When we want to be truly heard by another it is useful to speak on our own behalf rather than telling another what to think, feel or do. A focus on correcting or directing another is most likely to me met with one of the 3 types of reaction:
In contrast being able to clearly say: “This is what I think and this is how I feel about it and therefore this is what I am going to do”; will be most likely to be heard as coming from your inner conviction.
The following excerpt from my book gives some examples of what speaking from self rather than speaking at another might sound like in parenting (you may wish to reflect on how this might apply to other relationship contexts):
Getting clearer about an “I” position; Rather than a “You” focus on the child:
The key principles for holding an “I” position: The parent manages themself, not the child. They don’t try to control what is beyond their own choice to activate. They don’t expect words to achieve much and are willing to action what they say. They don’t crowd a child’s developmental breathing space by pushing or pulling them into behaving as they desire.
Saying to a child that:
- “You must stop doing that or I will send you to your room”’ might be replaced with:
“I am going to have to go to another room because I can’t concentrate on this task while there’s so much noise.”
- “If you stop that screaming now I will buy you a treat at the checkout” is replaced with:
“I’m not going to keep shopping with all that fuss. If the screaming keeps up I will go straight home. I’ll come back and do the shopping later instead of going to the park this afternoon.”
- “I will give you extra pocket money if you put an hour of homework in each night.” Is replaced with:
“I see it as your responsibility to satisfy the schools requirements, and I will not step in at the last minute if you haven’t managed to get things done on time.”
- “If you don’t stop fighting with your brother I’m going to take away your play station.” Is switched to:
“I expect that you two need to learn how to play together co-operatively and I believe you can find a way to do it. If I come back in 5 minutes and you still haven’t worked it out, I won’t be willing to keep the computers on for the rest of the day.”
- “How dare you swear at me? You are grounded!” is replaced with:
“I’m not willing to be generous when I experience so much disrespect. I am pulling out from giving you that lift to your friend’s house today.”
- “Ok, I can see from you blank look you aren’t getting far with that homework and its due tomorrow, let me help you out.” Is switched to:
- “I’m hearing your complaints about this assignment. I’m willing to let you talk it through with me when I’ve finished my task; but I’m not willing to do any of the work for you.”
- “Will you stop that whinging right now or I’ll stop all our visits to the park this week.” is replaced with:
No reaction from the parent who continues to go about their own business.
- “Great job! That’s the best drawing of a tree I’ve ever seen. You could be a great artist one day” Is switched to:
“I’m really interested in what you’ve created; I’d love to hear about your drawing.”
There is no magic in using the words of the “I” position. The impact is not so much in the language but in the parent’s inner conviction and their perseverance to continue to demonstrate this in action. The child senses the difference of the parent’s inner conviction and, after a time of testing, begins to manage them self better. It takes some dedicated time to think things through for yourself to know what your limits are and how you will live by them. Be prepared for your child to test out whether you really mean what you are saying you’re willing and not willing to do. After a time of testing your resolve, they will come to appreciate that they are dealing with an adult who is not having a knee jerk reaction but is clear and trustworthy.
‘Speaking From Self Rather Than Speaking at Another’ – Jenny Brown