We believe that these sample messages will aid you in your communication with the important people in your lives.
List of messages:
N1 What Is An I ? Message?
N2 Sharing Your Inner World
N3 Some Useful Thoughts And Suggestions For when We Are Having Need Conflicts
N4 Suggestions For Creating Harmonious Communication
N5 I-Message To An Aloof Spouse
N6 I-Message To An Interrogator, Critic
N7 I-Message To An Intimidator
N8 I-Message To A Victim
N9 An Example «I Message» To A Spouse Who Doesn?t Listen Or Speaks Aggressively
N10 To A Child Wants To Go To The Movies
N11 The Blaring Stereo
N12 To A Child After A Note From The Teacher
N13 To A Child About A The Messy House
N14 To The Child Who Arrives Home Late
N15 To Children Who Are Fighting Over A Game
N16 More About Communication With Children
N17 Active Listening
N18 Putting Our Selves In The Other’s Position
N19 Examples Of I-Messages For Students
N1 WHAT IS AN I ? MESSAGE?
An «I message» is a form of communication in which we effectively express to someone what is happening inside of us. In this way we help the other to understand us and our feelings, needs, thoughts and actions. In our communication with others we often make «you messages» in which we accuse the other of being wrong, evil or unacceptable. When we do this, he feels hurt, rejected, endangered and angry. This puts him on the defensive. He stops hearing what we are saying, because this hurts him. He feels the need to protect himself in various ways.
Some may protect themselves by closing in on themselves and shutting us out emotionally. Others may become defensive, and even aggressive, in their attempt to protect themselves. When we communicate with someone in this way, it is very unlikely that we will be able to create an open, loving, supporting relationship with this person.
The «I message» takes the emphasis off what the other is doing wrong, or what we think about the other, and puts the emphasis on:
1. how we feel,
2. what we need,
3. how we think, and
4. what help we need from the other in order to feel happy and more satisfied in this relationship.
We avoid dwelling on who has done what to whom, and focus on what kind of relationship we would like now, and how we feel and what we need now from the other person.
The «I message» is more honest. When we make «you messages» we simply express our anger and negative feelings towards the other. We do not explain the beliefs, programmings, fears, expectations, needs, desires, attachments and aversions which are at the root of these negative feelings. We do not take responsibility for our reality, but rather blame our reality on the other. We do not explain to the other that we have various needs, fears and weaknesses, which make us vulnerable to his behavior or beliefs, and that this is the actual cause of our problem and not simply his behavior. The cause of our reality is our beliefs and not the other?s behavior which may or may not be in harmony with our expectations.
The «I message» has four basic parts. The first part is the introduction. It is important to start our communication with two important messages which will help the other to relax and be able to listen more openly to our communication. The first important message is that we are approaching the other because we ourselves have a problem and we would like to ask his help, or at least his understanding. We are not approaching him because we want to reject him, or change him, or blame him, but because we are unhappy and need his help in solving this problem. This is called retaining the ownership of the problem. Now the other also may have a serious problem, but it might not be the same problem that we have. For example we may be unhappy because our child, or spouse, is behaving in a certain way. Since we are unhappy, this is our problem. But that child or spouse may have some other problem which is making him or her act in that way. In some cases, they might have a problem with our behavior. In such cases, it is essential that each expresses what exactly his problem or needs are, rather than accuse or blame the other.
The second message which we need to give in the introduction is that we are approaching the other because this relationship is important to us and because our happiness depends on its being harmonious. The other needs to hear that he or she is important to us and that we are interested in keeping this relationship as harmonious as possible.
N2 SHARING YOUR INNER WORLD
The second part of the «I message» is the process of sharing our inner world of thoughts, feelings, needs, fears and attachments and expectations. Here we explain to the other what feelings are created within us when we are faced with the situation or behavior which is troubling us. We also explain how our beliefs, needs, expectations and fears create those feelings within us. We may even go on to analyze how we then react towards him and others when we feel that way. It is important for the other to hear that, so that he can realize in the future, that our negative reactions towards him are not so much an expression of our hate, but rather or our fear, hurt, insecurity and self doubt. We tend to avoid exposing these vulnerable and weak parts of ourselves for we consider them unacceptable to others and even to ourselves. We fear that, if we show our needs or weaknesses, others will reject us, use us, manipulate us, or take us for granted. This, however, is not my experience. I believe that people are basically good and that, if we see the good within them, and address our selves to that goodness, and help them feel safe and accepted by us, then their inherent goodness will manifest in their relationship with us. Herein lies our real protection, and our real happiness.
Obviously, if we have for many years communicated in a different way, it may take some time for the other to relax, feel secure and respond to our new behavior. It is also extremely important to realize that no «I message» will ever work if we still internally believe that the other is to blame for our reality or that we are the victims of some injustice. Playing the victim will always put the other in the role of the abuser. It will be extremely useful to do positive visualization exercises concerning your communication in your difficult relationships.
When describing the behavior or situations which stimulate our inner programmings and create our negative inner world, it is important to do so in an non accusative way. We can first express our problem generally and then personally. Here is an example.
We do not however, suppress only our negative feelings. We also withhold our love, affection, admiration, gratitude and well wishes. We might do so because:
we fear how the other will respond,
or because we have learned that this is sign of weakness
or believe that the other will use this against us later,
or because we are in competition with the other,
or simply because we have not yet learned to express positive feelings. In most cases, we feel vulnerable.
Learning to express our positive feelings to others is a basic part of creating a happy relationship. We all need to hear positive feedback. We can make a separate list of the following for each of our important persons:
1. What are his / her positive traits which we admire?
2. What are her / his abilities or talents which we admire?
3. Why do we feel gratitude for that person?
4. What do we wish for that person (Health, success, happiness, growth etc.)?
5. Why do we love that person?
Then we can share our answers with them.
N3 SOME USEFUL THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS FOR
WHEN WE ARE HAVING NEED CONFLICTS
1. It is not by chance that I am with this particular partner.
2. My partner is my teacher on my evolutionary path.
3. He or she gives me in each moment exactly what I need (pleasant or unpleasant) in order mature emotionally and spiritually and develop my inner feelings of security and self worth.
4. My partner needs and deserves my love and respect just as I need and deserve the same from him or her.
5. I really do love my partner and do wish for him or her to be well and happy.
6. Sincere and truthful communication is the only real solution.
7. Love understands and forgives.
8. We both deserve a happy live. only our egos and fears obstruct us.
N4 SUGGESTIONS FOR CREATING HARMONIOUS COMMUNICATION
1. You can perform daily a deep relaxation or positive projection technique in which you imagine that you are able to express your needs, feelings and thoughts to the other in an harmonious way with love and respect both for your self and the other. See the guidelines for such a positive projection.
2. Work on your own feelings of inner security and self-acceptance.
3. Agree to meet once a week to discuss your needs and feelings and share more deeply. It is best for the meeting be the same day and hour each week so that you each keep this hour free for that purpose.
4. You might want to discuss the answers to the various questionnaires in this site with each other at those meetings.
5. Learn to translate your complaints and anger into needs and express them with I- messages without criticism or threats. Simply explain to the other what you need and how important it for you that he or she respond to those needs and ask how they feel about that.
6. Learn to listen actively and clearly to what the other is trying to say seeking to understand what their real feelings are and what they really need.
7. Bring to mind daily at least three of your loved one?s positive qualities and share them with him or her when its feels natural.
8. Do things which you enjoy together.
9. Allow each other space and time to be alone and recharge emotionally and physically so that each rejuvenates himself and the relationship.
10. Express your love in ways that the other can feel it perhaps with a massage or flowers, cards with messages, gifts, or acts of service to each other.
N5 I-message TO AN ALOOF SPOUSE
“Dear, I have something important which I would like to express to you and if you want to answer me that would be fine. There are times when you are silent, inexpressive or even seem sad or angry. At those times, when I do not know what you are feeling or thinking, I sometimes think that perhaps I have done something which has offended or hurt you, or that perhaps you do not love me any more. I sometimes also believe that you do not have enough trust in me, or do not feel close enough to me to share with me what you are feeling. Then I begin to doubt my self worth as a spouse.
“When I see you like this and make those interpretations, then I sometimes approach you trying to find out what is happening. Sometimes you respond and sometimes you do not. That bothers me even more. I feel hurt and believe that you do not care about me and our relationship.
“I now realize that it doesn?t help to pressure you to communicate with me. I am going to try to leave that to you. I just want you to know that I love you and I want and need to know more about what you are feeling and thinking, but that I am going to leave that up to you. And if, in fact, I have done or do something, which has offended or hurt you, I very much want to hear about it. Do not protect me by not telling me, if something I do bothers you.
“I will try to leave you all the space you need to feel from within if you want to communicate with me more deeply. Do not interpret this as a lack of interest or love. I am simply giving you the space you seem to need.
“I will be happy to hear how you feel about what I have expressed whenever you feel ready.”
N6 I-message TO AN INTERROGATOR, CRITIC
“Dear, I would like to discuss with you a problem which I have with our communication. I feel myself continuously to be in the position of answering your questions and doubts about what I am doing. I feel that you are frequently correcting and accusing me. This puts me on the defensive and sometimes I get into the role of the victim and at others I become an intimidator, or do the same to you and become your interrogator.
“This way of communicating saddens me. I believe that we can communicate much more honestly and harmoniously. For this reason, I am going to try to accept myself even when you have doubts and criticize. I am going to stop answering your questions and apologizing to your accusations. I am going to try to be happy even when you are not satisfied with me and when you criticize or accuse me.
“Please do not misunderstand this. I love you and want you to be happy and want us to be happy together, but we cannot be happy this way, with your playing the lawyer and my playing the guilty one. I cannot lose my self-respect any more in this game.
“I want you to know that I love you even when I do not try to get you to agree with what I do.
“I am very interested in knowing how do you feel about this?”
N7 I-message TO AN INTIMIDATOR
“I need to discuss something with you. You know, there are times when I am afraid of you. When you raise your voice and threaten me, you stimulate old fears from my childhood years. When that happens I retreat from confrontation with you, suppressing my needs and sometimes my values. When this happens I lose my self-respect, and feel injustice and anger towards you. My heart closes and my love for you diminishes. There are even times when I think of revenge.
“With the way you act, you may get what you want from me at that moment, but you lose my love and respect. I have decided to try to overcome my fears and be more honest with you. I am going to try to express my needs and values even when you shout or intimidate me. I would like to ask for your help with this effort.
“I am very interested in helping you fulfill your needs. I believe that we can both get what we want together. I would like to ask you to express your needs without threatening me. Simply tell me what you need from me. I, in response, will also express my needs to you. I believe we can find solutions without my fearing you and retreating when you threaten me.
“How do you feel about this idea?”
N8 I-message TO A VICTIM
” Dear, I want you to know that I love and care for you and want very much for you to be happy and healthy and satisfied in your life. I want that very much but I am beginning to realize that I cannot create that for you. I realize now that I have been feeling responsible for your reality and some times guilty because you are not as happy and satisfied as we would both like you to be.
“I now realize that I do not help you be feeling responsible or guilty. These feelings just make me angry with you because you do not do what you could be doing to create a happier life for your self, or do not see how wonderful your life really is, when you focus on what you do not have, rather than all the wonderful things you do have.
“Thus I am no longer going to try to create your happiness or get your approval through your expression of satisfaction. I am going to love you and offer you whatever I can, without doing more than I believe I should or getting angry with you because you are not satisfied.
“Is there something you would like to share with me concerning this?”
N9 AN EXAMPLE «I MESSAGE» to a spouse who doesn?t listen or speaks aggressively
«Dear, I need to speak to you. I have a problem that I hope that you will be able to help me with. I have realized that I have a poor self-image and very easily doubt my self worth and whether I am loved or not by the people around me. This happens especially when they ignore me or when they speak to me aggressively or abruptly. It seems that I have this sensitivity from my childhood years. This happens sometimes between us. When you speak to me sometimes in an aggressive manner when you are upset about something, I feel hurt, rejected, unworthy and even fearful. This then develops into feelings of anger, and sometimes I even end up wanting to hurt you in some way. I do not want to feel this way. I love you and want to have a harmonious relationship with you. You are important to me and this relationship is important to me.
” I realize that this is my problem, but I do not feel that I can solve it by myself at this time. I need more affirmation of your love, respect and interest in me. I would like to express to you how you can show me your interest so that I can feel more fulfilled in this relationship. I would also like to discuss alternative ways in which we can communicate concerning differences of opinion, or needs, or values. I need to be able to tell you what I think, or feel even, if that does not coincide with what you feel or think, without ending up in conflict. If I suppress my thoughts and feelings, I loose my self-respect and feel rejected by you. On the other hand, I am afraid of expressing my differing views because I am afraid of having conflict with you.
“I would like your cooperation in finding a way in which we can communicate our differences in a way in which neither of us feels hurt, rejected or angry. Because my opinions may differ from yours, it does not mean that I do not love and accept you. I would very much like to know how you feel about our relationship and especially how you feel when we have these conflicts. You could help me a lot by helping me to understand what exactly it is that I do which upsets you. I would also like to know what needs or expectations you have from me, which I am perhaps not fulfilling. Do you feel like discussing this now, or would you like some time to think about what I have said, and discuss it in a few days?»
N10 TO A CHILD WANTS TO GO TO THE MOVIES
A child keeps pleading to be taken to a movie, but he has not cleaned up his room for several days, a job which he agreed to do.
What might be an average type of communication? An average parent may call the child lazy, irresponsible and inconsiderate. These are serious accusations which will undermine the child?s self-image.
The parent would do better to communicate with an I- message. But in order to do that, he will have to carry out some self-analysis to see what his deeper feelings are. What might a parent feel in this situation? He may feel disappointment, disrespect, hurt, taken advantage of, failure to control his child, anger, the need for revenge or other emotions, depending on his programming.
Thus, an I-message in this case might be something like this:
«My child, sit down. I would like to express to you how I feel at this moment. There is conflict within me: on the one hand, I love you and want you to be happy. I want you to be able to enjoy that which makes you happy. I would like to take you to the movies, so that you might enjoy yourself. On the other hand, I feel cheated and that an injustice has been done, because we have made an agreement that you would clean your room, and you have not kept it. That makes me feel that you are not respecting our agreement and my need for your room to be clean. I also have another need, which is to feel that I am bringing you up in the proper way. When I see that you are not taking your word and your responsibilities seriously, I have doubts as to whether I am doing a good job and whether you will be able to function well in society, if you are not keeping your word. So I cannot bring myself to take you to the movies until you keep your word and clean up your room».
The parent may then lead into active listening with something like, «How do you feel what I have just said to you? Does it seem fair? Do you feel hurt? Would you like to talk about it?»
Also, the parent may take this opportunity to discuss with the child the factors which have prevented him from cleaning up his room. «From the fact that you have not cleaned up your room, I get the idea that you do not like to do that job. Is there some special reason for that? Do you feel that it is unfair that I ask you to do that? What do you think would be a fair way to handle this situation? Have you some suggestions as to how we can overcome this source of tension between us?»
I can hear some parents who are reading this saying to themselves, «My child will never understand these explanations». My personal experience is that any child over two years old can understand the intent behind this communication and will feel the parent?s respect, love and concern through it, and will feel the same for the parent.
N11 THE BLARING STEREO
A child is playing his records so loud that the parents in the next room cannot communicate with one another.
An angry parent may likely say, «Can?t you be more considerate of others? Are you deaf? Why do you play that so loud?»
Would we talk that way to our next door neighbor if he were playing the music that loud? Would we talk that way to our colleague, our boss, our friends? Do we have the right to speak demeaningly to our children just because we think they belong to us? Imagine how you would politely communicate with a neighbor who was playing music loudly (especially if he is bigger than you).
Remember that the key to effective communication is that we neither suppress ourselves nor the others. We respect both our needs and those of the others. So, we are not going to put up with the music, but neither are we going to hurt the other?s feelings.
An example in this case might be as follows:
«Maria, could you please turn down the music for a moment? I would like to tell you something which is very important to me. I have conflicting needs. My need for you is to be happy and not to feel suppressed. I also do not want to be in a state of conflict with you because when I am, I do not feel at all well; and neither do you. On the other hand, I cannot tolerate the high volume which you were just playing the music at. Your father and I are trying to talk in the next room and we cannot hear each other because of the music. I also have the need not to bother the neighbors, just as I would not like them to bother us. I would like to keep up good relationships with them. I ?m afraid that the loud music may be bothering them. For that reason I ask you to please cooperate on this matter and play the music at a lower volume or perhaps you could wear headphones and enjoy the music at the volume you prefer, while we have peace».
Then the parent might want to lead into active listening as to how the child feels about that message. «How do you feel about what I ?m asking you to do? Do you feel pressured or unhappy? I hope we can find a way for both of us to be happy. Tell me your feelings».
This method of communication is much more likely to encourage willful cooperation from the child, while respect between parent and child is mutually maintained.
Although most parents feel great love for their children, they are unable to communicate that love, because of a lack in communication skills. We mean well; but our own problems and fears get in our way and disrupt our communication with our children.
Let us look at a few more examples of communication with children.
N12 TO A CHILD AFTER A NOTE FROM THE TEACHER
A twelve-year-old is sent home by a teacher with a note stating that he was speaking loudly, using «filthy» language. What might be the parents? reaction?
One might be, «Come here and explain to me why you want to embarrass your parents with your dirty mouth». Another would be to simply punish the child with no discussion. Another might be to degrade the child?s image of himself by criticising him for his various mistakes and faults in general.
All of these express to some extent the feelings which the parents may have. But they are not effective communication, because they do not express all the parents? feelings and serve only to make the child feel badly, without offering any opportunity for understanding what the child?s problem is in reality.
Obviously, the child has some need to speak in that way. He may have some problem or a need for attention or recognition. When the parent focuses only on his own embarrassment and fear, and ignores what might be going on in the child at this time, he loses contact with the child and a communication breakdown begins to take place between them. The child knows he has made a mistake, but he is unable to deal with the forces which cause him to act in this way. His way of speaking at school was either an outlet for some inner tension, or resentment, or an attempt for attention or recognition. The parent would do better to discuss his feelings about the situation with the child and try to help the child to open up so that he may discover what is going on in the child?s mind.
A possible communication might be something like this:
«John, I have a strong need to talk about this note with you. I am very concerned both for you and me. I am shocked and surprised, and I must admit a bit embarrassed in the eyes of others. But these are my problems. What concerns me most is that I also feel that maybe I have made some mistake in my attitude towards you. I feel somehow responsible for your behavior since I am your parent, and I wonder if I am doing a good job or not in bringing you up the way I do. I would like to try to understand.Please explain to me the events which happened at school and what was that made you feel the need to speak loudly and in that way. I would also like to know if there is something that I do which has contributed towards your feeling that you must express yourself in that way. I would also like you to tell me if there is anything that I can do to help you to feel more comfortable and happier».
The child may or may not open up. He may or may not be able to understand consciously what his problem is. In most cases, with the help of active listening the child will come to an understanding of what is going on within him.
N13 TO A CHILD ABOUT A THE MESSY HOUSE
A mother arrives home tired and upset after a variety of activities out of the house. Upon entering the house she finds everything to be in a mess. She had asked the children to keep the house clean because there would be visitors coming home that evening. What kind of message might she give?
Of course she will feel disappointed, let down, ignored, rejected, the victim, and, most likely, upset and angry. She might blame the children for being so inconsiderate, irresponsible, for not loving her, for not respecting her. This type of blaming will simply reinforce in the children?s minds the idea that they are as she has described them – not okay, not responsible and not to be trusted. They will then continue to be just that way.
A possible communication might be something like this:
«Children, come and sit down. I want to explain to you some things which are very important to me. I feel very disillusioned this moment. On the one hand, I feel let down. I was counting on your remembering my request that you be careful and keep the house clean and tidy. I am tired and I am worried about receiving these guests this evening. It is important for me that the house be clean when they arrive but I am too tired to do it at this moment. I also doubt whether I am bringing you up the right way when I see, at times like this, that you do not consider my requests for help and cooperation. I understand that when you play it is easy to forget such requests, but I ask you to try harder in the future, because I need your help. Now, I would be interested in your suggesting some way by which we can avoid this happening in the future».
After a discussion takes place as to how such situations could be avoided in the future, the mother can ask the children to now please help her by putting the place in order and cleaning up so that she can relax and get ready for the guests who are coming.
The key to effective communication is to look into ourselves and think about what we are really feeling and express that clearly and openly to the other, without hiding anything and without blaming or hurting the feelings of the others. After expressing how we feel, we always give the other person a chance to express his or her feelings on the subject.
N14 TO THE CHILD WHO ARRIVES HOME LATE
Although their daughter agreed to be home by 12 midnight, she arrives at 1.30 in the morning. The parents are extremely worried that something may have happened to her and are quite relieved when she finally gets home. What kind of message might they give to the child? They might express their anger at her disobedience and reject her for being inconsiderate and irresponsible. They might threaten her and punish her with the hope that she will obey out of fear in the future. Such methods of communication, however, may simply hurt the daughter?s feelings and create a sense of separation from the parents, along with a feeling of injustice and of being misunderstood by her parents.
Obviously in this case both parents and daughter have the right to feel what they feel. The question is not who is right but how they can communicate harmoniously and each fulfil their needs without harming the other.
A possible communication might be something like this:
«Maria, please sit down. We have a great need to discuss with you how we feel about you coming home at 1.30 in the morning, when we had agreed that you be here by midnight. We have been extremely worried during the last hour and a half. All kinds of possible dangers have passed through our minds as we were waiting for you. We love you very much and would not like any harm to come to you. We still feel responsible for your health and well-being, and would find it difficult to forgive ourselves if anything happened to you. We would feel that we had been irresponsible in our roles as parents. It is extremely important for us that we come up with a formula with regard to your evenings out, which would be agreeable to both you and us. We want you to be happy in your life but also have a need to feel that we are performing our role as parents correctly and that we are protecting you as well as we can. We also need to feel that we are bringing you up in the right way. When you do not respect your word, we worry about whether we have failed, as parents, to teach you to honour your word. We are interested in hearing from you what happened and why it is that you did not come back by midnight; also, how you believe we should act in this situation. We would like to hear your suggestions as to how we can find a formula for future times when you go out. It is very important for us that we know when you will be arriving and can be sure that you will be here at that time»»
The discussion can then go back and forth as the parents alternate between I-statements concerning our feelings and needs and active listening, in which they listen to the needs of the daughter, until they find some suitable solution.
N15 TO CHILDREN WHO ARE FIGHTING OVER A GAME
The following example could be one in which children are fighting over any subject or situation. When a parent sees his children fighting over a toy, a game, TV program, or any other object, he feels great inner conflict. He feels that both of his children are a part of himself, so when they are fighting, it is as if two parts of his own being are fighting. He may feel that he is failing as a parent to create harmony in his home. He may feel guilt for that. He may feel angry towards one of the children who is acting more egotistically. He may play the role of the judge and persecutor. He may punish one or both children, without discussion concerning his deeper feelings or his conflict in general.
A possible example of communication might be:
«Children, please come and sit down. I want to express to you how I am feeling at this moment, as I am watching you fight. Each of you is equally a part of me. I feel so connected with you that whatever happens to you is like it is happening to me. When you fight with one another, I feel great inner conflict. I feel confused. I do not know what to do. I do not want to take sides. I want you both to be happy. I do not know what is the way to make you stop. Maybe you could help me so we may together discover what I could do to help you, so that I do not get into conflict about this. This will be useful for all of us. There will certainly be times in your life, in which you will come into conflict with others around you; this will help us all to see how we can handle such conflicts in a different way. I would like each of you to think about what it is that you wanted and could not get from the other, which caused you to get angry and to fight in that way. Each will take turns to express what his problem was and we will keep going around until all of us have said whatever we need to say. I ask that only one rule be kept: when someone is talking, that we do not interrupt him but let him conclude that which he is trying to say. If we disagree with him, we can have a chance later to express it. Now, let us begin».
N16 MORE ABOUT COMMUNICATION WITH CHILDREN
«I – MESSAGES»
As with the «I-message» we learned in previous chapters, we explain to the child what we are really feeling and the thoughts, beliefs, expectations, fears and attachments which create those feelings within us. We communicate:
1. The various emotions which we are having.
2. The beliefs and programmings which are creating these emotions.
3. What stimulus or behavior on the part of the child triggers this mechanism.
4. How we usually act towards the child when we feel that way.
5. And wherever it is appropriate, we may ask the child to cooperate with us by avoiding that behavior in the future.
6. Then we ask the child to explain how he feels and we exercise active listening.
Let us take an example. A child brings home low grades. This is the stimulus, the event which is perceived by the parents? senses. Let us examine some of the emotions which the parents might feel with this event. Parents will feel differently depending on their programmings and expectations. One may feel disappointment, insecurity, shame, doubt about oneself as parent, anger towards the child, anger towards the teachers, inferiority towards other parents whose children are doing better, concern for the child or even guilt. Some parents may be strongly affected. Others may approach the problem more rationally and effectively without panic and family crisis.
Now what are some of the programmings or beliefs which a parent may have which may create some of these emotions. It is important to examine these, because, we may be being controlled by false programmings which may cause us to express anger or rejection towards the child, which, in this case, is probably the last thing he needs. The child too is obviously having a problem. This is a time when he needs to feel support and help in understanding what is preventing him from using his abilities to the extent that he could. Rejection or harsh words will only make him react more negatively or hide, closed into himself.
So, why is the parent feeling what he feels? What are some of the programmings or beliefs which control his mind?
1. A child must have high grades in order to succeed in the world.
A parent who is programmed in this way will feel fear about the child?s future and failure in his role as parent to prepare his child for the world.
Thus his «I-message» would be something like this, «John, I would like to talk with you. I have a problem. I feel responsible for your future. I believe that it is my responsibility to do whatever I can to help you be successful and happy in your life. I also believe that high grades are essential for your survival and success and happiness in the future. Perhaps I am not giving you something which you need. I would really like to talk about this in detail. How do you feel? Is there anything which is bothering you or preventing you from concentrating?
With this kind of «I-message» which leads into active listening in which we help the child to open up to us, the child is less likely to feel accused or hurt. Thus he will not need to react negatively or close up into himself. There will be a greater possibility of open, honest, effective communication.
At the same time, the parent would do well to examine those programmings which he has. It is true that success and happiness depend on high grades at school? Take a look around you. Does this theory hold up? Are the highly educated and very rich really happy? Perhaps some are. Did those who are successful, dynamic, happy, productive members of society have high grades or are there other factors involved? Perhaps higher grades can be had by one who knows how to memorize and be a robot at school. Does that mean that he can think, analyze and communicate with people? Does that mean that he is ethical or able to function in our society? Perhaps too much importance is being given to one of the many factors which may help our children survive and succeed in life. There are many others which may be much important in our child?s life such as morality, character, love for others, self-respect, self-confidence, enthusiasm, creativity, concern for others, and various other talents which the child may have.
When we worry and pressure the child on the basis of this one factor, we risk destroying all the others in the conflict which takes place. In general, the most creative and analytical minds cannot thrive in the mechanized uncreative school system.
2. A second belief a parent may have is that he is successful if his child is successful and unsuccessful if his child fails.
In this case the parent may explain this programming to the child. But does he have the right to ask the child to conform to some sort of behavior which simply fulfils the subjective programmings and expectations of the parent? Why should a child be forced to fulfil some specific expectation of the parents so that the parents can feel successful? That child may have been born to take a completely different road, to have other experiences which have nothing to do with the expectations of the parents or their definition of success.
The parent may have defined success with conditions like plenty of money, high professional position, or high social status. But will that particular personality who is now their child be happy in that role? Does money really bring happiness? Do people in high positions seem happier than others? Are they enjoying life? Are they healthy? Do they have harmony with those around them? What do we want for our children, success in the eyes of society or health, happiness and harmony? In some cases they may be able to have all that. In other cases, they may conflict. We cannot know. There is a small voice in the child which does know.
It is better for the child to decide what he wants to do with his life. That inner voice will guide him sooner or later to the role which that soul came to play on earth.
The parent, with this belief, that he is successful if his child is successful, must also examine the difference between efforts and results. The parent is responsible for his efforts. Not for the results. Parents with many children can verify that although they treat the different children much in the same way, the children react completely differently. It seems that each child brings with him some already developed traits, which are independent of the childhood programming which we give them.
How we behave towards the child and how we live our lives are extremely important factors in the child?s character development. But they are not the only factors. So we cannot judge ourselves based on the results of what happens with the child. We can judge ourselves based on our motives and our efforts. Have our motives been pure? Have we always done what we have thought was best for the child (regardless of whether today we see that we have made mistakes), have we always tried to do the best of our ability with the energy and consciousness which we had in the past? Realising this will help us be at ease with our conscience, and do not need to force our children to succeed in our terms, so that we can feel that we are successful parents. This is a great weight for the child to carry. We would not like to carry this weight and we have no right to place it on our children.
3. Another belief, which the parent may have which may cause him to get upset with the news of the low grades is, «I must have the acceptance, recognition and respect of others in order to feel self-acceptance and self-love». If a parent has need for recognition from friends and society through his child?s performance at school, then he will feel shame, inferiority, failure and then anger at the child for putting him in that position.
If the parents express only the anger to the child and accuse him of being a failure and useless, then they are on the one hand destroying even further the child?s self-confidence and ability to succeed, and on the other hand not being truthful. He is not expressing his real feelings which came before the anger.
Something which all parents, teachers and people in general must understand is that anger is always a second or third emotion. We feel anger when we first feel fear or insecurity. Most animals attack only when they are cornered and feel fear for their lives, or the lives of their children. The same is true of humans. When someone is angry you can be sure that somewhere behind that anger there is fear about something. It may be difficult to find but it is without doubt, there.
Take the present example. There may be the fear of rejection or ridicule by friends and relatives whose children may be doing better than ours. There might be the fear of failing in the role of the parent. There may be fear about the future of the child. There may be fear of losing control over the child. There may be fear of the rejection of the parents? belief system and expectations.
In this case the fear of what others will say causes the parent to become angry with the child. Thus the «you – message» to the child that he is no good, is not the complete truth. The parent must analyze his own needs for affirmation and see his need for approval from others, his doubt about his abilities as a parent and various other emotions which he may have had before he felt anger.
The problem is that these emotions work so quickly and usually subconsciously that the parent, who has not worked on self-analysis, will find it difficult to become conscious of the emotions which hide behind, and create his anger. In such cases keeping a diary is essential. The parent or teacher could take ten to twenty minutes every evening before sleeping and write down the major emotional experiences of the day. Then he can analyze the programmings or beliefs which are causing these emotions. In this way he will gradually gain clarity. (Details about self-analysis are given in Volume one: Discovering Our Selves)
We can see that a great part of effective communication is analysing our selves. Without this we cannot communicate honestly.
In the case of the parent who is controlled by the belief that he is successful if his child is, or that he must have the recognition of the people around him, most of the work depends on the parent?s changing these false programmings. He has no right to pressure the child for these selfish reasons. On the other hand, until he is able to free himself from these programmings, he can explain them to his child in an «I-message».
N17 ACTIVE LISTENING
Now the child himself obviously has a problem which is not allowing him to use his mental abilities to their full potential. His problem could have to do with conflicts within the family, conflicts with other children or with teachers at school, disappointments in love, lack of self-confidence, lack of proper nutrition, a disillusionment with society and the school system, as well as many other possibilities.
In such a case, the most effective method of communication is active listening. Let us look at some brief guidelines for active listening.
1) Let the other talk without interruption. Do not break his or her flow with your need to project your own ideas. When we interrupt others, we cut off their flow. This flow may bring to the surface the cause of the problem, which they themselves have not yet discovered.
2) Look into the other?s eyes and not away. Let your body be facing the person and not sideways. Show interest in what the other is saying, and in this way let him know that you are listening actively and carefully, and care about what he is saying.
3) Do not, in any case, criticize or start giving advice. This technique is like the «questioning» which Socrates used in order to bring out of the other the truth which was lying within him. It is extremely important not to criticise or disagree or reject during the active listening. At the end of the discussion we may state how we feel. After the discussion is completed, if we do not agree, we, of course, have the right to state so. But during the active listening do not stop the other?s flow with criticism or rejection.
4) Ask questions which help you to understand more clearly what the other is feeling. These question will help both you and the other (in this case, the child) to understand what the problem is. You can imagine that you are the other. Imagine how he feels, and what is going on in his life and you will be guided to the right questions to ask. Asking questions rather than giving advice may be difficult for some parents in the beginning. It is not easy, but most parents who have tried it have found it very effective and have been surprised by the results.
In some cases where the parent is performing this technique mechanically, the child may be surprised and react negatively, especially if he has learned to receive continual criticism from the parent, in which case the child will be on guard. But if the parent persists to show interest, and stops criticizing, at some point the child will open up. One must also be sensitive about the correct time and place to approach the child. Also a child must never be pushed against his will into discussing something which he does not want to. Eventually his need to come close to us will help him to open to us, if we accept the child as he is.
5) We may also affirm whether or not what we have understood from the child?s communication is correct. This technique is used by a whole school of psychologists to help a person open up and get clarity about what he is feeling. We simply repeat back to the child what he is telling us in our own words. This helps us to verify that we have understood what he is saying, and helps him to feel that we are accepting what he is saying. If he feels that we have not understood, he will try to explain to us in a different way. This will help both the parent and the child become more clear about what is bothering the child, or about what he thinks or feels.
These techniques for effective communication can do much to bring harmony and love to our relationships with our children. It is important that parents get started with this system immediately. No child is too young to understand this type of communication.
Because these techniques require a whole new way of thinking and communicating, we suggest that parents and teachers or any individuals who want to master them, seek out seminars which teach these methods with practical workshops.
Remember that the basis for all successful communication is love. Below you will find various examples of effective communication for various situations with children.
After each child has had a chance to express his feelings and opinions, and the opportunity to speak has gone around the circle a number of times and everything has been said, then the parent can ask for possible solutions as to how they can structure their lives and routine of living so as to avoid similar conflicts in the future. All of these solutions can be written down and then discussed. Eventually a combination of the various ideas can be adopted for a trial run to see how it works.
This group method of «brainstorming» for solutions to group problems had the advantage that each person feels that his ideas and needs have been respected in the creation of the solution. Even if his needs are not 100% met, he feels that at least he has been heard and considered and respected and allowed to participate. Thus his cooperation will be much greater and from the heart. Eventually the parent can close by asking the children how they would like the parent to act in such situations, if the children, in spite of their efforts, come into conflict again for some reason or other.
The basic obstacle towards such a way of handling conflicts between children is, on the one hand, the lack of time on the part of the parent and, on the other, the lack of ease the parent feels in handling such conflicts. We must learn that conflicts are natural in a world in which we all have different needs and different ways of seeing things. We tend to avoid talking openly about conflicts, which just makes them recur more and more often, because they are never brought out into the open and be solved. Many times conflicts occur about superficial or unimportant matters, when the real problem is about something else which has never been discussed. Handling conflicts in this open and honest way gives us a chance to deal with the real personality problems which are behind these superficial conflicts.
Communication is a lost art, one which must be regained through practice and by breaking free from the ineffective patterns which we have learned from our parents and from society.
Effective communication is a process of being constantly aware of what we are really feeling, and expressing it openly and honestly without blaming the others for what we feel. The other aspect of communication is to understand what the other person is feeling and thinking. Without mutual love, respect, understanding and atmosphere of equality, there can be no effective communication.
I again encourage parents, wishing to become more efficient in their communication skills, to take seminars on communication, in which they can practice those techniques under guidance. It is never too late to make the change. A parent might be 70 and the child 50 and they may still be caught up in the same old ego games they were 40 years ago. They would do well to free themselves of these obstacles to love and unity, and thus happiness.
N18 PUTTING OUR SELVES IN THE OTHER’S POSITION
Why this is so beneficial
When we are in conflict with others, or are feeling hurt or angry, we can often gain insight and peace of mind by putting ourselves in the their position. When we can imagine how the others must be feeling in order to act in the ways they do, we gain understanding, which simultaneously reduces our feelings of hurt and our anger and rejection towards them. Both our pain and anger are diminished through understanding.
Our understanding allows us to help others move through their negativity.
The virtue of understanding is a basic prerequisite for love and conscious love relationships.
A simple technique for gaining understanding is to:
We bring the other to mind and ask:
1. What must he or she be feeling in order to act in this way?
2. What must she or he not be getting from me which is causing this behavior?
3. What does he or she need from life which is causing this behavior?
4. What is she or he trying to protect with this behavior? (Perhaps security, self worth, freedom, certain pleasures?)
5. What would I have to feel in order to act this way?
6. If I were the other, how would I like to be healed in this situation?
N19 Examples of I-messages for Students
QUESTIONS FOR THE I MESSAGE
An effective I message requires that we first understand what we feel, need and think.
Imagine what your feelings, needs and thoughts might be in following situations. Then seek to form them into an I message.
The questions which you need to answer in each case are:
1. How do I feel about what is happening?
2. Which of my needs are not being fulfilled here?
3. What do I believe which makes those needs important to me?
4. Am I experiencing a inner need conflict here? If yes, what which are my needs which are conflicting?
5. What would I like to ask of the others? What cooperation, behavior, understanding do I need from them, and why?
Then we are ready to move on to active listening.
QUESTIONS FOR ACTIVE LISTENING
In order to think of the questions we would like to ask in order to help the child free him or her self from a disruptive or self destructive behavior, we first need to focus on the fact that this behavior is a natural response (a defensive or survival mechanism) to his environment – school, home and peer group.
We need to remember that his or her basic nature is goodness and a desire for learning and that these are distorted when he or she becomes emotionally blocked by various traumatic events or situations, which cause him or her to react in these negative ways.
Our goal is to try to discover those deeper internal factors which are causing this behavior and seek to help the child overcome them and reestablish his sense of self confidence and self esteem.
We will need a maxim of understanding, caring and a desire to help. We will need to be free from the tendency to take his or her behavior personally or take offense or be hurt.
It is equally important that the child feels that we will accept him or her no matter what he or she tells us and also that we will respect total confidentiality – in other words, that it is safe to open up to us.
Think of what types of questions you might want to ask concerning the following behaviors, after of course you have made your I – message.
What would you like to ask in order to understand:
1. What the child is feeling just before or during that behavior?
2. What the child is feeling in general in his life at this moment, and what is contributing to those feelings (Family situations, peer pressure, siblings, problems with other teachers, problems with us, personal doubts and fears etc.)?
3. What we can do to be of help?
4. What we might be doing which might be bothering him or her?
5. How he or she would like us to react if and when he or she falls into such behavior again?
6. If the behavior is inappropriate or unacceptable, what he or she considers a natural or logical consequence which would function as a corrective measure to help the child rid him or her self of that behavior pattern?
SITUATIONS & BEHAVIORS
1. Two or more children are talking while you are giving the lesson.
2. A child is making fun of another child.
3. A child is continually late for class.
4. A child is not performing as well as you know that he or she can.
5. A child speaks to you in a disrespectful manner.
6. A child is hitting another child.
7. The children are unruly in class.
1. Fear that we are losing control of the classroom or the children and will not be able to perform our duty or will loose the general respect of the students or perhaps the faculty or headmaster.
2. Anger when we are not receiving the respect we feel we deserve.
3. Frustration when the children are not cooperating, not doing their work, not keeping our agreements.
4. Anxiety about our success as teachers and or our ability to achieve our goals.
POSSIBLE INNER CONFLICTS
1. The need to not burden the child with more feelings of rejection vs. the need to keep order in the class so that I can perform the duty for which I am being paid and in which I believe.
2. The need to aid the child in developing a suitable social behavior which will benefit him or her later in life, vs. the need not to hurt or suppress him or her.
3. The need to respond the children?s needs at a particular moment (restlessness, tiredness, boredom) vs. the need to cover the material which the children will need in order to proceed successful in school and life.
4. The need to enforce the school?s policies vs. the need to be true to myself when my own opinions might differ.
5. My need to give time and energy to a child who needs it vs. my need for personal time rest and recreation, preparation etc.
6. My need to treat the child with respect vs. my lack of energy and patience.