If You Really ……… Part 1
Early in my career I took an interest in improving my communication skills and in the study of body language. I read a great deal and learned a lot. Here is a strategy I picked up from the book, The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defence by S. Elgin. I would often share it with my middle school and high school students.
This strategy explains how to best respond when presented with the following statement:
If you really (X), then you would/wouldn’t (Y)
Imagine a student who is working part-time at a fast-food restaurant. His boss is in a bind because an employee has called in sick.
BOSS: “I need you to work a double shift. Smith called in sick.”
STUDENT: “Sorry, I can’t. I have a big test on Monday and I need to study.”
BOSS: “Look, if you really appreciated working here then you would work this extra shift.”
Now the student is in a bind. The presupposition presented is that the student doesn’t appreciate his job. I would tell my students that if they were ever presented with a statement like this that it is important to deal with the presupposition (X) before you respond to (Y). To do otherwise allows the boss to get away with suggesting you are an unappreciative employee. Don’t let him/her be a bully in this way. An effective response, that could be made in a calm and polite voice, would be:
“For how long have you thought I didn’t enjoyed working here?”
My ultimate goal was to reach out to those students who were under pressure from their boy/girlfriends to become sexually active, but I had to be cautious in how I proceeded. After presenting the boss scenario (above) I would offer the following.
“Now, imagine that you are in a dating relationship and that your boyfriend or girlfriend is putting pressure on you to take it to a new level. For example, perhaps you have been dating for several weeks or months and s/he feels it is time to start holding hands or kissing or whatever”, (hopefully, in their mind, that could interpret the whatever in a way that might be appropriate for their respectful situations). “Imagine s/he says, Well, if you really loved me then you would let me hold your hand.
“DO NOT let him/her get away with this. S/he is putting pressure on you to do something you might not be comfortable with. Deal with the (X) first before you deal with the (Y).
“Respond with something like, For how long have you thought I didn’t love you? I guarantee, the next sound you hear is Ahhh….. and then that person will say that s/he really does love you. GOOD – then you can talk about (Y). If, by chance, s/he says that they are not sure that they still love you then perhaps you shouldn’t take it to the next level at all. This is a bullying tactic – don’t be bullied into doing something for which you are not comfortable.”
This is a strategy I shared during most of my career. It is also one for which I have never received any feedback, but I would like to think that somewhere and at sometime it made a difference for at least one of my students.
Actually, this is a lesson for all of us. Please share it with those you love, particularly if they are younger and vulnerable.
to be continued ……………………………..
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