Life is all about relationships. It’s about building and keeping strong connections with people who matter to us. They may be family, friends, co-workers, students, teachers, and others whom we deem essential in our lives.
Through years of observation and trial and error, most of us have learned how to deal with friends, co-workers, and even strangers. We make an effort to use non-offensive terms. We don’t ask questions that are not “our business.” And nagging? That’s out of the question.
With our families and those closest to us, though, we may ditch behaviors that allow us to get along in other relationships. Before we know it, we’ve let loose with words or repeat behaviors that shut down communication, fuel unhappiness, and jeopardize our relationships.
My friend Lillian introduced me to world-renowned psychiatrist William Glasser’s Choice Theory a number of years ago. I’d heard of Glasser before and used his techniques in my classroom. But, when I took Lil’s week-long Basic Intensive Training seminar, his theory resonated with me. It validated what I’d felt and experienced but didn’t know how to articulate. That week and the concepts I learned resulted in great strides in my personal development and enhanced how I take care of relationships.
How do we keep the people we need in our lives close to us? In his book, Choice Theory, Glasser, among other things, provides fresh insight on how we sustain relationships. He proposes that we ask the ourselves “Ultimate Question”: “If I say or do _______, will it bring us closer together or will it push us further apart?” We let the answer to that question guide our behavior and words.
This doesn’t mean we never tackle the hard stuff, the problems, the dilemmas. But we approach them in a caring way, without using what Glasser calls the “Seven Deadly Habits.” When we criticize, blame, complain, nag, threaten, punish, or reward to control (bribe), we’re on a straight path to losing those whom we need in our lives. Instead, Glasser urges us to use the “Seven Caring Habits”: supporting, encouraging, listening, accepting, trusting, respecting, and negotiating differences (to a win-win).
More about Choice Theory as we Step it Up in 2014. But for now, let’s begin to ask ourselves the ultimate question when dealing with others. “If I say or do _______, will it bring us closer together or will it push us further apart?” And, let’s choose to consciously practice one of the seven caring habits. Those two steps will make a difference to us and to our loved ones.
For whom will you ask the ultimate question? Which of the seven caring habits will you choose?
~ xoA ~