Dec 18, 2008

Is It Time to Rock the Boat? (reposted from GTI's main website)

By Linda Adams, President of GTI

"It's only for the weekend."
"I'll let well enough alone."
"I wouldn't want to cause an argument during Thanksgiving."
"It's not that big of a deal."

As the holiday season nears, do you find yourself resisting or even dreading being with certain relatives or friends because no true connection exists between you?  Will you be with them mostly out of a sense of duty or obligation?  Do you plan to make the best of it?  Get through it somehow and not rock the boat?    

Isn't it interesting, even intriguing, to consider the possibility of what these relationships could be if we were to reject this way of being and take the risk of having truly meaningful genuine dialogue with a parent, uncle, friend or adult child--any relationship where there's staleness, stiffness or indifference. 

While maintaining the status quo might seem innocuous, in reality it's anything but.  Every time we choose it, we collapse further.  It's insidious.  The more often we do it, the easier it is to continue.  Gradually it becomes a habit that we aren't even aware that we have.  We stop seeing that we have a choice.

In reality, we always have a choice.  If we want truly meaningful connections with people, we need to make an effort to bring that about and stop waiting for them to change or show interest in us first or whatever our expectation of them happens to be.  Each of us has the potential capability to improve our communication and as a result our relationships.  

As we are all aware, real and satisfying communication isn't easy and often our attempts at it fall flat in spite of our best efforts.  So we frequently settle for talking about and hearing about the traffic, the weather, the mundane details of our lives, etc. even though we might not have any real interest in discussing these topics and don't feel energized or excited when such conversations are over.  To truly connect with others who are important in our lives requires some skills--of clear, appropriate, non-blameful self-disclosure and of non-judgmental, empathic listening.        
  1. First comes the awareness that you have some unsatisfying relationships with people who are important to you or significant in your life.  I think I can safely say that this would be true for each one of us.
  2. Next comes the realization of the personal price that you pay for maintaining the status quo in these relationships.   Every time you miss an opportunity to make a meaningful connection or decide to let something go, you lose a bit of yourself, you miss a chance to grow.  Passing up these opportunities can cause us to feel indifferent, apathetic, as though we aren't fully living.  It also means that the relationship you have with the other person will not be strengthened or deepened, in fact, the opposite will happen--more distance will be created between you.   
  3. You can decide to gently rock the boat, make a little wave--not a tsunami.  This means being willing to risk engaging in genuine dialogue with the other person--both honest, clear and non-blameful self-disclosure and empathic listening.   
  • Make a conscious attempt to learn more about the other person by showing genuine interest in them and then Active Listen to show that you understand.  Do this with the intent of truly hearing their experience and not using it as a way segueing into a story of your own, i.e. "That reminds me of the time...".  Keep the ball in their court; let them have the floor; let them finish.     
  • Ideally, the other person will reciprocate by actively showing an interest in you--your experience, ideas or opinions.  When that happens, it gives you an opportunity to share something important to you, to reveal something about yourself and contributes to the feeling of a real connection between you.  Unfortunately, the other person doesn't always show that interest, but that doesn't need to stop you.  When they don't, say something like: "I'd like to tell you about..." or "Here's something I've been thinking about...", etc.     
Empathic listening and congruent self-disclosure (I-Messages) are equally necessary skills because it's just as important to listen with understanding, empathy and acceptance of the other person as it is to let them know you at a deeper level.  If disclosing and listening are way out of balance, the interaction will be dissatisfying for at least one of you.  People have said to me:  "I like talking to you--you're such a good listener" and I value hearing that.  Still, if I have mostly listened and not disclosed meaningful things about myself that are heard and acknowledged, I come away feeling at least vaguely dissatisfied.  On the other hand, when another person and I engage in meaningful dialogue with each other, we both come away energized and enriched by the experience and eager for more.

Make a gentle wave and see what ripple effect it has.  It could make the difference between just surviving the holidays and having a meaningful experience. 

Dec 8, 2008

A Christmas Miracle!

About a month ago, an old friend of mine posted pictures of his snowshoeing trip online. There was something in these photos that caught my eye, and it wasn't the powdery white snow I'm so very homesick for...

It was my bright red ski coat that went missing about a year ago, around the same time this friend of mine moved in with his fiancee. The same red ski coat I asked him about before I moved, as I seemed to have remembered leaving it in his apartment. The same red ski coat that he said he didn't have; the red ski coat that his fiancee was happily modeling in all of his photos. MY red ski coat.

(I wouldn't ordinarily be so quick to jump to conclusions, except that this is the same "friend" who told me my bike had been stolen. I later discovered he had sold it...)

Anyway, if I would have found these photos before October, our interaction would have gone something like this:

me: I see your fiancee is wearing my coat...can I have it back?
him: That's not your coat!
me: Well it's identical to mine, and it's kind of a unique coat. And it's too big for her!
him: It's not your coat, it's hers! I can't believe you're accusing me of stealing your coat!
me: You did steal my coat! It's even missing the same zipper as mine! Send it back to me! NOW!
him: ...

Well, you get the idea.

However, in October, I attended a P.E.T. Instructor Training Workshop, and I picked up on a few things. I decided to put my newly learned P.E.T. skills to the test. Our interaction went like this instead:

me: I see that the coat in your pictures is identical to the one that I'm missing. Any chance that that's the one I lost?
Al: That's not your coat. I can't believe what you're implying, that's ridiculous.
me: You feel like I'm accusing you of something.
Al: Yes! You basically just told me I stole your coat. Like I'm a thief or something. That's not your coat!
me: So you didn't take my coat. But, look, I really miss my coat and I'm going to have to pay a lot of money for a new one this year if I can't find mine, and that's really stressing me out.
Al: Ok, look, I'll take another look around through the house and my storage unit, ok? Just don't accuse me of stealing your stuff.
me: Alright, I'm sorry I accused you of stealing. I would really appreciate your looking for it again. Thank you.
Al: No problem. I'll let you know if I find it.

Last week, my coat arrived at my front door in perfect condition, with a hand-written apology and a note about how he didn't realize that I had missed the coat at all.

This was a tricky situation, and I'm sure I could have handled it better. But as I have been learning through experience, I-messages tend to work in the trickiest of situations...even if you start things off on the wrong foot.

All hail Active Listening and I-messages!!! :)

Nov 26, 2008

Thanksgiving & P.E.T.

Hi everyone! Stephanie from GTI here.

The P.E.T. Blog's poll question for the past couple of weeks has been, "Do the holidays bring more or less conflict to your life?" Of the five answer choices, there was only one that that received zero votes: "What is conflict? We're all peace and harmony."

Most of us know by now that if we have human contact, we will encounter conflict. And we also know that is why we can be thankful that there is P.E.T.!

For the start of the holiday season, we would like to invite all of you to share your stories of conflict, and how you resolved (or didn't resolve) the conflict. Feel free to give as much or as little information about the story as you want.

This is a free-form, open-ended question! are some questions to consider if you like...Did you find any P.E.T. skills particularly helpful in the situation? If you could go back and do it all over again, would you handle it differently?

Nov 13, 2008

Been ROADBLOCKED lately?

If you have read P.E.T. or have attended a P.E.T. class, you are probably very familiar with these nasty obstacles that can stop effective communication in its tracks.

The roadblocks come in 12 different varieties: Ordering, Warning, Moralizing, Advising, Using logic, Criticizing, Praising, Labeling, Analyzing, Reassuring, Questioning, and Avoiding.

What is a time you were roadblocked, and how did it make you feel? Or, can you remember a time you roadblocked someone else, and how they reacted?

PET Refresher Opportunities in Calgary, Alberta

P.E.T. One Night Refresher Class offered by Professional Parenting Canada

Designed for people who have taken the P.E.T. course and wish to upgrade, refresh and apply their skills to new situations. All materials included. Cost is $69.00 including GST. All classes are located at Banbury Crossroads School, 201-2451 Dieppe Ave S.W.

March 4th, 2009 Wednesday PET Refresher 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Instructor Judy Arnall

April 22nd, 2009 Wednesday PET Refresher 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Instructor Judy Arnall

June 18th, 2009 Thurs PET Refresher 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Instructor Judy Arnall

Sept 16th, 2009 Wednesday PET Refresher 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Instructor Judy Arnall

Nov 5th, 2009 Thursday PET refresher 6:00 to 9:00 pm
Instructor Judy Arnall

For more information or to sign up, call 403-714-6766.

Nov 12, 2008

My P.E.T. Instructor Training Workshop Experience

Hello everyone! My name is Stephanie, and I am the new contact at Gordon Training International for P.E.T., Be Your Best, and T.E.T. (Teacher Effectiveness Training). I joined the GTI family in September, and the last two months have been an amazing, ongoing learning experience.

Towards the end of October, I had the opportunity to attend a five-day intensive P.E.T. Instructor Training Workshop. I left expecting to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what it might be like to teach P.E.T. and attend one of these workshops; I returned feeling not only that I had learned a tremendous amount, but that I had just experienced something life-changing.

(Our fantastic, fun workshop group! clockwise from bottom right: Sonal, Margaret, Rosie, Guy, Judi, our trainer Steve, and me)

The workshop was far more interactive than I thought any workshop for adults could be! Somewhere between all of the one-on-one attention our master trainer, Steve, offered each of us, the educational (and often hilarious) role-playing exercises, the feedback from my classmates, their student teaching sessions and my own, the days flew by, and I identified my strengths and my weaknesses. I found myself active listening successfully, and able to give myself feedback on how my I-Messages could have been better. I caught myself using roadblocks and then later, stopping myself before I used them; I knew when and how to shift gears.
role play!

As the week progressed, I saw the magic of P.E.T. come to life. I got to test my skills in a safe environment, and use them in real-life situations with my classmates and instructor. My classmates and I learned a lot from interacting with each other and had almost as many questions for each other as we did for the instructor.

at left: Judi's student teaching session, engaging the class in an exercise

Between the the fresh perspective our trainer offered on P.E.T. and being surrounded by 5 fellow enthusiastic P.E.T. instructor candidates, I left Tampa feeling inspired, self-aware, overjoyed, enthusiastic, happily exhausted, and confident in my understanding of all of the P.E.T. skills and in my ability to teach P.E.T. too.

It has been a little over three weeks since the workshop, and I'm still finding my feelings hard to put into words. This workshop was so much more than a workshop for me. I will forever be grateful for this experience. I use my P.E.T. skills every day and I can't imagine life without them now.

And while I intended to attend the workshop solely so that I would better be able to relate to those interested in attending a P.E.T. Instructor Training Workshop and answer their questions, I came away with a desire to share P.E.T. with others and a confidence in my ability to do so. (Part of this confidence comes from the P.E.T. wisdom that we are all human, and no one is perfect!) I would very much like to begin teaching P.E.T., and hope to do so in the spring.

Overall, my experience of a P.E.T. Instructor Training Workshop was extremely positive, emotionally engaging, and one-hundred percent motivating. I would love, love, love to go back!

Until then, I'll be here in sunny San Diego, practicing my P.E.T. skills and encouraging each of you who feels P.E.T. should be shared with the world to attend one of these amazing workshops, or to blog about your own P.E.T. experiences!

Stephanie :)

Sep 29, 2008

A word about P.E.T. from Dr. Thomas Gordon's daughter, Michelle

Being raised with P.E.T. was a blessing for which I am eternally grateful. What did P.E.T. do for me? Here are a few things:

1. Because I was listened to with respect and love, I learned that my ideas and feelings count, and I stand up for myself as a result.

2. Because I was confronted in a way that didn’t belittle or scare me, I was more open and willing to listen to them and I learned that my parents have needs, too, and that it was fair for me to listen to them as they listened to me.

3. Because I was included in decision-making, I learned that I have a voice—that my opinion matters. And I feel A LOT more motivated to carry out the solution when I helped create it.

4. Because I wasn’t spanked, and was confronted with I-Messages (and sometimes they were heated, intense I-Messages) instead, I learned that you can solve problems without force, fear, or physical punishment.

5. Because they didn’t simply tell me what to do, and instead talked openly with me about any problems they had with my behavior, I learned how to be self-directed—to police myself, if you will. This has helped me throughout my entire life, because I don’t wait to be rescued by others when I need help—instead, I look inside. And I know I can succeed because my P.E.T. parents supported me, encouraged me, and trusted me to find the best solution to life’s problems. And the love, respect, and trust that P.E.T. has created for me with my family and friends—it’s amazing. It’s hard work, and it takes time and patience, and there are times when I have frustrating exchanges with friends and family. At those times when I “lose” my skills in the heat of the moment, I know we’ll be okay…we can go back and clean it up. I can’t imagine my life without these skills. I wish every kid (and parent) on the planet could have P.E.T. in their lives.

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

Sep 18, 2008

Should I Be a Strict or Lenient Parent?

To be strict or not to be strict, that is the question - in fact, it's the number-one question among child-rearing and education authorities, among teachers and, of course, parents. It's doubtful that there is a parent who hasn't at one time or another agonized over this.

There is a widespread uncertainty on how to be at home (or how to come across in the classroom) - tough or soft, to be a strict disciplinarian or a permissivist. Have you noticed, however, that you seldom hear a parent or teacher admit "I am authoritarian" or "I am permissive"? These are terms reserved for those with whom you disagree.

The question, whether to be strict or lenient, never ceases to be debated in books and articles, or at conferences and conventions. Dr. Gordon points out that this question is what social scientists call a "pseudo problem" and how it also is a clear case of "either-or thinking". Let's take a look at what he means by that.

Seldom parents or teachers seem to recognize that it is not necessary to make a choice between these two leadership styles. Few adults know it, but there is an alternative to being at either end of the strictness-leniency scale. There is the choice of a third style.

This alternative is being neither authoritarian nor permissive, neither strict nor lenient. Does that mean being somewhere near the middle of the scale--moderately strict or moderately lenient? Not at all. The alternative is not being on the scale at all! How so?

Authoritarian leadership--whether at home or in the classroom--means that the control is in the hands of the adult leader. It has been researched and proven for decades how ineffective maintaining control through power is. Authoritarianism often creates fearful and subservient children and/or rebellion.

Still, no parent or teacher really wants to suffer the chaotic consequences of unrestricted freedom and lawless permissiveness either. It's also true that most children are uncomfortable with the consequences of permissiveness. Permissive leadership means that control has been "permitted" to be in the hands of the youngsters. Children of permissive parents usually feel guilty about always getting their way. They also feel insecure about being loved, because their inconsiderate behaviors make them feel unlovable.

So what is that third viable alternative to both, authoritarian and permissive adult leadership? It's what Dr. Gordon in detail describes in his model of parenting, a set of skills and methods known as Parent Effectiveness Training that are geared toward rearing self-disciplined children in a harmonious family climate.

For now, let's just emphasize that this new approach to relating to youngsters requires a transformation in the way adults perceive children, as well as a shift in the way they treat them. This transformation can be accomplished by learning a few new skills and methods that are applied in everyday life.

This blog will describe and examine each of these skills and methods in its future editions and hopefully contribute to you having a more harmonious and peaceful home.

Sep 16, 2008

Children Don't Misbehave

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

If parents only knew how much trouble this word "misbehavior" causes in families! Thinking in terms of children misbehaving not only spells trouble for the kids, obviously, but it brings on unnecessary problems for their parents.

Why is this so? What is wrong with thinking and saying that your child misbehaved? Every parent does. Yes, and their parents before them did. In fact, the origin of the concept of child misbehavior goes back so far in history it is doubtful if anyone actually knows when it started or why. It's so common nobody thinks to question it.

Strangely enough, the term misbehavior is almost exclusively applied to children--seldom to adults, friends, spouses. Have you ever overheard someone say, "My husband misbehaved yesterday," "I took my friend to lunch and got so angry at her misbehavior," "My team members have been misbehaving," or "Our guests misbehaved at our party last night"? Apparently, then, only children are seen as misbehaving--no one else misbehaves.

Misbehavior then is "parent language", tied up somehow with the way parents traditionally have viewed their offspring. Parents say children misbehave whenever their actions (or their behaviors) are contrary to how parents think their children ought to act or behave. More accurately, misbehavior is behavior that produces some sort of bad consequences for the parent.

Misbehaving = Child is doing something that is bad for the parent

On the other hand, when a child engages in behavior that does not bring bad consequences for the parent, that child is described as "behaving."

"Jack was well-behaved at the store"; "We try to teach our children to behave"; "Behave yourself!"

Now we have:

Behaving = Child is doing something that is acceptable to the parent.

All Behaviors are Solutions to Human Needs

Family life would be infinitely less exasperating for parents and more enjoyable for children as well if parents accepted these basic principles about children:

Principle 1:
Like adults, children have basic needs that are important to them, and they continually strive to meet their needs by doing something.

Principle 2:
Children don't misbehave. Their behaviors are simply actions they have chosen to meet these important needs.

These principles suggest that all children's actions are behaviors. Viewed in this way, all day long a child is behaving, and for the very same reason all other creatures engage in behaviors--they are trying to get their needs met.

This does not mean, however, that parents will like all the behaviors their children engage in. Nor should they be expected to, for the children are bound to do things that sometimes produce unacceptable consequences for their parents. Kids can be loud and destructive, delay you when you're in a hurry, pester you when you need quiet, cause you extra work, clutter up the home, interrupt your conversation, and break your valuables.

Think about such behaviors this way: they are behaviors children are engaging in to meet their needs. If at the same time they happen to interfere with your pursuit of pleasure, that doesn't mean children are misbehaving. Rather, their particular way of behaving is unacceptable to you. Don't interpret that children are trying to do something to you--they are only trying to do something for themselves. And this does not make them bad children or misbehaving children. But it may cause you a problem.

An infant cries because she is hungry or cold, or in pain. Something is wrong; her organism needs something. Crying behavior is the baby's way of saying, "Help." Such behavior, in fact, should be viewed as quite appropriate ("good"), for the crying is apt to bring the child the help that is needed. When you view the child as a creature that is doing something appropriate to get its needs met, you can't really call it misbehaving.

If parents would strike the word "misbehaving" from their vocabulary, they would rarely feel judgmental and angry. Consequently, then they would not feel like retaliating with punishment. However, all parents do need to learn some effective methods of modifying behaviors that interfere with their needs and causes them a problem, but labeling the child as misbehaving is not one of them.