How to Pair Yourself as a Positive Reinforcer

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Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D & Angela Cathey, M.A.

bSci21Media, LLC

Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

Brett DiNovi & Associates

The effectiveness of any intervention depends upon many factors. One important factor in the success of your intervention is your own ‘likability.’ Even the most effective interventions fail when behavior analysts do not win the support and cooperation of parents, teachers, and the learners themselves.

In a recent video by Brett DiNovi & Associates, Brett presents 10 tips for behavior analysts on how they might pair themselves to function as a positive reinforcer for those with whom they work. The tips provided in the video include simple ways in which you can recognize the importance and validity of stakeholder’s views. When you take the time to listen to the experience and thoughts of others involved, you establish yourself as a collaborator who cares about the people involved. Along with this, simply making a point to remember the names of the caretakers, teachers, and providers involved will again show others that you care.

Further tips provided are based on our somewhat evolutionarily driven responses to certain stimuli. For example, Brett suggests that remembering to smile frequently can help increase your likability and acceptability as a treatment provider. Though particular learning histories may lead to different outcomes; overall, our evolutionary history pairs certain facial expressions with positive outcomes and safety (e.g., smiling) and others with danger and difficulty. Make a point to be aware of how you express yourself so that your positivity and love of your work comes through to those who work with you.

The same can be said for how you hold yourself physically and orient your body in relation to other people in your environment. People tend to respond positively to those who think, look, and respond in ways consistent with their own behavior and those who hold body poses that typically signify comfort and confidence. As a behavior analyst you should keep these largely cultural and evolutionarily shaped tendencies in mind. When you interact with people you may at times feel shy, anxious, or sad on particular days. This is understandable and yet as a provider with interest in best serving your clients, you should make an effort to be your ‘best self’ in the presence of your clients, their caretakers, and other providers.

Brett also suggests that showing some vulnerability and a willingness to be open can be helpful in establishing credibility and likability with others. He suggests that, though you may at times open yourself to further criticism by being willing to admit your own struggles, over the long run a willingness to be ‘human’ and be openly collaborative pays off.

To hear more, be sure to check out the full video, and to subscribe to Brett DiNovi’s YouTube channel and let him know what you would like to see in future videos.  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is the President and Founder of bSci21Media, LLC, which owns the top behavior analytic media outlet in the world,  bSci21Media aims to disseminate behavior analysis to the world and to support ABA companies around the globe through the Behavioral Science in the 21st Century blog and its subsidiaries, bSciEntrepreneurial, bSciWebDesign, bSciWriting, and the ABA Outside the Box CEU series.  Dr. Ward received his PhD in behavior analysis from the University of Nevada, Reno under Dr. Ramona Houmanfar.  He has served as a Guest Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and as an Editorial Board member of Behavior and Social Issues.  Dr. Ward has also provided ABA services to children and adults with various developmental disabilities in day centers, in-home, residential, and school settings, and previously served as Faculty Director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Dr. Ward is passionate about disseminating behavior analysis to the world and growing the field through entrepreneurship. Todd can be reached at [email protected]

Angela Cathey, M.A. is a writer, consultant, entrepreneur, and Owner, Director, and Team/Leadership Development Consultant of Enso Group. Her background is in processes of change and intervention development. She has trained with experts in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), cognitive-behavioral exposure-based treatments, and Relational Frame Theory (RFT). Her interests are in process, innovation, and development of solutions for sustainable large-scale change. She has published in numerous academic journals on process, measurement, and intervention development. Enso-driven analytics systems are used to inform leadership and team building interventions, culture design, and research in the behavioral sciences. Angela can be reached at [email protected]. Stay up-to-date with Enso Group at and LinkedIn.

Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

*Paid content by Brett DiNovi & Associates.

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