Driving Toward Connection

Friends matter!  According to Choice Theory/Reality Therapy, developed by Dr. Wm Glasser, our connections with people are an essential part of life.

Dr. Glasser proposes that the source of many human problems is poor or non-existent relationships with others. With its focus on improving current relationships, Reality Therapy helps people build more satisfying lives—by helping people connect or reconnect. Practically speaking, how might that work?

Beatrice has loved Terri, her only grandchild, from the moment she was born eighteen years ago. Lately, things haven’t been going so well between Beatrice and Terri. A spikey-haired stranger with black fingernails has replaced the sweet little girl in ringlets who used to love to visit Grammy. And it seems that with every visit, Terri arrives sporting another nasty-looking piercing or a horrid tattoo. Beatrice is convinced that Terri is doing these things just to offend her.

“How can you ruin your beautiful face like that?” That’s the first thing out of Beatrice’s mouth when Terri comes to visit. Soon the visit ends, with Terri sullen and silent while Beatrice sputters and fumes. “If I could only find a way to make her listen,” Beatrice complains. “Then she would understand. But she won’t listen, no matter how often I tell her! It’s like she’s deliberately ignoring me.”

Well, Beatrice may be right about that! Terri has undoubtedly heard Grammy’s opinion (many, many times); and she’s pretty clear about what Grammy would like to see. However, Terri is also choosing not to agree. After all, if she did agree with Grammy, she would have changed her behaviour.

Is this all bad news? No, not at all! The good news in this scenario is that Terri still visits Grammy, demonstrating by her actions that she still values her relationship with her. And Beatrice clearly has a deep wish for a good relationship with Terri. So what can she do?

The Reality Therapy premise is that all you can control is your own behaviour. Before Beatrice lets loose with her next criticism, how about asking herself, “Is what I am about to say going to bring me closer to Terri, or drive us further apart?”

“But I’m only criticizing because I care about Terri!” OK. How well has that been working? Beatrice can look to their recent conversations to find this:  As Beatrice complains, Terri continues to tattoo and bejewel, with only bad feelings to show as a result. What might work better?

Beatrice could try consciously choosing comments of support and encouragement—show Terri that she appreciates her. “Thank you for coming to visit me,” might be a good start!

We can put our energy into activities that bring us closer, rather than those that drive us apart. Would you like to give this a try? You can let me know how this works for you.

This entry was posted in Family and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.