Pondering: the behaviourist alternative to nagging

I've had a couple of lively discussions with female friends about this since I read it - both interesting and revealing. (Ok, in the interests of full disclosure, with an ex girlfriend and the PC, my current one)

In short, Amy Sutherland has written a book (now being made into a movie with Naomi Watts - I kid you not) about her experiences in transferring the skills she learnt from animal trainers to her relationship. She noticed that nagging her partner to do things around the house generally didn't seem to be working and decided to try a new approach.

When animals are being trained and they do something right, they are offered positive feedback and when they do something wrong, their behaviour is ignored. Amy applied this principle to her husbands habit of leaving dirty clothes on the floor.

He is also an avid biker, and tends to leave a heap of stinky exercise gear on the bathroom floor. When she nagged him about the habit, he would suffer from the convenient affliction known as “spousal deafness.” She decided to take a cue from the dolphin trainers. She became more patient. He did get around to picking it up, and when he did, she thanked him.

She applied the technique to other aspects of their shared life. Instead of bugging him to shave more often, she silenced herself. When he drove too fast, she made sure her seatbelt was fastened and her lips buttoned. When he did shave, she made a point of complimenting him. When he drove slower, she expressed gratitude. “He basked in my growing appreciation” she writes. Like most animals, he tends to repeat the behaviours that prompt praise.

“It's refreshing to think simply, to boil things down to just behaviour instead of always big psychological things,” the 49-year-old says.

My ex did raise some interesting points about this, chiefly that this suggests that:
women lower your expectations
and suppress your true feelings
gee, what a great message

I have an uneasy feeling about relationships being treated as training exercises - just as I have a slight bristling when I'm doing something around the house and a woman visitor says "Gee you're well trained".

However, I recognise that things need to be done to keep a home tidy and when the man and woman have different standards of cleanliness there are bound to be tensions that arise and on both sides, if you want something done, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

Interestingly, I've noticed the PC using this approach more recently and I've been pretty happy about that as I have this contrarian streak in me that really doesn't respond well to nagging. Mother issues probably :)

She told me that she's been trying it and I told her that I knew and that I appreciated it - providing a little positive reinforcement of my own I guess.

A bit like the cartoon at the top?