In a comment on Good coercion, constraints & focus, Stephen Downes said:
I totally agree with what Stephen says here. For coercion to be good, it needs to be harmless. This has been a big issue for one the entrepreneurs I'm mentoring. We have wrestled with how to create initial expectations for customers, employees and temps. We've sought to steer away from manipulation, domination and insensitivity. As we discussed this issue in depth, we came to rely on a distinction between "dirty and clean structure".
Education needs something like a Hippocratic Oath. Some sort of equivalent to the 'no harm' principle. As in, "First of all, do no harm..."
Coercion can sometimes produce good results. But just as often, and often concurrently, it produces harm. People who are coerced lose their sense of autonomy, lose their sense of self-value, begin to live in fear of consequences.
Dirty structure sends a message that "you don't have a choice here". It sets up controlling the other people as if they are trapped, caged or kept on a short leash. It works against the others as if "buyers are liars", "give an inch and they'll take a mile" or "no act of kindness will go unpunished". Dirty structure puts distance into the relationship as if there is no common ground, mutual respect or future cooperation to cultivate. It delivers an ultimatum: "follow these orders or else". The implicit threat in dirty structure escalates the adversarial context, raises their defenses and produces chronic anxiety.Clean structure creates the space of the others to make up their own minds. It supports other people's decision-making as if they are intelligent, solving their own problems and capable of meeting their own objectives. It works with others as if "buyers spread good reputations", "caring comes back around" and "people soften when they feel understood". Clean structure establishes common ground, mutual respect and future cooperation. It provides permission to "say no", "take their time" and "do what they think is best". The implicit cooperation in clean structure de-escalates the adversarial context, lowers their defenses and puts their minds at ease.
When clean structure is being provided, people are told things like:
- This is how this situation is handled routinely and why it's approached this way
- These are the stages we will go through at first before you will be expected to take charge of this responsibility
- We have a few questions to help you sort out your options to pick what's best for you
- Here are the choices you need to make before we begin and some things to consider before you decide