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

Aug 9, 2010

Would You Like to Prevent Future Problems?

Send Preventive I-Messages

Preventive I-Messages let the other know ahead of time what you will need and want. People are better able to help you meet your needs if they have a clear picture of what you will want and why.

Some examples of Preventive I-Messages:
  • "I'd like to know what time we're having dinner so I can call my friend."
  • "I'd like use to decide what needs to be done on that report so I can get started on my part of it."*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Aug 5, 2010

What Happens When Method III Doesn't Work?


Your success with Method III will increase with time as you become more and more skillful with the process and your Active Listening, I-Messages and Gear Shifting skills become more natural. As your children and family member's level of trust and comfort with Method III grows, your success rate also increases.

When Method III does not "work", it is usually related to one of these factors:
  • The skill, experience and comfort level of the parent is lacking.
WHAT TO DO - continue to develop your skills; use Method III in No Problem Area decision making, e.g. planning for a fun family weekend and use it first on small problems before taking on big ones
  • You consciously or unconsciously revert back to Method I or II due to stress, pressures or not having your PET skills integrated as your natural communication process.
WHAT TO DO - Active Listen to their feelings, send an I-Message about why you did what you did and reaffirm your commitment to the relationship; return to
  • The child or other person did not buy into the process and resists trying it.
WHAT TO DO - go back and Set the Stage before beginning Step I
  • There are clear limits of time and/or resources or the chance for physical harm is imminent.
WHAT TO DO - explain the situation, e.g. must leave now because there are only 30 minutes before your flight leaves, etc. take action but make the commitment to use the process when time or resources are more plentiful.
  • The child or other person is not ready because they are "flooded" by built up mistrust, anger, resentment or other strong feelings.
WHAT TO DO - before you try Method III, invest time in Active Listening to the child and in sending I-Messages to improve the relationship.
  • No acceptable solution is found because of one of these reasons.
WHAT TO DO - choose between Fight, Flight or Submit but be aware of the risks of using one of these strategies and continue to use your skills to reinvest in the relationship.*

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Participant Workbook

Aug 3, 2010

The "Apparent Magic" of the Gordon Model

By Linda Adams, President of GTI

As we recall the many things for which we are thankful, we feel especially grateful to and appreciative of all the people around the world who teach, who advocate for, who use the Gordon Model in their own lives and relationships. Ever since 1962 when Dr. Gordon taught the first PET class in a Pasadena, California cafeteria until August of this year when Sister Estelle Fontaine taught a group in Mauritius (Indian Ocean), we have heard stories of "apparent magic"--stories that are made possible by our representatives and instructors throughout the world. Here are some we'd like to share with you that illustrate the universal applicability and relevance of this model to all relationships.

Married Couple Find Themselves On A Date In Tokyo:

Situation: After dinner. Children are already in bed. A husband and wife are in the living room. The wife took a PET course and is ready to practice a Positive I-Message.

W: Dad.
H: Yeah...?
W: I suppose you must have lots of disagreeable frustration at work.
H: Oh yes, I do--lots of them.
W: You work for such a long time every day, but you know, you've never come home in a bad mood.
H: Maybe so. I let it go out while I work, you know.
W: I appreciate to see you in a good mood when you come back home. I feel happy to see you like that at home even after your long work.
H: Well, today, too--I had a quarrel with some colleagues.
W: Oh, yeah?
H: (Then he talked about what happened that day and said there were colleagues whom he trusted so much that we could even quarrel with them).

The wife comments--"There was not so strong a reaction from him that day, but what was surprising was what happened the next day. At around 10:00 that night, he called me on the phone on this way from work and invited me to go to a noodle shop near our apartment. 'Come down. I'm almost in front of our apartment'. For many years, we had not done something like this. On our way back from the noodle shop, we bought some ice cream cones and went home licking them. I knew what I had wanted to convey to him the day before was understood and accepted by him. The next morning, my husband was telling our children with a big grin: 'Hey, mom and I had a date yesterday'."

Sister Estelle Inspires Nuns:

"I went to Mauritius and La Reunion to give some Gordon trainings to Carmelite convent order nuns and to some nuns who take a very active responsibility for older people and children with problems or abandoned ones. It is to be noted that there is no Training Centre there and all of the people whom we have met were delighted with these trainings--their regret is that they did know earlier that such things could exist. Some people told me that it was personal therapy for them, opened them to other ways of living their relationships and made them look to life with much more hope."

Pickle-Packing Plant Pleased With Productivity In Maryland, USA:

Recently a plant manager shared this about LET Trainer Rob Harris who trained many of their managers, supervisors, and line-leads in the LET skills: "He was able to make a real difference in how the entire plant acted toward one another. I have seen a change in our supervision and leads that we have trying to accomplish for four years. The result is what is most impressive. We have gone the last seven months with lower consumer complaints than the previous year. We have reduced the amount of rework in the plant by $120,000 from last year. We have spent $170,000 less in overtime than the year before. Our cost per case is down by $.07. The intangible change is probably the biggest whereas stress levels are at an all time low and our teams are working together better than they ever have."

PET Behind Prison Bars:

In December of last year, an inmate at Soledad Prison, a maximum security prison in California, wrote to us letting us know that he had read the PET book in the prison library and that he would like to take a course to learn the skills. We then sent him FET (Family Effectiveness Training, the video version of PET) and received a letter from him several months later sharing this with us: "I must tell you how impressed I was with Dr. Gordon's program--it has helped me better understand how to interact not only with my own children but with my fellow inmates as well. This is a program that would help all inmates who have the willingness and desire to prepare themselves to successfully reenter their communities." He then approached the prison administration with the idea of offering the course for groups of inmates preparing for parole. FET was so well-received that there are now three ongoing courses, one of which the prison chaplain facilitates. It has become one of the most popular courses ever offered at Soledad and there are now 300 inmates on the waiting list. Recently, David shared a conversation with a fellow inmate named Albert. "Albert shook my hand and thanked me and said that before he took the FET course, he had never really known how to properly communicate with people. He felt alienated from his own children, his parents, even from his wife. He said he have acted like a drill instructor issuing orders rather than a father, son, husband. It was his way or the highway. Albert said that FET was the best thing he had done in a very long time--'it changed my life and has given it new meaning'."

And finally, this from Azza Abul-Fadl in Egypt:

"I enjoy doing these courses and cannot tell you how much I appreciate having the opportunity to work with you on this really wonderful and peace-loving mission. When I was using an I-Message with my nephew the other day to help him resolve a conflict with his fiancee, my sister told her son: "'Your aunt is speaking the words of God'--isn't this wonderful!"

Our deepest thanks to each of you who make a unique and valued contribution to making apparent magic like this possible.