Horse whisperer, for humans?
April 8, 2009 10:22 PM   Subscribe

Are there techniques like does used by "Horse whisperer", "Dog whisperers" or "Child Whisperers" that can be applied to adults?

I've been impressed by the effectivity of some advice a friend had on raising his baby, and also on the dog training abilities of people as Ian Dunbar's.

I'm sure that if we "untrain" dogs or babies by being incoherent in our demands and rewards, we are surely doing the same thing with adults... do you know any authors, courses or any type of training related to this?
posted by Manouk to Human Relations (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

Are these adults you want to train "normal" adults like your boss and coworkers (etc.), or are they adults with some sort of special factor that differentiates them like the elderly, the physically disabled, or the mentally challenged (etc.)?
posted by Nonce at 11:14 PM on April 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Other People's Habits might be what you are looking for; it's about reinforcement, also for one's own habits.
posted by meijusa at 12:04 AM on April 9, 2009

Try Don't Shoot the Dog by clickertraining guru Karen Pryor.
posted by sculpin at 12:57 AM on April 9, 2009

Here's the original Sutherland column that eventually became the Shamu book linked above. (This review says that that column was the single most emailed and linked NYTimes article in 2006, not to mention the movie deal and so on.)
posted by Forktine at 4:39 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Applied Behavior Analysis is the approach used by Sutherland in her article as well as the Nanny shows on Fox and ABC. It's a wide-reaching field, applicable to people with and without disabilities.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:00 AM on April 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I guess I should add that I've never seen any of the "Whisperer" shows (not even "Ghost..."), so I'm not sure what their theoretical background is. But in the descriptions for the books mentioned by meijusa and sculpin, terms like reinforcement and shaping are used. These terms have their origin in ABA.
posted by puritycontrol at 8:05 AM on April 9, 2009

There are articles and books on behavior/personality modification in BDSM circles. In fact, behavior modification is often part and parcel of the dominant/submissive relationship. Not sure this is exactly what you are looking for, but some of the same techniques can be applied in less, um, "charged" situations. I had a consulting (training?) session with a female dominant (I am also dominant) and the techniques I learned from her have helped my confidence and my relationships immeasurably. I would definitely call her a "people whisperer." Dominance training speaks directly to the "incoherence" you describe, and need not have anything to do at all with sex, SM, or eroticism.
posted by desjardins at 8:59 AM on April 9, 2009

There are tons of methods. Changing Minds is a great website about them. Specifically, look at the Principles section.
posted by Laen at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2009

The common message of all those "X Whisperer" books is this: if you want to communicate with your X, you need to understand how they think.

That's definitely true of adult humans as well. The relevant skill is simply empathy. Put yourself in your listener's shoes, keep in mind what they believe, like and want, and speak to them as they want to be spoken to.

The thing is, empathizing with adults is way easier than empathizing with dogs, babies or horses. Adults are self-aware and they can talk. Dog trainers need to go out of their way to study what dogs believe, like and want because they can't ask the dogs. But you can get that information about adults for free — just ask sincerely and listen to the answer.

Still, there are definitely books and training methods about this stuff. The first one that comes to mind is "How to Win Friends and Influence People," which is all about listening and empathy (and, yeah, asking lots of sincere questions) as keys to good relationships. I'm sure there are tons of others.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2009

+1 "Don't Shoot The Dog" it's a great book about the underlying principles of basic Skinnerian behavioral modification, but those nanny shows, etc. go beyond that.
posted by Muffy at 3:35 PM on April 9, 2009

The Nurse Trap.
posted by acridrabbit at 7:59 AM on April 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

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