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Dangerous Words: 'Just This Time'

Ben Byth

My wife and I recently had the pleasure of welcoming our first child into the world – a beautiful and healthy baby girl called Annika. Much like all new parents, we have been sleeping less, frequently eating takeaways and cutting corners around the home… all in an effort to stay on top of the priority of feeding and settling Annika. However, there is now an impending slippery slope to which we are desperately trying not to yield ...

You may recall in my previous post that our dog, Charlie, is quite the astute negotiator. He recognises the value of his concessions (sitting/coming/etc) and where possible he trades for the reward. In fact, he often won’t come if I don’t have a treat in my hand or offer the promise of a walk.

I fear Charlie has taken advantage of the situation at home: he has started slinking into the bedroom late at night once we are too tired to care and can’t be bothered to kick him out. ‘Just this time’  we say because neither of us has the energy to enforce the boundary.

Since the bub joined us… how many nights in a row do you think Charlie has been in the bedroom? The answer is, unfortunately, every night. In fact, I gathered the energy and tried to shoo him out last night only for him to growl at me! As far as he is concerned, it is now his right to be there with us, and he expects it to continue.

If you think about it, we give in often in business, too. The deadline is unrealistic but we accept it because it is too hard to fight. The customer is being unrealistic but we give in because we need to hit a monthly quota.

The problem with this is that our customers and superiors respond to Pavlovian conditioning just the same as Charlie does. If I fold when pushed on this issue… I’m likely to fold when pushed on the next. This is a tough scenario to turn around and it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

So before setting ourselves up on similarly slippery slopes, we need to be aware of setting bad precedents, we need to be aware of encouraging bad behaviour. Here are some tips for the next time you get faced with the temptation to yield just this time:

  • Don’t give in and say ‘yes’… especially if you don’t plan on giving in next time.
  • Don’t dig your heels in and say ‘no’… people don’t like hearing it.
  • Do put a price on demands… the bigger the demand, the bigger the price. If you agree to ‘xyz’, then I can agree to ‘abc’.


Ben Byth

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