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For over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D. — a uniquely qualified therapist, life coach, and former university professor — has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their relationships, dating, psychology, and lifestyle.

Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore.

The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man” (, is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in the Man Up private Facebook group ( and answers based on his experience coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.

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“The Man Up Show” Ep.80 – How To Shape Your Partner’s Behavior

How To Shape Your Partner’s Behavior

  • David Tian Ph.D. explains why punishing your partner may not be a good idea.

  • When your partner’s bad behavior is not your fault, David Tian Ph.D. tells us to know our boundaries.

  • In this Man Up episode, David Tian Ph.D. discusses why we should stop thinking about in terms of punishing bad behavior. 

David Tian: Boom! Stop. In episode 80 of Man Up, I answer the question of, how do you shape a girl’s behavior?

[Intro Music]

Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. I am David Tian, Ph.D., and this is: Man Up!

[Music Fades]

Hey, welcome! It’s David Tian, Ph.D.and this is Man Up, Masculinity for the Intelligent Man. And this is episode 80. Woohoo! Made it to 80. Alright, I’m in Singapore, I’m back in Singapore and hot and tropical land after 2 and a half weeks of being in a cold, wintry conditions in Japan. And I’m still recovering.

Got a pretty bad flu after the first week. Still enjoyed Tokyo and Kyoto though about like 90 percent. You can kind of hear it in my voice. I did a lot of work today with the team. A lot of work on tech and they’re all like “man you sound really bad”. I’m going to go ahead with shooting the videos for you and again I’m going to be cognizant of the time, try to keep it under five minutes.

Here we are, private Facebook group question coming from Bryan. “Hey David, how do you actually reward good behavior and punish bad behavior?”. Okay, that’s it. That’s the only – horrible – question, otherwise. Bryan, next time follow the instructions which are to give context around the question, tell me why this is a pressing issue for you.

What you tried already, tell me a story. I need more information. But I’ve seen questions from Bryan before so I’m going to reward it with an answer. Also, I think I understand the background of it based on the wording of the question taken from some of my old programs, old being like 7 years ago. 7 years ago I recorded a program called “The Desire System” most of which I still stand behind.

We re-recorded that 2 years after the initial recording which so I updated it and it’s being sold and marketedby my good friends over at The Social Man. So if you’re interested in getting that, it’s an amazing value, an amazing deal, go and get it over at The Social Man.

And I use that phrase, how do you reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. Because in terms of psychology and social psychology, the basic principle is if you want people to treat you well, you need to reward them when they treat you well, or when they behave in ways that you like and you need to punish behavior that you don’t like. That’s simple “reward good behavior and punish bad behavior”.

This is how human beings, this is how animals, this is our evolved nature. This is how we operate. You see this through all of society. All of your education system. Basic parenting. This is how you operate. When you touch a hot stove, you get punished… you get the shock, you don’t do it again. When you taste some good food, it tastes good and you want to eat more of it. It’s just simple human psychology it’s not that deep at all.

Except most people don’t apply it to themselves, they don’t apply it to as adults. They don’t understand that they are also physical animals they think of themselves as disembodied brains. And that’s in… a vestige of enlightenment modern rationality. Rationalism, I should say. We’re at least good thirty years beyond that in terms of post modernism and now new ways of thinking. Hopefully you were educated in a different paradigm than that and realize that, yes you still respond to that and other people do respond to those principles as well.

However, I want to just make this video and answer the question saying that I don’t think of it of relationships or human interaction in those terms anymore. You know, I co-own a puppy now… super cute. I’ve helped babysit kids or raised toddlers and so on. So when it comes to children – very young children – and pets, dogs especially, you really want to be very aware of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior.

Now rewarding good behavior, that’s easy right? That’s pretty obvious. Go look up… google dog training. Obviously too with a toddler, you want to reward good behavior. The most important behavior, it just occurred to me, to reward is effort. Always reward the effort, the hard work. Don’t praise the child as being some monolithic, unchanging characteristic like you’re so smart. Not very helpful in the long run.

One of the reasons why prodigies tends to fail as they grow older because they start to ossify around that as their identity and they’re afraid to make mistakes and fail. And if you can’t make mistakes and fail, you’ll never actually improve and learn.

It’s better to reward effort. So if Johnny works really hard at the assignment, reward the effort. Reward the hard work. Don’t just say you’re so smart. It’s not because he’s smart but because he worked hard. Yeah maybe he’s smart too but you don’t want to reward that as part of the identity.

Obviously when it comes to a dog, it’s not so specific. You want to reward any effort like good effort the dog puts in. Even if the dog brings you the wrong thing that you’ve been training him to bring, you don’t like kick him in the face or something. That’s punishing bad behavior.

Most men in interacting with women actually punish bad behavior. There you go, right? So you want to reward good behavior now. Punishing is dangerous. Even when it comes to dogs. You don’t want to physically punish the dog or the child and you don’t want to physically punish or verbally punish your date or a relationship that you’re having.

Instead, what you should be doing is just basically withdrawing the good stimuli. So when it comes to men and women especially when you’re early in the relationship, you should ignore in fact, ignore her if she’s behaving badly. You should withdraw your attention, your time, your presence if she is behaving badly.

You don’t want to get in the position of punishing verbally or punishing actively as that’s the right word, punishing actively because what’s that actually doing is reinforcing the behavior – the bad behavior – because by behaving badly she gets your attention and she gets that reaction from you.

At first she may not like it but it’s better than no reaction so she might just start acting up just to get a reaction from you and it might be so much easier for her to just keep doing the bad behavior that comes naturally to her and getting that bad reaction from you.

And sometimes some people, what people will become sort of masochistic in the sense of like they enjoy the punishment. And that’s actually quite common. So that’s obviously counterproductive.

Now, having said all that, I really wanted to say this before I got into that but it’s important if you do just listen to the first half of the video that you’re rewarding effort and that your punishment is actually not active but withdrawal of yourself, your attention, your rewards, the presence. That’s what you want to do.

More importantly, I don’t even think in these terms. I don’t think in terms of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad behavior any longer and I haven’t taught that for many years. At least three years I haven’t taught that. Because I think it’s coming from a weak position. It’s coming from a position of manipulation.

Even if it’s for a greater good, it’s still a kind of manipulation and you’re not living in the world effortlessly. You’re still applying effort in order to pause, think how should I get what I want that I’m not getting. I’m not getting what I want, how do I get it. And that’s not effortless, it’s not natural, it’s not enjoyable. So what I teach and what I do is first and foremost knowing who you are – self-awareness.

Self-awareness especially around your values and your purpose in life… your purposes in life, your missions in life, the treatment you expect from other people, the treatment you expect of yourself and the values you live by and abide by. You just live according to those values.

You have standards in your life and you live according to them. You draw the boundaries around what you are responsible for and the treatment that you expect from others and the treatment you expect of yourself according to like living your own values and so on. And then just you know, thus far no further.

If this person that’s giving you this bad behavior is giving you bad behavior and it’s not your fault, in most of the times you stop because you have to know your boundaries. You have to know the fact that you’re not and can never be responsible for another person’s feelings.

They have to be responsible first and foremost, for their feelings. As long as you’ve got to check yourself to make sure you’re living according to your values and if you are and they don’t like it, then that’s a simple value clash.

I’m kind of relativistic on values. I’m like you live according to your values, there are some places I really draw the line like an ISIS kind of thing.

But as a professional philosopher before where we disagree with our friends for a living so we get used to living and being in good relations with people you disagree with. I know that’s not what politicians do but that’s what good academics do as well as good philosophers. So I’m used to that.

You live according to your values but they’re not mine. And we agree to disagree. If you want to continue to do this bad behavior, or behavior that is bad to me, then I will remove myself from that situation from you. I will remove myself from you, and you know, we’re done. Time is valuable and I choose to spend my time according to my values.

My predetermined values. So values drive all of those decisions about where you should spend your time, who you should spend your time with. I no longer, in this old PUA bullshit of like trying to get everyone to like me or trying to get every girl to like me. That’s just stupid.

Like why would you even want that. Hey, let’s imagine a Nazi girl, you know, a terrorist girl, you’re going to work really hard to pick her up and get her to like you. It’s just stupid! And in fact, it’s not just stupid, it’s also going to undermine yourself and your integrity as a human being. I don’t respect people who do that. I don’t think they’re attractive. In general, they’re not attractive. It’s a great recipe for unhappiness.

Here’s a great recipe for happiness. Figure out what you believe in, what you stand for, what you’re willing to die for… not even willing, which you will die for and live according to those values. And everything else, stay open minded, be easy going, willing to learn from other people is a great recipe for success and happiness in life.

Stop thinking about in terms of punishing bad behavior. If the person’s behaving badly, it’s not just an occasional bad behavior… because we’re all… no one’s perfect. But it’s like part of that person’s personality, character, don’t try to change them.

It’s very difficult to do if you know like there’s a 3 percent or less chance of even a pro being able to do that. If that person is not looking to change or willing to change or ready to change, then for you to come from the outside and effect change is incredibly difficult if not unethical.

That’s just great information, if that person’s behaving badly, great information. If they continue to behave badly consistently, frequently, then why the fuck are you still associating with this person. Are you that desperate to have friends or get laid that you would compromise your own set of values. For most guys, yeah. That’s why they suck! Simple answer, there you go. Stop thinking in terms of punishing bad behavior, rewarding good behavior.

Just make sure that you’re… it’s good to know that principles so that you don’t inadvertently punish good behavior. Like she comes over brings you some food she made and then and you’re just in a pissed off mood and you’re like you didn’t like that particular soup that she’d made and you just lash out at her. Well first of all, you’re a dick but secondly, you should realize that she’s not going to make any more food for you and you shouldn’t be surprised when she doesn’t. It’s like you just kicked a puppy in the face.

So it is important to understand the basic principle. But in terms of like, if you get behavior you don’t like, stop looking to punish it. Just remove yourself which is a punishment. But don’t think of it in terms of as a punishment, think of it in terms of you living according to your values that you’ve predetermined and that’s why values are so important. That’s why in “Limitless”, the first module of “Limitless” I go in incredible depth, I think it’s like a four-hour module… a course, that part of the module.

It’s not even the whole module, one section of the module, it’s like three or four hours on value and values. I also cover that in our new program, Invincible and is even more experiential in terms of coming to figure out for you come to grips with your life experiences up to this point and how they contribute to your current set of values and how you to think about values and to bring those out in yourself. So I don’t tell you what to believe. I help you to figure out for yourself what your values are.

Okay, cool! I guess the take away is get on the “Limitless” or “Invincible” waiting list. We only open up the courses once or twice a year because I do monitor the forum and I give a lot of intensive feedbacks to the members. So get on the waiting list. If you have any other questions – oh, I’m sure you have questions – so join the private Facebook group, click the link, and join the group and I will see you inside the group. You can ask me your questions and get your answers, sometimes right away like Bryan and I’ll see you in the group. Until then, man up!