The best way to motivate someone

teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

You can be the boss, the colleague, the customer or even the partner. There are moments when you need and are willing to demand higher standards from your “counterpart”. You want to ensure they “sweat their assets” and do their best.

But how can you ask it effectively? In a way that does not trigger negative feelings and fire back? The question suggests something more than being natural and saying what comes to your mind.  In such situations, you could be under pressure, in a hurry, and frustrated. You might end up asking the right things in the wrong way. Let’s accept it; there are social skills and leadership skills to be mastered not only in a business environment but in everyday life if you want to build good relations that foster change, better standards and outcomes.

When you ask for something, you can either play:

– the analytic approach: “this is right (for whatever reason), that is wrong (for whatever reason)”. Do you want to use this approach? Good luck with that!

– the hierarchic approach: “I am the customer, I am the boss, I am the eldest, I am your parent: do what I say”. Do you want to use this approach? In the long-term, good luck with that!

– the victim approach: “I don’t like something, I feel it is not acceptable, it hurts my feeling”. Do you want to try this third approach? Good luck with that too. It will bring misery to yourself first and a horrible mood all around!

Are there other methods? You will surely come up with different scenarios, probably better ones, because those I listed so far truly suck.

On these lines, I have recently read a short story by Lillian Moore in Reader’s Digest that struck a chord and reminded me of a better way to ask someone for something: motivate him!

“A few months after, my husband and I moved to a small Massachusetts town. I grumbled to a resident about the poor service at the library, hoping she would repeat my complaints to the librarian. The next time I went to the library, the librarian had set aside two bestsellers for me and a new biography for my husband. What’s more, she appeared to be genuinely glad to see me.

Later I reported the miraculous change to my friend. “I suppose you told her how poor we thought the service was?” I asked.

“No,” she confessed. “In fact—I hope you don’t mind—I told her your husband was amazed at the way she had built up this small-town library, and that you thought she showed unusually good taste in the new books she ordered.”

Does it sound manipulative? Does it look too psychological and educational for your taste? I hope not. People look for respect, attention, recognition, and motivation.  As beautifully written by the French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint Exupéry:

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”


You can always play a part in making sure people around you “keep up their best possible game”, and it does not have to be a bad experience; It can be an enriching one. Just sweat your assets: fuel an inspiring mindset and attitude.



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