Sep 25, 2008

The Power of the Language of Acceptance

By Thomas Gordon, Ph.D. (author of P.E.T., founder of Gordon Training International)

When people are able to feel and communicate genuine acceptance of another, they possess a capacity for being an effective helping agent for the other. Acceptance of the other, as s/he is, fosters a relationship in which the other person can grow, develop, make constructive changes, learn to solve problems, move in the direction of psychological health, become more productive and creative. It is one of those simple but beautiful paradoxes of life: When a person feels truly accepted by another, then that person is freed to move from there and to begin to think about how to change, how to grow, how to become different, how to become more of what s/he is capable of being.

Acceptance is like the fertile soil that permits a tiny seed to develop into the lovely flower it is capable of becoming. The soil only enables the seed to become the flower. It releases the capacity of the seed to grow, but the capacity is entirely within the seed. As with the seed, a child contains the capacity to develop. Acceptance is like the soil--it merely enables the child to actualize his/her potential.

Why is parental acceptance such a significant positive influence on children? This is not generally understood by parents. Most people have been brought up to believe that if you accept children they will remain just the way they are; and the best way to help children become something better in the future is to tell them what you don't accept about them now.

Therefore, most parents rely heavily on the language of unacceptance in rearing children, believing this is the best way to help them. The soil that most parents provide for their children's growth is heavy with evaluation, judgment, criticism, preaching, moralizing, admonishing, commanding and punishing--messages that convey unacceptance of their children.

The language of acceptance opens kids up. It frees them to share their feelings and problems. Professional therapists and counselors have shown just how powerful such acceptance can be. Those therapists and counselors who are most effective are the ones who can convey to the people who come to them for help that they are truly accepted. This is why one often hears people say that in counseling or therapy they felt totally free of the counselor's judgment. They report that they experienced a freedom to share the worst about themselves because they felt their counselor would accept them no matter what they said or felt. Such acceptance is one of the most important elements contributing to the growth and change that takes place in people through counseling and therapy.

Of all the effects of acceptance none is as important as the feeling of being loved. For to accept others as they are is truly an act of love; to feel accepted is to feel loved. And in psychology, we have only begun to realize the tremendous power of feeling loved: It can promote the growth of mind and body, and is probably the most effective therapeutic force we know for repairing both psychological and physical damage. Your use of Active Listening and the other helping skills can communicate your acceptance and understanding of the significant people in your life

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