Aug 30, 2012

The Problem With Using Power

You can force your daughter to stay in college. You can insist that your subordinate dress differently.  But, as most of us know, power tactics are often a costly way to preserve relationships.  They’re also unlikely to have any positive effect on the other person’s values. In fact, the use of power practically guarantees being "fired" as a consultant.  
Using power to influence the outcome of a values collision can be tempting, particularly as a shortcut if other available approaches are complex and time consuming, and you hold most of the power in the relationship.

When you act as an influencer through modeling and consulting, you're offering people an opportunity to change by encouraging an evolutionary process.  The adaptations in their lives may be slow and gradual, but they will be lasting because they’re not imposed; they’re part of that person’s learning and growth.

By exercising your influence, you’re saying, in effect:

"I have no power over you, but here are the facts and figures that support my position. I leave responsibility for change with you. I won't hassle or nag if you don't make the changes I've suggested. I want to be influential and, above all, to preserve a good relationship with you. I accept the fact that the outcome of my consulting efforts is uncertain."

 When you use power methods in a values collision you are denying people a chance to evolve at their own pace, in their own way. You're applying a "revolutionary" approach-instant change through coercion. The message you send comes through like this:

"I don't trust you to make this change on your own. I'll use whatever power is available to me to force the change after all, it's for your own good."
Using power to alter another's values is frequently justified as being in the other's best interest. But consider what people throughout history have been forced to accept in the name of their "best interest"! That should give us pause when we set out to coerce change in others. Non-power methods that people can adapt to their own needs and experience are more likely to yield change that's desired by  you and truly accepted by the other person.

Author Unknown, Posted by Selena George, P.E.T. Program Manager

Aug 22, 2012

They're Not Teaching You I-Messages

Just yesterday we received a phone call from someone who was in the middle of taking an (unmentionable) communication skills course, and called us to ask for clarification on giving the I-Message. This extremely frustrated young man sounded relieved to be finally getting some real help and clarification on how this skill works. As he delicately approached his question, he began by explaining something that was actually very different from what an I-Message really is. Because just as common as the term is used, it is mis-used. Here was yet another example of it's misuse.

He proceeded to ask for reassurance on whether or not he should be following the formula: I feel______ when______ and I would like______ so can we _______.

I politely explained to him that we do not teach that formula and that unfortunately, I could not help him in his search for how to correctly deliver this four-part confrontive statement of sorts. After several more attempts to get me to answer him about this, I began to listen closer to his frustration. He told me that he was desperately trying to get this thing down right and that every time he asked for more questions in the class, he was accused of not doing his homework. Nobody was giving him the proper formula for how to fill in those four blanks and when he tried it at home, it was not working at all like they said it would.

I listened. (And by that I mean, I active listened.) After what I believed to be a minor breakthrough on his part, I offered to teach him the original, three-part I-Message by Dr. Thomas Gordon. He asked for examples and I provided them. He wrote down the formula and was pleased. "Finally," he expressed, "this is something that makes much more sense. It's like now I have the right equation to plug into."

I couldn't help but then ask him what this class had taught him about running into resistance after you give someone your I-Message. What were you supposed to do then? His answer was painful. He was advised to repeat himself, act "appropriately" and then tell the other person something along the lines of: "You don't want to talk about this now so let's set up a time when we can talk later."

I can't say I was shocked, but there was some serious head-shaking happening on my end. The poor guy! I could tell how badly he wanted to improve his communication skills and how strongly his desire for help was. To be given a set of tools that didn't work must have been like buying a bicycle without wheels. I wondered aloud: "What are you supposed to do after your second attempt to talk with them and they respond in the same way? Repeat the cycle?"

He sighed. I could hear his shrug right through the phone.

When I explained to him what shifting gears into Active Listening was, it was like a light turned on in his head. Knowing that he had written all this new information down, he sounded eager to continue his research. He thanked me graciously and we ended our conversation.

I hope the rest of the students in that class give us a call!

Aug 16, 2012

There Is Only One Real "I-Message"

The I-Message is now a term that is commonly used. Since the origination of the I-Message by Dr. Thomas Gordon in 1962, the term has been borrowed, misrepresented and generally watered-down. While the intention still aims at effectively confronting another in order to get your needs met, there is a true science and research behind Dr. Gordon's three part I-Message. Without each necessary piece, it simply will not work.
In hopes to bring clarity to this commonly misunderstood term, President of Gordon Training International, Linda Adams, explains what an authentic I-Message really is:

"As developed by Dr. Gordon and as taught in all of our courses for parents, teachers and leaders, the I-Message has three parts:  1) A non-blameful description of the unacceptable behavior; 2) the concrete effect that behavior has on the sender; and 3) the feeling the sender has about that effect.  In short, an I-Message includes:   Behavior, Effect, Feelings.  Examples of an I-Message from a parent to a child:  “When the music is on so loud, I can’t concentrate on my work and that frustrates me” or “I was upset when the gas tank was almost on empty and I had to stop and get gas which made me late for work.”  It doesn’t matter which order these three parts are in, just that they are all there.

The I-Message doesn’t contain a request or suggestion or solution about what the child or other person should do or what concrete action should be taken. An I-Message leaves responsibility with the other person to change their behavior out of consideration for the needs of the sender.      

There’s another essential skill that’s needed with most I-Messages.  Because people don’t usually like to hear that their behavior is interfering with someone else, they often respond in a defensive or resistant way.  So the I-Message sender needs to be prepared to Active Listen to that resistance and hear the other person’s feelings in order to give the I-Message a better chance of being heard and responded to in a positive way."

Aug 8, 2012

Is It Ever Okay to Use Power Methods With Children?

  It has become a joke with those of us who teach P.E.T. that in almost every new class some parent will challenge the validity or limits of Method III by one of two questions:
"But what if your kid runs into the street in front of a car? Don't you have to use Method I?"

"But what if your kid gets sever appendicitis? Don't you have to use Method I to make her go to the hospital?"
  Our answer to both these questions is "Yes, of course." These are crisis situations that demand immediate and firm action. Yet prior to the crisis of the child's running in front of a car or needing to be taken to the hospital, non power methods can be used.

  If a child develops a habit of running int the street, a parent might first try to talk to the child about the dangers of cars, walk her around the edge of the yard, and tell her that anything beyond is not safe, show her a picture of a child hit by a car, build a fence around the yard, or watch her when she is playing in the front yard for a couple of days, reminding her each time when she goes beyond the limits. Even if I took the punishment approach, I would never risk my child's life on the assumption that punishment alone would keep her from going into the street. I would want to employ more certain methods in any event.

- excerpted from "Aren't There Times When Method I Has To Be Used" in Dr. Thomas Gordon's Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) book