By Sue Kranz
In his book Choice Theory, William Glasser discuses 7 habits that bring people closer to us and 7 habits that push them away. While my focus here is on our relationship with our children and teens, as some of you have already noticed, these principles apply to all of our relationships.
First, the 7 habits that brings others closer to us: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences.
And the 7 habits that push others away: criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, and bribing.
In this article, I’ll discuss the 7 habits that push others away, not because this is what I’d recommend you do, but because they tend to be our default when we feel out of control. And it’s difficult to stop doing something when you’re not aware that you’re doing it – or that it’s a problem. Criticizing, blaming, and complaining are the most damaging, so let’s start there.
Criticizing is finding fault with, pointing out real or perceived flaws, or judging negatively. We all know how this feels: when someone criticizes us, we feel that we’re somehow lacking, that the other person’s feelings for us are conditional on our measuring up.
Blame is criticism taken to the next level. “This is all your fault! Look how you made me feel!” It’s not about helping the person understand the effects of what they’ve done, take ownership, try to make things right, and come up with a better plan for next time. It’s just about making them feel ‘bad’.
Complaining is – well, we all know what complaining is. It’s an expression of dissatisfaction, displeasure, or resentment, and it’s really unpleasant to be around, whether it’s directed at us or not.
Nagging is telling someone something you’ve already told them or something they already know. Scolding, reminding, and giving advice all fall into this category. If you’ve already said it once, don’t say it again. Ever. Period. Nagging implies the person isn’t capable of figuring it out for themselves.
Threatening and punishing often go hand in hand – unless of course you’re a master of the empty threat. Threatening and punishing stem from the belief that people must feel bad in order to behave well. What?! And if you punish someone and they don’t feel bad about it, is it still punishment? And when are punishment and revenge the same thing?
Bribing. It may seem harmless, but it’s not. “If you behave in the store, I’ll buy you a toy.” “I’ll give you a dollar for every ‘A’ on your report card.” What we teach them with bribes is that they can use the threat of misbehaviour to get what they want, and that nothing is worth doing unless they get something for it, Praise. Alfie Kohn has some interesting comments on the problems with praise, including the fact that a child who’s praised for being generous will stop being generous unless someone is watching. This isn’t how we built empathy or self-esteem.
In the next article: 7 ways to pull your kids closer.
If you’d like to know more about Choice Theory, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you PDFs of the booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and the handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries. And, as always, I welcome your questions and comments.