Negative Motivation

If you want to improve your communication, understand when negative motivation is acceptable and when it is not. To do this, you need to understand the difference. There are several theories of the sources of motivation. There are numerous motivation tactics. Using negative types of motivation more often results in ineffective communication.

There is a time and place where negative motivation is acceptable and even effective.

Motivation is often the fuel that keeps the engine running. When the motivation turns negative, it can fuel the engine but more likely it will stall the engine.

For every day communication, it is essential to eliminate this form of motivation. It is even more important to understand why, when and how the negative is acceptable. Whether speaking to one or one thousand, understanding the when and how to use the negative will help you be a masterful communicator and public speaker.

Avoid Most Negative Motivation

    The unacceptable form of this kind of motivation includes...

    • threats
    • restriction
    • belittling
    • pouting
    • withdrawing


    Threats directed to a person to motivate are in reality a form of coercion.

    Coercion means to persuade or compel someone to do something by using threats.

    The message communicated is that unless you do what I want, I will cause you to feel hurt.

    Communicating that someone is unworthy, flawed, stupid or incomplete is often rooted in a lack of self worth that the communicator is feeling toward self. Often times it only leads less productivity. It is often impossible to build up by tearing down. What was torn down is a poor material to build from.


    The If / then combo is often a powerful verbal motivator when framed as a positive action / benefit scenario. However, when the if / then scenario is a form of restriction, then it becomes a stressor. True humans try to avoid pain. However often the motivation to seek pleasure is greater than the motivation to avoid potential pain verses actual pain.

    Consider why people smoke even though they know of the long range health risks.


    Pouting is the feed back from receiving unwanted criticism as well as negative kinds of motivation. In either case, it is not constructive nor productive. This is often a result of the dysfunctional family and the you hurt me so I will hurt you mentality. They may be effective when initially used, they will still not produce long term beneficial effects.


    Like pouting, this method of feed back or communication does not promote beneficial growth and development.

    Is negative motivation ever appropriate and effective. The simple answer is yes, if used correctly.

When Negative Has a Positive Effect

    In the research that produced the Innovators Solution, a unique form of negative motivation was researched.

    It was found that challenges framed as a threat faced by all caused the team to embrace change. This was more effective than innovating change with the promise of potential benefit the change might bring.

    Once the team had embraced the negative, it was then imperative that the threat be reframed as a positive motivation of opportunity that would relate to pleasure.

    In this scenario, the pleasure in now rooted in overcoming the threat and the pleasure from the positive outcome.

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