether this trend degrades the reader and reflects poorly on our self-centered society.”

Imagine there’s even a judgmental app called Carrot Fit. This app motivates with a tough-love approach to transform your “flabby carcass,” according to the app’s introduction.

“You’re not going to get the butt you want by sitting on it,” the app says if you gain weight. Or, “Suck it up so one day you won’t have to suck it in.”

But the National Eating Disorders Association says the app is an example of body shaming.

“People who are criticized for their size often engage in dangerous dieting behaviors that put them more at risk for disordered eating and, ultimately, eating disorders,” said Lynn Grefe, president of NEDA, in a statement.

Of course, anyone who abuses or insults is usually defensive about their approach when confronted.

Take Fletcher, the sadistic music teacher in the movie ‘Whiplash’. A promising young drummer, Andrew Neiman, enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by musical instructor Terrence Fletcher, who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential. After much abuse, physical and verbal, Andrew is told that he is doesn’t have the chops to retain his position as the drummer in the orchestra and is asked by Fletcher to leave. With encouragement from his father and a school official, Andrew is encouraged to testify against Fletcher anonymously since one of his students actually committed suicide, which the school thought was related to Fletcher’s “unique style”, and Fletcher is terminated.

Months later Andrew runs into Fletcher in a jazz bar. And Fletcher explains his reasons behind his approach. “Truth is, I don’t think people understood what it was I was doing at Shafer. I wasn’t there to conduct. Any f%*&ing moron can wave his hands around to keep people in tempo. I was there to push people beyond what is expected of them. I believe that is an absolute necessity. Otherwise we are depriving the world of the next Louis Armstrong, the next Charlie Parker….”

And he is probably right. The only beef I had with him was his method for not depriving the world of another musical genius.

According to Kerry Patterson, co-author of Crucial Confrontations

Using power, threats, authority, and other forms of compulsion is easy and dangerous. At one point, all of us have been upset enough that we too have employed threats, insults, verbal attacks, or even physical abuse (perhaps when we were kids). The forms of abuse vary from actual physical abuse to hostile glances—but the message is the same: Do as I ask OR you’ll suffer in some way.

Why would some people routinely exert force? It’s what they know. They’ve tried several methods of encouraging and inspiring others, only to see their efforts fall short. So, they reach down into their bag of tricks and pull out their power. One’s authority and control over resources is ever so handy and so easy to use. You can threaten others with little more than formulating a sentence or two. You can put the fear into someone by merely staring at him or her intently with a look of disgust. You can shake your head, tighten your jaw, bark a harsh word, and the other person quickly complies—for fear of what you might do to them. That is, if you have power.

We have a beautiful saying “Monkey cyah see he own tail.” In many cases we may not be aware that we are in fact being abusive or insulting.

Glen Llopis, contributor to Forbes Magazine, provides 9 situations where we may be insulting instead of encouraging:

  1. You don’t appreciate someone’s efforts
  2. You prefer to take all the credit than give recognition and respect
  3. You constantly criticize
  4. You expect people to be like and think exactly like you
  5. You are a hypocrite
  6. You delegate everything and retain very little responsibility over anything or the reverse
  7. You micromanage
  8. You manipulate
  9. You don’t value others or their opinions

When you use your power to create a real or implied threat, you can pay dearly. Your relationship with your child or someone you supervise may no longer stay the same. Now, instead of completing their work or what you’ve asked them to do, or even taking pleasure from completing the task and doing it well—they focus all their efforts on avoiding punishment. You will find that you will always need to be the police, monitoring their every action. They will eventually grow to dislike or even despise you. And while you may think “no skin off your back”, you will waste time spending countless hours playing cat-and-mouse as the person you threatened gets even with you every time you leave the room or building.

You’ve now moved from someone who wants the best, who pushes people beyond what is expected of them, to warden.

Now…be honest: Do you like that job?

It’s the little things you either do or don’t do on a daily basis that make ALL the difference in your life and your business. However you can’t change what you DON’T SEE! Get my e-guide – Discover Your Invisible Constraints and How to Overcome Them. These constraints are preventing you from earning more money, losing weight, advancing your career or building a more profitable business. Send an email to for your FREE copy.



Image from

%d bloggers like this: