Have you failed over and over again at trying to compel a partner, boss, organization, or family member to change in same way, even if it’s for their own good? It happens to all of us. Luckily, I have good news for you:
It’s not as impossible as you think to make change happen.
Your problem is you’re doing it wrong.
There’s a better way, and it can be found in Chip and Dan Heath’s bestselling book, Switch. Here are some of the tactics from the book that might help you make change happen and which I put to the test myself to get my girlfriend Kim to stop “forgetting” to replace the empty toilet paper roll.
How I Got My GIrlfriend to Replace the Toilet Paper Roll (And You Can Make Change Happen Too)
Ignore the Stains and Focus On the Bright Spots
“Ask ‘What’s working right now and how can we do more of it?’ not, ‘What’s broken and how can we fix it?'”
Instead of giving Kim crap every time she neglected to reload the roll, I flushed my frustration and, on the rare occasion she actually did it, I praised her. The effect was immediate. What was once a me versus her battle became a collaborative push to combat empty toilet paper rolls.
Wipe Away Ambiguity
“Ambiguity is the enemy. Clarity dissolves resistance.”
It dawned on me that it was not clear what “empty” exactly meant. “Empty” to Kim might not be the same as “empty” to me.
To wipe away this ambiguity, Kim and I clearly defined when a toilet paper roll would be classified as “empty”. We agreed that if there were less than eight squares (or four turns of the tube) left, it was time to replace it.
Release the Feeling
“Knowing isn’t enough. They need to feel it.”
It’s a shitty feeling when you finish relieving yourself only to discover there’s no paper on the roll. Having to hike up your pants and search for a replacement roll before tidying your tush can tarnish your whole day (… and your undies).
To indelibly cement this feeling in my girlfriend’s mind, I gave her a visual she’d never forget. After yet another occasion in which she left the roll empty, I put her face-to-face with the casualty of her casual disregard: I showed her my stained underwear.
It was a sight, feeling, and smell that she’ll never forget and never want to see again—an indelible reminder to do her duty after she goes doodie and uses up the last of the TP.
Smooth The Flow
“What looks like a person problem is often a situation problem.”
Knowing that the harder it is the replace the roll, the less likely Kim is to do it, I got rid of our finicky old toilet paper roll holder with a new one. Our new one is much easier to use: just lift, remove, and replace.
I also committed to ensure there is always a reserve roll easily available underneath the sink. That further smoothed the flow of replacing the roll.
These are small tweaks, but they add up to make big changes.
“Look for ways to encourage habits.”
In the months leading up to all of this, I secretly stockpiled a collection of nearly finished toilet paper rolls. I then regularly swapped full rolls for these nearly finished ones just before Kim’s next regular bowel movement. This increased the frequency that Kim practiced her new skill, and boosted the likelihood of it becoming a habit.
The Never-Ending Toilet Paper Roll
I’m happy to report that my efforts have been a great success. Kim has dutifully replaced the roll every time. Now, thanks to Chip and Dan Heath’s book Switch, it’s as if we have a never ending toilet paper roll.
And if she ever reverts to her old ways, we’re ditching the TP entirely and getting a bidet.
If you’d like to make a similarly dramatic change to someone or something in your life, I can’t recommend Switch more highly. It’s an enlightening, entertaining, and easy-to-read guide that I’ll be going back to again and again to make change happen in my life.
And if you’re looking for more awesome books, podcasts, or blogs, check out Shortcuts to Awesome’s best of lists.