…with a mouth…
The lesson in “Everything With A Mouth Bites” is to be careful where you step, how you place your hand and why you must delicately deal with the proximity of teeth in a yawning jaw. You can be bitten to bleed, to find an emotional wounding, or to fill a stomach.
Amy Sutherland has a new book out this week called — “What Shamu Taught Me About Life Love and Marriage” — and while that is a terrible title for such a wonderful and touching book, the content of her experience is valuable and informative.
Sutherland spends much of the book relating her behavior modification learning while working with an animal training program in California. The mantra of working with animals — “Everything With A Mouth Bites” — is the title of this article and it should’ve been the title of her book! Sutherland takes the lessons of working with animals and applies them to The Human Kingdom: You reward good behavior and ignore the bad.
You focus on the needs of the one you hope to train and not your own wants. Your ego isn’t involved in the success or failure of the object of your training. When it comes to dealing with people — Sutherland’s husband in particular — we can see the great benefit in her method. Instead of provoking a defensive response when she nags her husband over his dirty clothes, Sutherland saves her emotional values to praise unexpected helpfulness — like picking up a sock on his own — and other behaviors that help the house and marriage instead of messing them up.
The object of that positive reinforcement — her husband — then learns, perhaps too slowly at times, to relish the praise and positive energy and he then begins to patternize, on his own, a behavior that confirms the goodness and predictability of everyone’s wants and needs fulfillment. Sutherland warns that people do not respond well to the idea of being “trained” to create a certain behavior or to form a predetermined outcome.
She successfully argues that we train each other every day whether we realize it or not, but mostly through negative reinforcement
— which always leads to resentment and opposite-ends results — and she compels us to accept the notion that if we are able to provide love and patience to each other, via our own behavior modification, we begin to live better as a people across genus groups, family units and social chasms that have divided us for far too long.