Jul 29, 2010

What Are Some Common Errors in Active Listening?

Common Errors in Active Listening

The following eight faults result from the listener's failing to stay tuned in with the speaker's feelings or the inability of the listener to keep his/her own ideas or feelings out of the listening process.


Speaker: "I'm really mad that Tracy has been flirting with my boyfriend."


Over Listening

Overshooting: Exaggerating the feeling the speaker expressed.
"You really hate Tracy."

Adding: Generalizing or expanding what the speaker is saying.
"You hope you never see Tracy again."

Rushing: Predicting what the speaker will say next.
"And you're probably thinking of what to do about it."

Analyzing: Interpreting speaker's motives.
"Maybe you're upset because she's so cute."

Under Listening

Undershooting: Downplaying the feelings the speaker expressed.
"You wish Tracy would mind her own business."

Omitting: Reducing or skipping important facts expressed by the speaker.
"You're upset with girls who come on to guys."

Lagging: Backtracking or failing to keep pace with the speaker.
"You said earlier that you're having a bad day."

Parroting: Repeating back nearly word-for-word what the speaker said.
"You're mad at Tracy for flirting with your boyfriend."*

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

Jul 27, 2010

Any Research on Confrontive I-Messages?


Baumrind, D. Child Care Practices Anteceding Three Patterns of Preschool Behavior. Genetic Psychology Monographs, 1967, 75, 43-88.

Children who rated high in self-control and self-discipline were found to have parents who refrained from punitive punishment, using instead a reasoning approach--that is, messages that told the children the negative effects of their behavior on others, as with the Confrontive I-Messages.


Parke, R. Effectiveness of Punishment as an Interaction of Intensity, Timing, Agent Nurturance and Cognitive Structuring. Child Development, 1969, 40, 211-235.

Cognitive messages (like I-Messages) were more influential than punishment in preventing children from playing with prohibited toys, even in the absence of the researcher. The effects of I-Messages as a deterrent continued over time, whereas the effects of punishment wore off more quickly.


Coopersmith, S. Antecedents of Self-Esteem. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & Co., 1967

Mothers whose children had high self-esteem when compared with mothers whose children had low self-esteem were found to use more reasoning and verbal discussion and less arbitrary punitive discipline. This study confirms the benefits of Confrontive I-Messages which inform children of the consequences of their behavior.*

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

Jul 26, 2010

Can Appreciative I-Messages Enhance Relationships?


One of the most enriching forms of self-disclosure is the Appreciative I-Message. These are messages that describe parents positive feelings toward their children. Although kids do plenty of things that are problems for parents, they also say and do plenty of things that are a pleasure, often helping a parent in unexpected ways or displaying kindness, maturity, consideration or good humor just when it's needed most. When these behaviors occur, it is appropriate and important for parents to disclose any genuine positive feelings they have about them.

Unfortunately, many parents are only self-disclosing when they are upset with their child's behavior. This is clearly appropriate self-disclosure, but the important point is that parents should disclose both their feelings of unacceptance and acceptance. Appreciative I-Messages that express appreciation, love, enjoyment and affection toward children (spouse, friends and others) can contribute greatly to warmer, closer and more enjoyable relationships. Very young children, with their building self-esteem and desire to be a "helper," seem especially to thrive on Appreciative I-Messages.

Consider the value for you, your children, or others in the following examples of Appreciative I-Messages:

  • "I appreciate your taking my turn making dinner--it gave me time to finish writing some emails."

  • "I really like the story you wrote."

  • "I feel proud of you when I see you stand up for yourself like that."

  • "Honey, I really love you."
It is important that Appreciative I-Messages not be used to manipulate or "shape" a child's behavior. Such ulterior motives invariably come through to the child and make your sincerity suspect. The Appreciative I-Message should be a "no-strings attached" expression of acceptance and acknowledgment.

Even though changing your child should not be the motive, parents who express a lot of positive feelings toward their children are often automatically rewarded with less unacceptable behavior, more trust, mutual respect and cooperation, more affection and caring. Honesty, warmth and affection are highly contagious in families!*

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

Jul 22, 2010

Winning vs Losing

Winning vs Losing

How we solve conflicts and problems is not a reflection on our being "good" or "bad" parents. Our approach comes from what we have learned from interactions with our own parents, teachers, friends, bosses, coworkers and others in our work and life. We are doing our best with the tools we have been given. For many parents, there is a fear of losing control and becoming victims of their children's demands. For other parents, it is a fear of becoming too dictatorial and controlling. both fears come from the win-lose way of thinking that is ingrained in today's world, work and life.

As a result of this thinking, the two most common ways to solve problems are Parent Wins and Child Loses - Method I in P.E.T. language, and Parent Loses and Child Wins - Method II. P.E.T. offers an alternative to these win-lose methods. The core idea in P.E.T. is: Parents have the right to get their needs met and, equally, so do children. Both must win; neither must lose. And the way to insure that this happens is deceptively simple and straight forward: Parent and child must commit themselves to search together until a solution is found that will meet their equally important needs, resolve the conflict, and preserve the relationship.

Learning to resolve conflicts effectively, in ways that enhance the parent-child relationship, can actually transform most conflict into positive events in a family--an opportunity for parents and children to learn about each other and the process of solving problems effectively.*

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

Jul 19, 2010

What is a Confrontive I-Message?

Confrontive I-Messages: How to Say What You Feel

An I-Message is a non-blameful way of talking to others when their behavior is causing a problem for you.

Since an I-Message doesn't blame the other person, s/he is much less likely to get defensive.

I-Messages are a way of taking responsibility of your own thoughts, opinions, ideas, feelings and needs and expressing them.

It's hard for someone to argue with you when you say, "I was really worried," or "I'm scared," or "I feel hurt," because you are telling them what it's like to be you, rather than sending blaming You-Messages.

With an I-Message, you're not making judgments about them or analyzing why they behaved the way they did.

A good I-Message usually contains three parts: (1) your real feelings, (2) the behavior of the other person that caused you a problem, (3) the effect that behavior has on you.

The most important part of an I-Message is the expression of your feelings--to do that, you need to get in touch with the real feelings you are experiencing and then express those feelings honestly.

A feeling is an experience or a sensation that you have in response to someone or something.

Basically, you experience a wide variety of either painful or pleasurable feelings; it is even sometimes hard to know whether the feeling is painful or pleasurable (e.g. when tickled, third helping of your favorite dessert, scratching mosquito bites).

Your feelings center in your body, not in your head (e.g., fear can be directly felt in shaking, heart pumping, stomach churning).

Thoughts are not the same as feelings; thoughts concern facts, information and knowledge--things in your head.

Your feelings are always changing, you never feel exactly the same from minute to minute place to place, person to person.

An important purpose of an I-Message is describing the unacceptable behavior of the other person is a non-blameful way.

Another's behavior is only what you can directly observe, see, hear, smell, taste or feel.

Another's attitudes, feelings, motives and thoughts are not behaviors because you cannot directly observe them.

You can only guess about another's attitudes, motives and feelings. These guesses about what's going on inside another person are only judgments or evaluations.

These are behaviors:
  • My brother almost ways has the remote control.
  • My friend said s/he didn't like my new girl/boyfriend.

These are judgments of behaviors:
  • He's selfish.
  • My friend is jealous.*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Young Adult Resource Book

Jul 15, 2010

Do You Have A Values Collision?

Values Collisions

A value is anything a person believes will make the quality of life better, or very concrete like food or money.

Parents generally want their children to adopt their values in the believe that their children's lives will become as enhanced as their own lives have or could have been.

By and large, children do adopt the great majority of likeable parents' values. They do so largely because children watch their parents closely and copy every behavior that seems to work, form holding a fork in a way that gets food into the mouth to adopting particular opinions about life. This process is called "modeling" and is by far the strongest influence parents have on their children.

Another powerful way of transferring values to a child is for the parents to share and discuss their values before they become an issue; that is, to teach values in the No Problem Area. An example would be a discussion of feelings and beliefs about sex with a pre-adolescent child. However, since the child's life is a separate life from the parents, with other resources of influence impacting the child, some of the parent's values will be rejected by the child as not enhancing and other values will be adopted that are more appealing. For one thing, the child will come into contact with other models in daily life, on T.V., in books, at school, etc. who will appear to have done a better job of life-enhancing in certain areas than the child's parents.

The child will also encounter problems and opportunities in life for which the parents provided no modeling, so the child will need to reach for other sources of values with these problems.

When the parent experiences the child's new or different values (in verbal and nonverbal forms), some of these behaviors will be acceptable and others will not. The parent's problem then becomes how to deal with those new values that are not acceptable to them.

Some of these unacceptable behaviors will have tangible effects on the parent which the child can recognize and accept when confronted with an I-Message. However, when confronted with an I-Message. However, when a child's behavior is unacceptable to the parent and the child is unable to see any tangible effect on the parent, and when the value behind the child's behavior is very strong, it is usually impossible to motivate a change out of consideration for the parent's feeling alone.

Situations like these are called Values Collisions and unlike other conflicts, their resolution does not lie in tapping the child's motivation to change in order to help the parents; the child's motivation to change must be internal, i.e. to help him/herself. There are a number of ways to facilitate this self-directed change.

This is the opportunity to work out any Values Collisions with The Behavior Window. And, here are some behaviors parents have told us their children considered nonnegotiable:
  • Having a friend parents don't like
  • Having pierced body parts or tatoos
  • Wearing jeans full of holes, beat-up sneakers, etc.
  • Having dyed hair
  • Wanting to quit college and become a musician
  • Joining a church of a different denomination from the parents' or deciding not to go to church, temple, etc.
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Having dates with a member of another race of religion
  • Smoking marijuana*
*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's F.E.T. Adult Resource Book

Jul 6, 2010

What Is "The Behavior Window"?

The Behavior Window

In your personal and school life you have many relationships; each one and each person with whom you interact is unique and different.

In relationships, you cannot see inside others. You can't really know what they are thinking or feeling, what they value, or what their needs are. You can only see, hear or touch their behaviors.

A very useful way of thinking about another's behavior is to understand and utilize what Dr. Gordon has called your BEHAVIOR WINDOW. Each and every behavior of another person you'll "see" through "your window".

First, what exactly do we mean by a "behavior?" It is something a person is doing or saying. You can see it, hear it or touch it.

Here are some behaviors. The second list are judgments or evaluations of that behavior. We don't call those judgments "behaviors." So they are not put into the Behavior Window.

These are behaviors
  • My Dad said he wanted me home by midnight.
  • My English teacher gave me a "D" on my paper.
  • She doesn't smile or laugh when I talk to her.
  • She has a tattoo on her ankle.
  • He wears clothes that were in style five years ago.
These are judgments of behaviors
  • Dad hassles me.
  • S/he doesn't like me.
  • She's always in a bad mood.
  • She's so cool.
  • He's a nerd.
Yet, when you experience the behavior of any other person, your reaction or response nearly always takes one of two basic forms--either you find the other's behavior acceptable to you or you find it unacceptable.

The Window represents this idea of acceptance or uncceptance of another person's behavior.*

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