Nov 23, 2010

Silence Speaks Volumes

By Linda Adams, President of GTI

Silence can mean many things in interpersonal relationships. It's ambiguous. It can express lots of different emotions ranging from joy, happiness, grief, embarrassment to anger, denial, fear, withdrawal of acceptance or love. What it means depends on the context.

When Silence is Golden

Silence can be a very powerful way to "be" with another person, especially when they are troubled. It can communicate acceptance of the other person as they are as of a given moment, and particularly when they have strong feelings like sorrow, fear or anger.

This kind of silence means being willing and able to give the other person your full attention. This includes appropriate eye contact, and gestures like nodding, leaning forward, smiling, frowning, and other facial expressions which let the other person know you really hear them.

Being quiet and not saying anything gives them the space and uninterrupted time to talk about whatever is on their mind. When another person has a decision to make, a problem to solve or simply a need to express themselves, silence can often provide the opportunity for them to have time to talk, reflect and decide without outside pressure.

This is not the same as the "bite your tongue" kind of silence when you want very much to jump in and offer advice or reassurance, ask questions or give your opinion, but you restrain yourself. That kind of silence is full of judgment and indicates that you aren't really listening to them, but instead are focused on your own reactions about what they're saying.

It is essential that the silence be experienced as accepting; people pick up on judgments and evaluation (negative or positive) even when they're communicated silently. If you don't accept the other person as they are, that will most likely be quite apparent to them. And they will be less likely to share their feelings and problems with you at other times.

It goes without saying that silence as a helping skill has a limitation--while it can help others get started talking and help them feel accepted, it doesn't prove that the listener has understood. For that, you'll need Active Listening.

When You Silence Yourself

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sometimes we need to speak up and don't do it.

Too frequently, we silence ourselves when we have feelings we think or feel sure the other person won't want to hear. We often do this because we value the relationship and are afraid that it will worsen or even end if we say how we really feel. Ironically, without honest and open dialogue, there is no possibility of a deeper and better relationship. Silencing yourself contributes to the very thing you want to avoid. Further, if it's anger, resentment or another strong negative feeling that you have, keeping silent doesn't make that feeling dissipate. Just the opposite happens--the unspoken problem remains, distancing occurs and the relationship suffers as a result.

At other times, you feel hurt, angry or upset by something another person says or does. Because letting them know how you feel makes you vulnerable, you decide to keep those feelings inside and withhold them from the other person. Sulking, pouting, pursed lips, not answering, abrupt answers, ignoring the other person, giving them the "cold shoulder" are signs of this kind of silence, otherwise known as "the silent treatment." Invariably, the silent treatment is hurtful to everyone involved. Even so, many of us have a tendency to withdraw and withhold when we're in emotional pain, especially from the person we perceive is causing it.

The alternative to the silent treatment doesn't have to be lashing out in anger at the other person. That just causes the problem to escalate and become an even bigger issue than it started out to be. A far better approach is to be willing and able to talk to them honestly about how you feel and why--without blame. For example, let's say your spouse/partner forgot your anniversary (or birthday) which was very hurtful to you. Instead of giving them the silent treatment or lashing out at them, a better alternative would be to say: "I'm so hurt that you didn't remember our anniversary." Or that your boss didn't give you a promotion you thought was a "done deal". Instead of saying nothing and suffering in silence (and resentment), say "I feel very confused and disappointed that I didn't get the promotion that I expected and I'd like to talk with you about it."

When we drop our pretenses and defenses and are authentic in our significant relationships, we experience relief, heightened self-worth and a deeper sense of meaning. It is one of the joys of existence.

Nov 18, 2010

Are There Active Listening Guidelines?

Active Listening Guidelines

Know when to use Active Listening. Use it only when you're free enough of your problems to feel accepting and want to help other people with their problems.

Know when not to use Active Listening. It won't work when you're feeling unaccepting of the other person - when you own the problem. Nor will it work to influence them to change some behavior you don't accept.

Avoid pushing or imposing your Active Listening on the other person. Listen for clues that the other doesn't want to talk or has finished talking.

Use the other listening skills: silence, acknowledgment responses, and door openers. Every response of the other person does not need feedback. Use Active Listening primarily when feelings are strong and the other person's need to be heard is apparent.

When the other person needs information, give it. Just make sure you first know what the real problem is, and be sure your information is wanted by the other person. Give your information briefly and effectively. And, of course be prepared to have your ideas rejected - they might not be appropriate or helpful.

Don't expect the other person to arrive at your preferred solution. Remember, Active Listening is for helping other people resolve their problems - a tool for helping them find their own solutions. Be prepared for times when no solution surfaces - the other person might not even tell you how they later solved the problem. They will know, but you won't.

Don't give up too quickly. It takes time for other people to realize you really do want to understand and that you are accepting of their problems and feelings.

Competence comes only with practice. You won't become competent at Active Listening without lots of practice. Practice with your spouse/friends/children.

Accept that Active Listening at first will feel artificial. It undoubtedly feels more gimmicky to you than to the other person. With practice, you'll feel more natural and less clumsy.*

*Excerpt Dr. Thomas Gordon's programs

Nov 17, 2010

The Six Steps of the No-Lose Method

The following describes the six steps of the No-Lose Method:

Setting the Stage
Before using the No-Lose Method, the people involved need to understand the method and commit to using it to resolve the conflict.

Step 1: Defining the Problem
This is the most important step. Each person needs to state their problem in a way that doesn't blame or judge the other person. I-Messages are the most effective way to do this.

When the other person states his/her problem you need to Active Listen to make sure you understand the other's needs.

Take enough time to get the problem defined as needs rather than solutions so that both agree on the problem to be solved.

Step 2: Brainstorm Solutions
In this creative part of conflict resolution, both people think of as many ideas and possible solutions as they can. There's no evaluation of solutions in this step. Agree to that!

Step 3: Evaluate Solutions
Now both people think about which solutions might work and which won't. Cross of solutions that won't work for one or both people. Test out the possible solutions by asking. "Any reason it might not work?"

Step 4: Choose a Solution
Both people agree on a solution or combination of solutions. Someone needs to state the solutions to make sure both agree. Don't try to push a solution--both need to freely choose.

Step 5: Plan for and Take Action
In this step, you both decide Who does What by When to carry out the agreed-on solution. It's best to trust that both will do what they agreed instead of talking about what will happen if they don't.

Step 6: Check Results
Both need to agree to check back at a later time to make sure the solution worked/is working for both people.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Nov 15, 2010

Do You Need To Use Preventive I-Messages?

Holiday Season and Communication

The holidays. What can be a very stressful time of the year - with family/friends visiting, traveling, holiday shopping and everything in between - it is important to remember what the upcoming festivities are about. Self-disclosure and effective communication will benefit healthy relationships. This is where we all could practice using our Preventive I-Messages.

Self-disclosure is direct and congruent communication and action. It involves sharing with other people what’s going on inside you (needs, feelings, wants). The Preventive I-Message is a communication to someone who is significant in your life, someone who can help you in getting your needs met. It is a direct, clear, and congruently strong expression, avoiding either submissive or aggressive overtones. It contains, to a greater or lesser degree, a possible solution to your need, representing the responsibility you have taken to understand and then act to meet your own needs.
The benefits or advantages of the Preventive I-Message extend to you, the other person, and the health of the on-going relationship, including the following results:
You maintain awareness, responsibility and control of your needs and feelings.
Others know your needs and the strength of your feelings about them.
You model openness, directness, thus encouraging reciprocal self-disclosure by others.
Others are better able to meet your needs when they have a clear picture of what you want.
Others have advance notice of your need and can adjust their behavior accordingly.
You and others reduce the chances of future conflicts that can result from unknown or uncommunicated needs.
You reduce the element of surprise, unpreparedness, and unexpected conflict from the relationship.
You save yourself and others time, energy and resources that can result from unanticipated conflicts.
You plan your life, take responsibility and prepare for future needs.
The Preventive I-Message generally consists of two parts: (1) the self-disclosure ("I want..." or "I need...") and (2) the reason (usually desired consequence) for the self-disclosure ("I want...because...").
Here is an example of a Preventive I-Message:
"I'd really like to visit my folks this year as part of our vacation...I miss them and really feel out of touch with their lives."*
*Excerpt from Gordon Training International's Be Your Best Participant Workbook

Nov 2, 2010

What Are The Negative Effects of the 12 Communication Roadblocks?

The Negative Effects of the 12 Communication Roadblocks

When parents say something to their children they often say something about them. This is why communication to children has such an impact on them as people and ultimately upon the relationship between you and them. Every time you talk to your children you are adding another brick to the relationships that is being built between you. And each message says something to your children about what you think of them. They gradually build up a picture of how you are perceiving them as people. Talk can be constructive to your children and to the relationship or it can be destructive.

One way we help parents understand how the Communication Roadblocks can be destructive is to ask them to remember their own reactions when they shared their problems with a friend. Invariably, the parents in our classes report that most of the time the Roadblocks have a destructive effect on them or on their relationship with the person they are telling their troubles to. Here are some of the effects our parents report:

They made me...
  • stop talking, shut me off.
  • defensive and resistive.
  • argue, counterattack.
  • feel inadequate, inferior.
  • feel resentful or angry.
  • feel guilty or bad.
  • feel I'm being pressured to change--not accepted as I am.
  • feel the other person doesn't trust me to solve my problem.
  • feel I'm not being understood.
  • feel my feelings aren't justified.
  • feel I've been interrupted.
  • feel frustrated.
  • feel I'm on the witness stand being cross-examined.
  • feel the listener is just not interested.
The parents in our classes immediately recognize that if Roadblocks have had these effects on them in their relationships with others, they will probably have the same effects on their children. And they are right. These 12 kinds of verbal responses are the very ones professional therapists and counselors have learned to avoid when they work with children. These ways of responding are potentially "non-therapeutic" or "destructive". Professionals learn to rely on other ways of responding to children's messages that seem to carry far less risk of causing kids to spot talking, making them feel guilty or inadequate, reducing their self-esteem, producing defensiveness, triggering resentment, making them feel unaccepted, and so on.

When parents realize how much they rely on The Roadblocks they invariably ask with some impatience, "How else can we respond? What ways are left?"*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Oct 26, 2010

Discipline That Works

The discipline issue arises as an inner conflict for the majority of parents. In Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) classes we find that most parents start the class torn between being authoritarian and being permissive, just like this mother expressed: "With our first child I was strict and that didn't work, so when the second child came I decided to be lenient, but that hasn't really worked either."

Looking at the noun discipline and the verb discipline, some critical differences become apparent. As a noun, discipline is usually understood as behavior and order in accord with rules and regulations, or behavior maintained by training as in "discipline in the classroom." You seldom hear any controversy about the noun discipline. Everybody seems to be in favor of that kind. The word conjures up order, organization, cooperation, knowing and following rules and procedures, and a consideration for the rights of others.

The verb to discipline is commonly defined as "to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control" and "to punish or penalize; correct, chastise." Just like: "If kids are not disciplined at home they will be troublemakers at school."

Understanding the difference between the noun and the verb forms of discipline is of utmost importance for yet another reason: it clarifies that the discipline controversy is really about how we should deal with kids (the means) and not about what we want them to do (the ends.) Most people would agree that we want kids to be orderly, cooperative, and considerate, but there are intense differences about whether disciplining (the verb) is the best means to bring about discipline (the noun,) a generally agreed-upon end.

In discussions of discipline, it is quite often assumed that the only way to get discipline (the noun), both at home and in the classroom, is for parents to discipline (the verb) - that is, control, punish, penalize, correct, and chastise children.

P.E.T. is based on considerable evidence refuting this widely-held belief. Dr. Thomas Gordon's three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize were a result of this work which is guiding parents to the discovery that disciplining children may be the least effective way to get discipline at home.

Oct 20, 2010

Have A Values Collision?

Values Collisions

When you have a values collision, the first step is to understand the real differences between you and the other person. Active Listening is the best tool for doing this.

The next step requires you to make a choice. Can you accept the differences and let things be, or do you really feel it important to try to change the other person?

Can you reconsider your values and perhaps move closer to the other person's? Can you decide to accept the differences between you as they are and stop colliding?

If you decide to change the other person, you must consider the risk to the relationship. Is it worth it to try to change my friend? Will it hurt our friendship?

If changing the other is really important to you, start by attempting to change the specific behavior of the other that is upsetting for you.

I-Messages or No-Lose Problem Solving are the skills to use to change another's behavior that is upsetting you.

And finally, even if you've succeeded in changing the other's actions, you may still want to influence the other to change his/her value.

If you feel very strongly that the person would be much "better off" or "happier" if your values were adopted, there are two new skills you can learn to influence (but not control) the other to change.
  1. MODELING: setting a personal example for the other; acting out, really living the values that you believe in; over a period of time your values may be adopted by the other person.
  2. CONSULTING: influencing or persuading the other by pointing out the advantages of your values; to be effective, your consultation must be welcomed and preferably invited by the other person.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Oct 19, 2010

A Survey: What Makes For Good and Bad Relationships?

What Makes For Good and Bad Relationships?

A few years ago Rob Koegel, a professor at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, asked students to respond to a questionnaire about their best and worst relationships. Some of the questions were about relationships between the students and people of more or less equal status such as friends, partners, siblings and the like. Others were about themselves and people with greater status like bosses, teachers, professors, parents, etc. The students were asked to describe what these relationships were like and the results were illuminating. They named respect, caring, trust, honesty, support and good communication as characteristics of their best relationships and went on to say these relationships cultivated empathy, compassion, understanding and respect for differences. They said when others exhibited these characteristics relationships with them were good regardless of status differences

Dr. Koegel said students told him their best relationships were fulfilling and uplifting, made them happier, stronger and more complete. He summed up; “Our best relationships make us feel appreciated, valued and worthy. They also make us feel more connected to and trusting of others. Unlike most other relationships, this reciprocal connection nourishes, supports and empowers both parties”.

On the other hand, relationships students labeled “worst” were described as manipulative, dominating, unjust, and unequal. They said the manipulative; dominating people viewed differences in an either/or fashion, good or bad, right or wrong, better or worse with their positions put forth as the correct ones. The self-righteous attitude of the dominators resulted in the survey respondents tending to feel incompetent and inadequate. Those who used their status to win, to get what they wanted at others’ expense, generated feelings of insecurity and shame in the losers who became distrusting of themselves and others. The students used terms like “one-sided”, “taken advantage of”, “dominated” to describe how they felt about these damaging relationships.

Respondents agreed that these unequal relationships are always unfair. They characterized their dynamics as win-lose and said dominators win by using their personal and institutional power as parents, teachers, bosses and the like to coerce and abuse. Those on the losing end are forced to accept one-sided relationships like these because they have less status, are overpowered, dependent and needy.

Koegel’s survey pointed out what I think everyone knows from experience: the most critical barriers to a healthy, happy relationships are power differentials between partners or groups. If one person (or group) can force another to do something she, he or the group doesn’t want to do the relationship is in trouble. Its unfair relationships like those that Dr. Koegel’s subjects labeled as win-lose and agreed that losing left them feeling powerless, taken advantage of and dominated.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon writings

Oct 5, 2010

How to Conduct a Family Rule-Setting Meeting

Objective: To arrive at a mutually acceptable rule or decision on an important family issue or situation.

Set the Stage
  1. Agree on a time when everyone who will be directly affected by the rule or decision can be present. (Involve only those affected).
  2. At the appointed time, sit in a circle (around a table) so that all can see each other. Have the "Family Rule-Setting Guide" or paper and pen available.
  3. Start by making sure that everyone understands the objective of this meeting. A parent might start off with something like: "I've called this meeting so that all of us will have a chance to decide on some rules we need about ________________ so that everyone has the best chance of feeling comfortable and happy with the arrangement. I want for all of us to work on ________________ together so we're all satisfied with the solution (or decision)."
  4. Make sure that all members understand Method III:
  • Parent will not use power on kids.
  • Parent will not let kids use power on parent.
  • Everyone must be satisfied with the solution.
  • This is not a subtle way to get kids to agree to the parent's rules.
Tasks of the Group
  1. State the family situation/s you want to deal with or build an agenda for the meeting,i.e., what situation/s needing rules or decisions will be discussed in which everyone contributes their needs regarding family issues or situations.
  2. Next, post or mention the six steps of the problem-solving process.
a. Define the problem by developing needs, facts and feelings surrounding the item.
b. Brainstorm as many ideas about it as possible without evaluating them; have a family member simply record them.
c. Then, evaluate and test the proposed ideas or solutions for reality, appropriateness, acceptability, etc.
d. Decide which ideas or solutions are to be adopted.
e. Record the decision in term of WHO does WHAT by WHEN.
f. Later, check to see if rule or solution worked. (This usually happens automatically. Reconvene the group if it turns out the rule does not meet the members' needs well enough (bad rule, not bad people).

Parent's Role
  1. Sees that tasks are accomplished, problems solved.
  2. Uses Active Listening to handle inevitable feelings that will arise as well as to clarify the meaning of other member's inputs when necessary.
  3. Uses I-Messages to express his/her own needs and feelings. Avoids You-Messages and Roadblocks.
  4. Leads the group through the Six Steps of Problem-Solving.
  5. Keeps the group on track by handling free associations or new problems by noting "That's another issue," and if applicable, adding it to the agenda for later consideration.
  6. Avoids voting; facilitates consensus by use of communication and problem-solving skills. When it seems consensus has been reached, tests for it by stating the apparently favored decision and asking "Any objections?"
  7. Is active, "hangs in there" for his/her own needs, respects other family members' needs, remains sensitive (Active Listens) to resistance and possible hidden resistance.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Sep 29, 2010

What is the Value of Clear Self-Disclosure?

The Value of Clear Self-Disclosure

When you communicate clearly you are telling others about yourself. Therefore, you want to be:
  • open
  • direct
  • honest
  • real
  • straight
  • genuine
  • clear
  • upfront
You want to give accurate information about you.

You want to share how things are really going for you.

You want to express your real thoughts and feelings.

You want to avoid blaming others or telling them what they should or shouldn't do.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Sep 28, 2010

Have You Checked the Results?


There are Six Steps of the "No-Lose Method". After going through the first five steps, Step 6: Checking The Results is important to make certain everyone's needs have been met and the solutions from Method III conflict resolution turns out to be the best.

It's not always the case that all solutions from Method III conflict resolution turn out that way. Sometimes you or the other will discover weaknesses in the solution that will require modification or rejection for a better solution.

It is important to seek out the other's feelings about the solutions as well as to keep in touch with your feelings about the conflict resolution results.

Both of you should have an understanding that decisions are always open for mutually acceptable revisions.

Sometimes those new to Method III will discover that they have overcommitted themselves--in their enthusiasm they agreed to do too much or the impossible. Be sure to keep the door open for revision if this happens.


Your best tools for effective No-Lose Conflict Resolution will always be:
  • Active Listening
  • Clear and Honest Sending of Your Needs with Non-Blameful I-Messages
  • Trust and Respect for the Needs of the Other
  • Openness to Changing Facts and Feelings
  • An Unwillingness to Let Method III Fail
  • Entering Method III Without Fixed Solutions
  • Refusal to Revert to Method I or II*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Sep 21, 2010

Want To Learn More About GTI and PET?

Who is GTI and what does GTI offer?

Gordon Training International was established in 1962 by Dr. Thomas Gordon. We are a human relations training organization and we offer workshops, trainer certification and books - all based on the Gordon Model. We are now in 48 countries. To contact us, please email us at

Who is Dr. Thomas Gordon?

He was the founder of Gordon Training International and the author of the following books:

  • Parent Effectiveness Training
  • P.E.T. in Action
  • Leader Effectiveness Training
  • Teacher Effectiveness Training
  • Sales Effectiveness Training
  • Teaching Children Self-Discipline (renamed,"Discipline That Works")

      You can learn more about him on this site by clicking here:

      To order any of these books, please visit our secure on-line store:

      What is the Gordon Model?

      The Gordon Model consists of using all the following skills in conjunction with each other -- Active Listening, I-Messages, The Communication Roadblocks, Shifting Gears, and Method III Conflict Resolution. It was devised by Dr. Thomas Gordon in 1962. We teach this model, using The Behavior Window as a guide to use what skill at what time, in all of our workshops.

      How do I buy books by Dr. Gordon?

      You can purchase books written by Dr. Thomas Gordon (Founder of Gordon Training International, author of P.E.T., L.E.T., T.E.T., etc.) You can also purchase books by Linda Adams (President of Gordon Training International, author of Be Your Best and Effectiveness Training for Women) through our online store Have an iPod or MP3 player? Audio versions of the L.E.T. and P.E.T. books are available on iTunes and

      Do you have a general workshop on the Gordon Model?

      Absolutely! Linda Adams, President and CEO of Gordon Training International, developed "Be Your Best", a personal development program, which teaches you how to become more effective and take responsibility in both your personal and professional lives. In addition to the communication skills and conflict resolution methods taught, this course offers training in assertive skills, how to handle anxiety, and how to set goals for becoming more fulfilled. To find a Be Your Best Workshop near you, please email us at

      Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.)

      Where can I find a P.E.T. Workshop?

      We train and certify independent P.E.T. Instructors who set their own scheduling, pricing and location. You can find a current P.E.T. Workshop Calendar by clicking here or by emailing us

      What will I learn in P.E.T.?

      The P.E.T. workshop consists of brief lectures, demonstrations, workbook exercises, role-playing, some homework and small group discussion. You will learn the following skills based on the Gordon Model, taught by a certified P.E.T. Instructor:

      - How to talk to your children so that they will listen to you.
      - How to listen to your children so they feel genuinely understood.
      - How to resolve conflicts and problems in your family so that no one loses and problems stay solved.
      - A method for troubleshooting family problems and knowing which skills to use to solve them.

      How can I become a P.E.T. Instructor?

      It's easy as 1, 2, 3!

      Step 1 - You can complete a P.E.T. Workshop, read the P.E.T. book or complete self-study pre-work. Contact us for more information: 800.628.1197 or email us

      Step 2 - Successfully complete the instructor training process.Click here for more information on how you can become certified to teach P.E.T!

      Step 3 - Teach a P.E.T. Workshop; submit the participant evaluations to Gordon Training for review for final approval and instructor certification.

      Ready to get started? Great! Please e-mail us for more information on how to enroll and to receive an

    1. Sep 20, 2010

      Active Listening

      Active Listening

      Many people think that they can get rid of their feelings by suppressing them, forgetting them, or thinking about something else. Actually, people free themselves of trouble-some feelings when they are encouraged to express them openly. Active Listening fosters this kind of catharsis.

      Just like in this Baby Blues comic, the daughter is expressing to her father that she wishes her hair were like her friends (Wren’s), but as she continues to explain what kind of hair she wishes to have, her Dad “Active Listens” and feeds back to her that his daughter wishes she had the hair she already has. Which then she exclaims, “Yeah…Exactly!”

      It helps children to find out exactly what they are feeling. After they express their feelings, the feelings often seem to disappear almost like magic.

      Active Listening helps children become less afraid of negative feelings. “Feelings are friendly” is an expression we use in our classes to help parents come to realize feelings are not “bad.” When a parent shows by Active Listening that he accepts a child’s feelings, the child is also helped to accept them. He learns from the parent’s response that feelings are friendly.

      Active Listening promotes a relationship of warmth between parent and child. The experience of being heard and understood by another person is so satisfying that it invariably makes the sender feel warm toward the listener. Children, particularly, respond with loving ideas and feelings. Similar feelings are evoked within the listener—he begins to feel warmer and closer to the sender. When one listens empathically and accurately to another, he gets to understand that person, to appreciate his way of looking at the world—in a sense, he becomes that person during the period of putting himself in his shoes. Invariably, by allowing oneself to “get inside” the other person, one produces feelings of closeness, caring and love. To empathize with another is to see him as a separate person, yet be willing to join with him for a brief period in his journey through life. Such an act involves deep caring and love. Parent who learn empathic Active Listening discover a new kind of appreciation and respect, a deeper feeling of caring; in turn, the child responds to the parent with similar feelings.

      Active Listening facilitates problem-solving by the child. We know that people do a better job of thinking a problem through and toward a solution when they can “talk it out” as opposed to merely thinking about it. Because Active Listening is so effective in facilitating talking, it helps a person in his search for solutions to his problems. Everybody had heard such expressions as “let me use you as a sounding board” or “I’d like to kick this problem around with you” or “maybe it would help me to talk it out with you.”

      Active Listening influences the child to be more willing to listen to the parents’ thoughts and ideas. It is a universal experience that when someone will listen to one’s own point of view, it is then easier to listen to his. Children are more likely to open themselves up to receive their parents’ messages if their parents first hear them out. When parents complain that their kids don’t listen to them, it’s a good bet that the parents are not doing an effective job of listening to the kids.

      Active Listening “keeps the ball with the child.” When parent respond to their kids’ problems b Active Listening, they will observe how often kids start thinking for themselves. A child will start to analyze his problem on his own, eventually arriving at some constructive solutions. Active Listening conveys trust, while messages of advice, logic, instruction, and the like convey distrust by taking over the problem-solving responsibility from the child. Active Listening is therefore one of the most effective ways of helping a child become more self-directing, self-responsible, and independent.*

      *Active Listening excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Book

      Sep 7, 2010

      Benefits You Can Look Forward To

      Many young people who have learned the Gordon Model of building democratic relationships have willingly shared the benefits and rewards they have experienced.

      They always begin by talking about their own family:
      • "When my Mom and Dad and I don't agree on everything, it (the skills) really helps because we don't let things get out of control and everyone's feelings are less likely to get hurt."
      • "I have learned not to yell as much and have learned to be patient until finding a compromise."
      • "I know what to do when an argument starts."
      • "I can now talk to my parents about anything, and I know they will listen without preaching--even if what I tell them might upset them or disappoint them."
      • "My friends find it hard to believe that I have really good relationship with both of my parents."
      • "I feel that my parents are my best friends."
      • "Nobody in my family is the boss."
      These young people also describe the benefits they have received in their relationships with their friends or at work:
      • "All my friends know they can come to me with any kind of problem and get heard. They know I am a good Active Listener."
      • "I know that any conflict that comes up with my friends can be resolved using the skills I've learned."
      • "I'm able to distance myself from my friends' problems and let them be the owners of their problems."
      • "The training has made me a better problem-solver when things go wrong in my life. I know how to brainstorm."
      There is one final benefit you may not be aware of. Young people, like yourself, raise in a non-punitive and democratic family will themselves to create such a family when they marry and have children. Then those children will do the same, and the next generation of children will follow, and so on.

      Can you see that you can make a valuable contribution to society? In successive generations there will be more and more young people like yourself and more and more democratic families. You will be helping create a whole "new species" of young people, clearly different from the typical youth of today. There will be fewer acts of injustice and violence, few juvenile delinquents, fewer divorces, and so on.

      In short, you can now contribute to our society by being one of the people who makes democracy a way of life.*

      *Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

      Sep 1, 2010

      Why Is Conflict a Good Thing?

      Why Conflict is a Good Thing

      By Linda Adams, President of GTI

      Conflicts between people are a normal, natural and inevitable part of life--at work, at home and in all our relationships with others. Unfortunately, most of us don't really accept this fact and we still get surprised and distressed when it's clear that a conflict has emerged.

      As long as everything is going along smoothly, it's easy to be considerate and respectful of another person's needs. They are in no way interfering with our own. But the emergence of a conflict can change all that--now we can feel threatened, anxious and angry. The same person whom we enjoyed working with yesterday now seems like an adversary. That's because of our vast, past experience with conflict, most of which was negative.

      We have a negative attitude toward conflict primarily because we haven't learned constructive ways to deal with it--in fact, the converse is true: we have learned destructive ways of handling conflict. As children, as students and as employees (and too often as spouses) we have experienced losing in a conflict because parents, teachers and bosses use/d their power to win at our expense. Even though we know the feelings of resentment, anger, dislike, even hostility that we experience as a result of losing, the win-lose posture is deeply ingrained and when we get in positions where we have power over people, we often choose to win at their expense.

      A great deal of research shows the damaging effects that win-lose conflict resolution has on interpersonal relationships. It creates distance, separation, dislike, even hatred. It's the main reason people leave their jobs for new ones and marriages break up.

      Viewing Conflict as Constructive

      How conflicts get resolved is the critical factor in any relationship. In fact, it is the most critical factor in determining whether a relationship will be healthy or unhealthy, mutually satisfying or unsatisfying, friendly or unfriendly, deep or shallow, intimate or cold.

      As most of us are aware, there is an alternative to the win-lose posture. It's often been called "win-win" or "no-lose" because the goal is to find a solution to the conflict that meets the needs of both people. Resolving conflicts this way requires three important attitudes and behaviors: 1) the attitude that conflict in general presents the opportunity for constructive change; 2) the willingness to engage in the process of mutually searching for a solution that meets the needs of both people; 3) the communication and problem solving skills that it takes to make this win-win method work. Too often, people want to resolve conflicts this way, but either are not truly willing in their heart of hearts to work for a mutually-acceptable solution or do not have the skills required to work together to find one. When this occurs, the win-win method is doomed to failure.

      "Let's Keep Talking"

      When you're in conflict with another person, you both are usually aware of it at some level. There's a sense of disruption, unease, something is not right. The communication between you might change, perhaps becoming superficial or terse. Or there's silence.

      Once you're aware that you're in conflict, what you do next really matters. Acknowledge that a conflict exists. Very often, we decide not to acknowledge this hoping that the conflict will somehow go away or resolve itself. That rarely happens. Only when conflicts are brought out into the open, do they have the chance of being dealt with effectively.

      And as I just mentioned, dealing with conflict effectively requires skills--skills that are proven to work, sometimes like magic. When you have these skills, the idea of facing conflicts with others is not nearly so daunting, and in fact can be stimulating and energizing. (There are very few intractable problems to which there are no mutually-acceptable solutions.)

      Dialogue is the key element in constructive conflict resolution. Dialogue is made up of two very different communication skills, both of which are essential--listening with empathy and non-blameful self-disclosure. As Reuel Howe states in his book, The Miracle of Dialogue: " must be mutual and proceed from both sides, and the parties to it must persist relentlessly...when two persons undertake it and accept their fear of doing so, the miracle-working power of dialogue may be released."

      The importance of listening with empathy to the other person's needs, feelings and beliefs cannot be overstated. This means experiencing what it feels like to be in the other person's shoes at that moment and then reflecting what you hear back to them to check whether you understood correctly. This can be very difficult to do especially when you have strong opposing viewpoints or feelings, but it's possible when you're truly intent on understanding. Something amazing happens when people feel understood and accepted at a deep level. Their need to hold onto their preconceived solution to the conflict often dissipates. And often their strong emotional feelings subside.

      The other essential part of dialogue is non-blameful self-disclosure. Now it's your turn to talk about your needs and disclose your feelings without blaming the other person. Ideally, they will be committed to listening empathically to you, to put themselves in your shoes, to experience your reality. When that happens, you too can feel catharsis, and be more open to finding a mutually-satisfying solution. Once the basic needs of each person are clearly defined and understood, moving through the other steps needed to find a solution can be done in a climate of mutual consideration and respect.

      Having positive conflict resolution experiences like these are both rewarding and reinforcing. And that's a great thing.

      Aug 26, 2010

      More Errors in Active Listening

      1. THE NUMBER ON ERROR!: Using Active Listening when the other person's behavior is in the bottom part of the listener's Behavior Window. Nothing turns people off to Active Listening like trying to use it when another person's behavior is unacceptable to you. (An absurd example: Responding to repeated kicks in the shin with, "I get that you're feeling pretty hostile to me.") The usual cause of this unfortunate misuse of the skills is fear of confronting.
      2. Using Active Listening when you have some behavior objective or the other (to cheer up, work harder, come to a realization, etc.) This also is caused by fear of confronting.
      3. Using Active Listening when the others requesting specific help or information that you have and they don't, i.e., in cases of legitimate dependency. For example, "Where are the scissors?" "What's for dinner?" "I need directions on how to get there."
      4. Feeding back the sender's message without including the appropriate nonverbal cues. This may occur because the listener feels too self-conscious to send them or feels it necessary to play some detached, "professional" role. But failure to approximate the tone of voice and body language appropriate to the feedback is received by the other as a denial of the feeling portions of his/her original message. Again, the naked words aren't enough.
      5. Falling into the habit of using exactly the same phrase to start all your feedbacks (such as, "What I hear you saying is.."). This can get annoying fast. Use such phrases sparingly. One durable alternative is frequently to start simply with "You..." or "You're..." ("You wish you could help more." "You're pretty discouraged.")
      6. Using Active Listening as a shield against another's anger at you. One or two good, very empathic feedbacks of the first onslaught can be helpful to both of you. ("Boy, you're really mad at me over this issue!") But after that, Active Listening will be seen as an infuriating attempt to dodge the anger. Switch to taking appropriate responsibility and problem solving.
      7. Using Active Listening to gather enough data that you can then move in with judgment, advice and solutions. The other person will not soon again come to you to be listened to.
      8. Using Active Listening to draw people out, invade their privacy. Remember that the sender owns the conversation and decides when it's to go on and when it's to stop.
      9. Feeding back everything. Don't forget concerned silence (good during pauses or other's crying or sad silence) and simple acknowledgments, such as "Yeah," "Hmm," and "Uh huh" (good when other's code is crystal clear).
      Simply reading through and understanding this list of the most common errors of Active Listening will sensitize you to many of them and help you avoid them. Another good use of this list is to return to it at times when your Active Listening has not been very effective or well received. At such times, one of these errors may stand out as the cause of your difficulty and put you back on track.*

      *Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

      Aug 17, 2010

      Have You Blocked Communication by Using a Roadblock?

      The 12 Roadblocks

      When other people have problems, you may want to give "good" advice, ask key questions, reassure them that "everything will be okay," take sides, warn them, or judge them.

      However, as these 12 Roadblocks or barriers indicate, these common attempts to help often do more harm than good. They take "ownership of the problem" away from the other person. They usually make people defensive. They block communication and they block people from doing their own problem solving.

      1. Ordering, Directing: Telling the other person what to do.

      Examples: "Don't worry about it.", "Stop it!"

      2. Warning, Threatening: Telling the other person what will happen if s/he does something.

      Examples: "If you don't start studying, you're going to fail.", "If you keep acting like this, you're just going to be in more trouble."

      3. Preaching, Moralizing: Telling the other person what s/he should do.

      Examples: "You shouldn't talk like that about him.", "You shouldn't feel that way."

      4. Advising, Giving Solutions: Telling the other person how to solve his/her problem.

      Examples: "If I were you I would just forget about it. It's no big deal.", "If that happens again, why don't you tell someone?"

      5. Arguing, Persuading with Logic: Trying to influence the other person with facts, logic or your opinions.

      Examples: "The fact is, most parents are like that.", "The logical thing to do would be to just ignore him."

      6. Judging, Criticizing: Making negative judgments or evaluations of the other person.

      Examples: "You're just being stubborn.", "If you weren't so touchy, you wouldn't get so upset when someone says something about you."

      7. Praising, Agreeing: Offering a positive judgment about the other person.

      Examples: "You guys have always been good friends.", "I'm sure you can work this out. You're so good at that."

      8. Name-Calling, Labeling: Making the other person feel foolish, stereotyping or categorizing him.

      Examples: "You're acting like a baby.", "You act so lame sometimes."

      9. Interpreting, Analyzing: Telling the other person why s/he's acting this way, analyzing why s/he's saying or doing something.

      Examples: "You're saying that just to get attention.", "You're just tired."

      10. Reassuring, Sympathizing: Trying to make the other person feel better, talking him/her out of his/her feelings.

      Examples: "Don't feel bad, it'll be okay.", "By Friday, you'll forget all about it."

      11. Questioning, Probing: Trying to find reasons, motives or causes; searching for more information information to help you solve the problem.

      Examples: "How long have you been this mad at her?", "Why didn't you do something about this before now?"

      12. Distracting, Humoring: Trying to get the other person away from the problem, pushing the problem aside, kidding him/her out of his/her feelings.

      Examples: "Well, it's a good thing the President doesn't have problems as serious as yours.", "Let's talk about something else."*

      *Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource book

      Aug 12, 2010

      Active Listening Benefits

      Active Listening Benefits

      Here is a list of some of the main benefits of using Active Listening.

      1. It is your check on the accuracy of your listening.

      2. It shows the sender that you are interested in him/her.

      3. It proves to the sender that not only have you heard, you have understood.

      4. It tells the sender you can accept him/her as a troubled person.

      NOTE: The key word is accept (i.e., the sender's behaviors are in the top of the Behavior Window), not agree with. You can accept his/her having a feeling you might not have or a thought you don't agree with.

      5. It gives the sender a chance to ventilate, to feel relieved, to have catharsis. When feelings are expressed and accepted, they lose their grip on the person and become less disabling. When held in, feelings tend to remain strong and fester (as opposed to a popular fear that if one listens to and accepts another's feelings, those feelings will get out of hand).

      6. Active Listening fosters others doing their own problem definition and problem solving. It keeps the responsibility with the sender, yet the listener remains involved. The sender holds onto the ball.

      7. It relieves "emotional flooding" and frees the intellect to get back to work.

      8. It fosters the sender moving from superficial to the deeper, more basic problem.

      9. It avoids fastening onto and "solving" the "presenting problem".

      10. It helps the sender deal with feelings, not just the facts.

      11. Active Listening frequently fosters the sender's insights--new ways of seeing things, new attitudes, new behaviors, new understanding of self.

      12. It fosters the sender being more open and honest with you--more willing to use you as a helping agent.

      13. It promotes a more intimate and warm relationship. The sender feels warm and positive toward the listener. The listener better understands the sender and feels more positive toward him/her.

      14. It helps the sender grow toward being an internal problem-solver, toward being less dependent on others for solutions, toward being more self-responsible, more self-directing; master of his/her own fate or destiny.*

      *Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book