GUILTING VERSUS ENCOURAGING CARING: AN ADVANCE LESSON
Last week’s post is titled, AN INTRODUCTION TO “GUILTING.” There we compared “GUILTING” to “ENCOURAGING CARING.” Both are different styles of making a request and reacting if someone refuses to help.
People using guilting express sadness at the current state of affairs and then ask for assistance. Upon having a request turned down, the person who employs guilting responds in anger while seeking to lower the refuser’s self-esteem and making the refuser feel deserving of punishment. People using guilting typically shout out phrases such as, “You’re selfish,” “You don’t care about anyone but yourself,” and “How can you do this to me?” Here’s an example of guilting:
People using encouraging caring make their requests very much like those who use guilting. As they ask others to help, they express sadness at the current state of affairs. However, unlike those who use guilting, those who use encouraging caring seek a mutually satisfying solution. If their request is turned down, they don’t view the refuser as evil and deserving of punishment. To seek to humiliate those who turn down their requests is avoided, while showing empathy and support are essential. Here’s an example of someone using encouraging caring:
Defending Encouraging Caring
To those of you who simply intuit that encouraging caring is a more powerful plan when making requests than guilting, you require no additional arguments to put it to good use. To the skeptics out there, and to those who enjoy employing principles of science to assist in verifying your belief, the following study provides some relevant information.
Data from a University Study
In the autumn of 1981, I hired four student actors at the University of Minnesota, two guys and two gals. We met at a well-equipped film studio on campus. First, I had one of the actors, Pete, enact a guilting scenario. Two scenes were used. The first shows the viewer that the character Pete is portraying typically uses guilting whenever someone turns down his request. In that scene, upon hearing his request being turned down Pete replies angrily: The second scene, which depicts Pete making a new request, is very similar to the “calculus test help” situation we looked at earlier. The subjects in the study who observed this first videotape saw a scene showing how Pete typically responds to someone who turns down his requests. They then observed the second scene in which Pete makes a new request. The subjects in the study were to imagine that Pete is a guy whom they knew typically uses guilting and is now making this new request directly to them. The subjects’ job was to enact the role of a friend of Pete and to imagine how they would respond to this new request. After completing this two-scene guilting videotape, we got to work on a second two-scene videotape. This one has Pete enacting an encouraging caring scenario. It begins by showing the viewer that the character Pete is portraying typically uses encouraging caring whenever someone turns down his request. In that scene, upon hearing his request being turned down, Pete replies sadly: Once this scene was created, I used the exact “new request” scene as I used on the first videotape that depicts Pete requesting help for the calculus test situation. Thus, this second videotape has a different first scene than the first videotape, but the exact same second scene that shows Pete requesting help of the viewer who was to enact the role of Pete’s friend. The third videotape that we created is designed to depict another guilting scenario, one that uses the request for a timelier car ride situation that we discussed earlier. The fourth videotape we worked on is designed to depict an encouraging caring scenario using the same request for a timelier car ride situation. Once this set of four videotapes was made, I then had the three other actors make the same set of four videotapes as Pete did, so in the end I had four actors portraying the four different scenarios. Once I had the videotapes made, I arranged for University of Minnesota students, 139 men and 109 women, to come to a viewing theater. Each student saw just one of the sixteen videotapes, randomly chosen. Because the actor making the request in the video had pretended as if the camera is the person for whom the request is made, he or she appears to be addressing the student viewing the videotape. As I already mentioned, the job of each student observing the videotape was to enact the role of the friend to whom the request is being made. Immediately after observing the request, students individually answered five questions. The results of the study indicated that those students who saw the encouraging caring videotapes answered all five questions more favorably than students who saw the guilting videotapes and these differences were statistically significant. Thus, students indicated that they would be more likely to comply and less likely to become covertly and overtly angry with those who tend to use encouraging caring than those who tend to use guilting. Moreover, guilters were less liked and were viewed as less respected for how they handle conflict than those who used encouraging caring.
Encouraging Caring: A Secret Source of Power
I’ve just provided some information about why I think encouraging caring can often be more effective than guilting. We now take up the question of why I think encouraging caring is a secret. When teaching conflict resolution, I frequently employ the following technique: The class is given a typical conflict and asked to generate plans that might help to resolve the conflict. I have found that although guilting is regularly suggested, encouraging caring almost never is. When I have suggested it as a possibility, students have often looked puzzled, and sometimes asked, “Isn’t that the same thing as guilting?” During counseling sessions, I’ve also found that the availability of encouraging caring to deal with conflicts seems to be a secret to many people. Here’s an example: Patricia (not her real name), a 21-year old university student, came to the counseling center expressing a concern about her relationship with her mother with whom she lived. Patricia desired to make her own decisions, but whenever she tried to do this, her mother fervently interfered.
“Patricia,” I said, “what do you think would be the best way to respond to your mother the next time she begins to insist on pushing you in a particular direction?”
“My friends tell me to learn to be assertive. I read a book on it, and I’ve tried some of the ideas. In some situations it’s helped but not with me and my mom. Lately, my friends are coaching me to practice saying in a strong voice, ‘Mom, I’m going to make up my own mind! I don’t want any advice from you unless I ask for it!’”
“Does your friends’ advice make sense to you?”
“In a way, it does. The thing is, there’s no way I could ever say that to my mom.”
“Hmm. Well, what do you think is the best way to go from here?”
“I’m feeling stuck. I’m hoping you can help me to come up with some idea.”
“Well, I suggest we try practicing a style I call ‘encouraging caring.’ You don’t have to make any commitment to me that you’ll try this with your mother, but if you try it out with me in a role play a few times, maybe it will feel more comfortable to you than your friends’ suggestion. Would that be okay?”
“I’m willing to give it a try.”
“Good. I’m going to play the part of your mother. I’ll start to give you some advice, and I’d like you to consider saying, in a sad voice, ‘Mom, I’ve been feeling sad lately. I love you very much, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and yet I feel that it’s best for me to make my own decisions. Every time I try, you start to feel frustrated.’ “When you say that, Patricia, I’m going to act like I’m becoming defensive. If this makes sense to you, I’d like you to practice replying sadly, ‘I’m not putting you down, Mom. It’s just that I’ve been feeling so sad about this. I really do love you.’”
“That sounds a little like guilting. I don’t want to learn to be a guilter like my mom.”
I then explained to Patricia the difference between guilting and encouraging caring. It was like a light went on in her head as she smiled broadly. I gently posed a few questions for her to make sure she understood the difference, and within a few minutes she convinced me that her understanding was sound.
After a few practice role plays, Patricia expressed a high degree of confidence that she could try this with her mother. The next time I saw her, Patricia reported with a smile on her face that she was able to try encouraging caring with her mom the night of our last session. It turned out that she and her mother ended up having a good cry together, and since then, her mother had begun to encourage her to be more independent.
We practiced a few more role plays that session, trying to anticipate what might be a response that remained consistent with the encouraging caring style in the event that her mother began to again become too pushy. We also worked on a little note that Patricia wrote to her mother thanking her for being so understanding. During our discussion, Patricia decided to get her mother a little gift to go with the note without my suggesting such a gesture.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.