Inducing Desired Behavior by Noncoercion

When I gave a keynote in Montana I referred to one of its native sons, Buck Brannaman. He was the horse trainer who advised and worked with Robert Redford on the film, "The Horse Whisperer." Brannaman trained Redford and first doubled for him in the critical scene when the horse was gently taken to the ground so that the teenager could (if she would) mount the horse.

Brannaman is one of the more enlightened trainers who has discovered that training with noncoercive approaches is significantly less stressful and more effective than using coercive approaches.

The following is a thought from Brannaman's 2001 book, "Faraway Horses" (pp. 37-38):

"Did you ever wonder how a mare can get her colt to follow regardless of whether he's hungry or not. She doesn't own a halter or rope, and she doesn't pull on him or otherwise force him to submit. Instead, she uses the herding instinct in both herself and her colt. She gets behind him and nudges his hindquarters—a little on the right, a little on the left—and all with just a gentle touch of her nose. Once the colt's feet are moving, she slips in front in order to 'draw' his energy with her."

This technique is very useful in a variety of circumstances. You don't have to pull or try to dominate. You can apply a little pressure without being domineering or physical. Once you've created the energy, you can then draw it in the direction you want to go.

In Malcolm Gladwell's newest book, "What the Dog Saw" (2009), the author shows how Cesar Millan trains the most belligerent of dogs by using a noncoercive approach. In another example, Gladwell explains how an autistic child's energy is used to redirect "tantrum-like" behavior.

No doubt about it! Noncoercion is the most effective way to induce a change in behavior. This is the approach used in parenting Without Stress and in the education book Discipline Without Stress.