Whether you are trying to resolve a conflict, coach an employee, or correct your child's behavior; you have to wrestle with your real goals. You have to ask yourself, “Do I want compliance or commitment?”
Many people might say, “As long as they do what I asked them to do, I don't really care whether people are compliant or committed.”
I would say that if you want one-time action and results in a situation where you do not have to continue working or living with the other person, then compliance is fine. After all, in a one-time event, you don't really care about the long-term impact on the relationship.
If, however, you are in a relationship with someone, either personally or professionally, I would say that compliance is bad goal.
In Why We Do What We Do, Edward Deci argues that compliance is really silent retaliation. I agree.
Deci's comments remind me of the story of a young boy who insisted on standing up in class. After the teacher spoke with his mother, his mother made it clear that he would experience severely negative consequences if he got in trouble with his teacher again on this issue. The next day, as he sat in his seat, his teacher said something to him about how nicely he was sitting. He replied, “I'm sitting on the outside, but I'm standing on the inside!”
With compliance, we can get apparent cooperation and bare minimum performance while we are with people. With commitment, we get cooperation even when we are not present, and we create the possibility that the other person will work with extra, discretionary effort to get even better results.
The issue of striving for commitment over compliance is one that I sometimes struggle with as I work with others, and I believe that in most cases making the effort to connect and communicate in respectful ways to build commitment is far better than applying strong negative consequences with the hope of gaining compliance.