Thomas Gordon created courses called Parent and Teacher Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) and (T.E.T) in the 70s and 80s and he noticed that when people are upset and experiencing emotional distress, the following communication strategies generally make the situation worse and the upset person may withdraw, shut down, or tell you to get lost:
Reassuring Giving Advice Giving Solutions Probing Lecturing Analysing Diverting Threatening
....there are 12 or more and you can find them listed in more detail in the link at the comments.
So, you may ask, why would reassuring backfire or compound the upset?
Well, in NLP coaching, one of the major tenants which helps us help clients change so quickly is this: "Respect the clients map of the world".
By 'map' we mean the values, attitudes and beliefs of that person. But in particular the values of their heart and soul.
Lets say you value being kind, that kindness is your top value?
And maybe during childhood you were surrounded by people who valued being direct and blunt - straight shooters who did not see the need to sugar coat their opinions.
Now, that would be fine, UNLESS you were ridiculed for being kind. Perhaps you were told to 'harden up' or 'get over it' and people asked 'What's wrong with you, why are you so sensitive?"
Sound familiar? Or maybe you are a straight shooter and someone you know seems to be super sensitive?
Humans have a need for inclusion and acceptance. If being accepted by the family/group/tribe means that they had to 'harden up', then they start to feel wrong for being themselves on the inside.
This creates a trauma or emotional wound or 'sore spot'. This wound in itself becomes a point of attraction and it's likely that in an argument with a spouse in adulthood, if that spouse is straight up and blunt, the other partner may feel hurt and upset and 'triggered'.
Their 'map of the world' is turned upside down and they can't locate themselves on it.
At this moment, giving them further advice will only compound the situation and increase their anxiety - they can't read their map of the world - why would they be able to read yours when they are so upset, their pulse rate is high, their amygdala - the fight flight freeze part of the brain - is triggered and producing a way different chemistry than when they are calm and relaxed.
If you are lost in New York and ring me in London for directions and I look at my map of London instead of a map of New York and give you instructions to get Buckingham Palace - you would probably say WTF and hang up the phone, right?
And maybe I would be mystified because my map of London is really pretty and shows me where to go easilty and effortlessly.
But helps me to realise you are in a different city and, to respond with compassion and empathy and acknowledge the feelings of confusion and frustration as you try to find your way around a city with no map on you (because you left it behind in London).
If I try and reassure you and say - "Oh don't worry, it will be fine", is that going to help?
If I try and lecture you about how big New Work is and all you need to do is find a book shop and buy another map, is that going to create closeness, understanding and warmth? Or piss you off? Am I taking account that maybe your legs are tired, you are hungry, late for your meeting, have no idea where you are and perhaps you are starting to panic?
So, this unfortunately is what happens to us when we are little children. Someone steals our toy and we are upset. We liked that toy for a host of reasons. We used it to build sand casltes. But no one seems to care. They just try to reassure us and tell us to find another toy, or they lecture us, or get angry because we are crying.
Maybe they try to divert our attention or get us to smile and stop crying to make them feel more comfortable because they don't know what to do with negative emotion, or because they just, with good intentions, want to see us happy and hate to see us sad.
So, we learn that having negative emotions is somehow not okay, or bad or wrong or shameful. In order to get love and accpetance we must put on a smile-mask for Mum and Dad and stuff down our negative emotions AND THE POSITIVE VALUE that came with it - perhaps we value competance and building sandcastles with that spade, or shaping castle turrets with the plastic mould. But no one stops to find out what was important to us - they just try to get us to stop crying. So we feel unseen, ungot and not enough for them. Not good enough.
Now we spend the rest of our lives trying to get that approval by keeping on that mask. And if we don't get that approval, then we spend the rest of our lives trying to piss that parent off.
This, I think, is why Anthony Robbins asks one woman in his Netflix Documentary "I am not your guru" one very powerful question:
Whose love did you crave the most?
Which parent or caregiver?
By this, I think he means, who didn't give you enough approval?
What you really wanted was unconditional love. But if our messy negative emotions aren't acceptable, then we learn to take approval as a chemical (dopamine reward) substitute.
Now, if Thomas Gordon's roadblocking was used when were upset, and lets face it, everyone has experienced that, that's where we start to feel shame around our own emotions. Others judge us for our emotions and we internalise that and judge ourselves and try to hide those emotions and parts of ourselves that are not 'acceptable'.
In compassionate coaching, we use skills like open questions adn reflective listening to draw out and hold up a mirror to the ideas and concerns you express - so you can see yourself - your own heart - it's values - without shame, but in the new light of acceptance and celebration.
Celebration - because as those values come to light we start to feel seen and got and heard and we start to heal.
Because in the traumas we carry around, in those events in our lives, we were shamed for the values of our heart - other people didn't get it. Probably because they were shamed for their values and so everyone is going around trying to get acceptance from everyone else by making them take their advice. To read from their map!
See the issue?
I think we all need to be able to coach each other. But not using roadblocks and telling each other to 'get over it'. Rather, using the gentle approach of open questions and reflective listening to help each other navigate the upsets of life and to feel seen, heard and got for our inner most being and soul.
Couples research John Gottman found that this is what makes long term happy couples stick together even when everything esle is not working - they learn to listen for the positive dreams, values, hopes and aspirations hidden or buried inside the complaints of their spouse. If you complain your partner is tight with money, your solution might be that they loosen up a bit. But the value inside that complaint is generousity.
A typical response to such criticism might be:
"You're irresponsible with money" - a judgement.
Another response which might help that person to feel seen and got at the deepest levels is: "So you really value generousity?"
YES! Replies the spouse.
Tell me more about what's important to you about that...
Can you see where THAT conversation might go as opposed to the first?
What if you and your spouse could coach each other and your kids through upsets, instead of arguing and feeling hurt, misunderstood and unseen?
What if those skills could be learnt, not to be used all the time, but just when we have a concern or upset to help us navigate through it more quickly and feel more nurtured inside it?
What kind of relationship, family and community would we have if that became the norm?
I will be talking about other ways to find your inner wisdom on Wednesday night at the seminar, but if you feel you would like to get these coaching skills for yourself and make a real difference to those you love and get your needs met as well, in a win-win kind of way, then consider attending the Transforming Communication Course.
Here's the link to the event and in the comments is a link to the website page where you can download the syllabus, dates and read the testimonials:
You may also want to attend the FREE seminar I am holding as part of the regular weekly School of Dreams Free Seminars on Wed 15th May 2019 at 7.00pm: FINDING YOUR INNER WISDOM - see link in comments or got to the events tab to find out more and register.