March 27, 2009
March 27, 2009

Behavior - Feeling - Effect

Communication skills that include Thomas Gordon’s approach of using sentences that depict explicit instructions that clearly and peacefully depict a situation that is desired for change utilize the three concepts of Behavior, Feeling, and Effect. The below explanations illustrate how this is accomplished.

Describe the Behavior of another person using the word “you” and only in that context. Explain your Feelings with the pronoun “I” such as: “I felt upset when you laughed at me the other day.” This first example states only what is your reaction.

Do not say: You made me upset when you laughed at me the other day. This second example is judgemental. Other people may not be offended by the laughter and by stating that “you make me...” is assuming that everyone would feel the same as you in this situation.

The most important part of this communication is what Effect it has upon you or upon the relationship. It there is no Effect, then it is an opinion and everyone has a right to their opinion. Different perspectives can be argued for centuries without being resolved.

An entire statement might be, “I felt demoralized when you laughed at me the other day. (The Effect being) It created a distance between us.

If your statement is met with an accusation that you are threatening or accusing, you can outline the approach that you know that this is just a statement of your own Feelings and the Effect that it created in yourself.

Often the statement is met with understanding, an apology, and a solution. If the desired response is not forthcoming, try making the Feelings and the Effect stronger.

You might search yourself for why the other individual’s laughter created such a negative reaction. Do you believe the friend, lover, or spouse meant to demean you? Was it the tone of voice or the volume of delivery that hurt?

Perhaps the message should be changed to include that information in the Behavior part of the message. ”When you laughed at me. I felt it was a sneer. I felt as if you were looking down at me. Even judging me. The Effect upon me was to draw back from this relationship. I do not feel close to you anymore.”

You might include a question at this point: “Was that your intention? What did you wish to portray when you did that?”

Perhaps you do not share the other person’s sense of humor. Perhaps the other person is masking hidden meanings of their real intentions or opinions. Once you have completely explored all the options, you can decide if there can be a solution or if the relationship must end.

This is just one use of Behavior, Feeling, Effect conversations. Any Behavior may be substituted from a minor event of not putting the cap on the toothpaste to a more major offence such as someone smoking in your presence. Then explore your emotions and describe them along with what Effect occurs.

Toothpaste: When you leave the cap off of the toothpaste it leaks out and makes a mess, which annoys me as I am the one that has to clean it up which adds to my overwhelmed busy day.

Smoking: When you smoke in my presence, I feel disregarded because it is creating a health problem for me. If your partner does not honor your right to good health you may need to make the Effect have some teeth. However, whatever you state you must be willing to follow through with or it becomes a threat, not a statement. If you have this situation with your husband, announce that your next comment is a statement of fact and not a threat. (Make certain that you will carry through with your decision if he does not accede to your needs.) Let him know that you have no desire to prevent him from smoking, only smoking in your presence. Let him know that you will not die because of his second hand smoke and that you are willing to divorce him so that you can live. Then do it if he is resolute to not leave the area where you are when he smokes. If you are not prepared to follow through with your decision to leave, do not use this example.

NEVER use anger as part of your Feelings. Anger is a secondary emotion that almost automatically occurs when you feel frustrated, hurt, betrayed, unloved, etc. Anger projects judgement and fear. It does not facilitate good solutions.

The above examples are meant to show how to use more skilful conversations for a better relationship.