how to improve communication skills:
The Gordon Method was created in the 1970s by psychologist Thomas Gordon, who specialized in conflict resolution and communication skills. Since then, his method has been widely used in positive parenting, which focuses on the child’s well-being while managing difficult situations.
Beyond the parent-child relationship, it is very useful on a professional and personal level because its approach is very similar to Non-Violent Communication. For this, she explains that good communication between two people can only happen if each person listens to the other and freely expresses their needs.
The Gordon Method is thus based on three tools: the “I-Message”, active listening and win-win conflict resolution.
1. The “I-Message
The I-Message is a way to express how you feel when you need to criticize, or talk about something that bothers you about the other person. For this, it is important to respect these 3 points:
- Express the facts objectively
- Explain the effects in a tangible and concrete way
- Giving feedback
This allows you to take a step back and avoid communicating in a frustrated, worried or angry way. This way, the person you’re talking to won’t get angry and won’t perceive your remark as a value judgment.
The important thing, therefore, is not to blame or devalue the other person, but to make suggestions that will be heard. We also find the same concept in the Sandwich Method.
For example, let’s imagine that your office colleague leaves extra work for the whole team, without telling anyone, to leave early.
You have the choice to ask him/her why, to lecture him/her or to complain to him/her. In any case, the situation will not change and in the future, the same thing may happen again.
First of all, it is important to come back to yourself. You may be shocked, disappointed or angry about the situation, this is normal. But for now, stick to the facts that are observable and indisputable, without trying to interpret or judge. So you can list all the extra work that he or she has given to everyone by his or her absence.
At the same time, don’t put off your feelings, try to clarify them as well. How did it make you feel? For example: “I feel frustrated and betrayed that he or she left us that extra work without warning.”
Second, use decentration (or decentration). What is it? It’s simply putting yourself in his or her shoes. What was his/her need? Why did he or she choose to leave rather than finish his or her share of the work? Why did he or she not mind acting like that? What motivated his or her behavior?
If you have any leads or clues to answer these questions, dig deeper. You may discover an aspect of his behaviour that you hadn’t known about until then.
Finally, formulate your Assertive I-Message in a neutral tone: “When I see these three issues that took us an hour to deal with when you were away, I felt frustrated and betrayed,” and that’s it.
You are only describing the facts and your feelings, without giving orders or having a nervous breakdown. You take full responsibility for what you felt, and you conveyed your message.
Once you have conveyed your message, don’t add anything to it. If the other person doesn’t respond, move on. Adding anything to it won’t do anything, worse, you may just alienate that person from you and lose what little influence you had over them.
The point of getting this message across is that he/she can reflect on his/her behavior, and sometimes that takes a little time.
2. Active Listening
In general when we talk about listening, it means listening silently to what the other is saying. Here, it is more than listening, but directing all your attention to what the other person is telling you, to what they are feeling, without trying to interrupt them to give them your opinion.
If we take the example above, perhaps the other person will tell you that they simply felt tired.
At that point, you can either accept that answer, or if you want to know more, you can rephrase his or her answer.
This small example of a conversation allows you to see that there are often deeper reasons for our behavior. Externally, we only see the indelicate behavior of others, without realizing that behind it, there may also be deep-seated malaise.
It could be your child who doesn’t clean his or her room, your spouse who refuses to help you with certain tasks, or your friend who only answers you one out of three times.
By rephrasing, you allow your interviewer to re-analyze their behaviour and find out why they behave the way they do. Because often they themselves are not aware of it, they have automatically acted on an emotion or thought.
Of course, the example above would be the ideal case, sometimes people do not like to open up to others. You will then get cold answers, and that same person will cut off communication. There is no need to insist, just leave the door open and let them know that they can talk to you about it in the future if they wish.
3. Win-win conflict resolution
Sometimes a conflict happens between us and other people, it is normal and it is part of life. We can’t always agree on everything.
The most important thing is how you will approach and manage these conflicts. Very often, it comes down to taking sides where each person tries to hurt or crush the other in order to assert their power. With this way of acting, there is always one loser, either you or the other, and resentment builds up over time.
For example, you need your car to get to work and your spouse would like to use the car to visit family. Here, the car is really not a need, but a solution. The solution is how to get from point A to point B.
So the real need is to have a means of transportation, for this it is obvious that there are other solutions than just “both of you have a car”. It can be to take the bus, the bicycle, to call a cab, or to ask a friend to take you or your spouse.
In this way, you understand that it is necessary to define everyone’s needs. This is what is problematic during a conflict. Often, the needs of both sides are poorly defined or even ignored. You must therefore agree on the problem to be solved. To do this, explain your needs and let the other person do the same, using the I-Message and Active Listening methods.
Then, each in turn, propose solutions to resolve the situation. Be creative, and list them without making judgments or sorting them out.
You can then take turns evaluating which solutions would work and which would not. Take the time to ask yourself, “Is there a reason why this solution would not work? Once this is done, both of you choose a solution that you can agree on.
Don’t try to convince the other person to accept your solution, or accept a solution that doesn’t really satisfy you. It is important that both of you can choose a solution that works for you.
Finally, be specific about how to implement the solution. Define when and where you will implement it, who will do what. Don’t worry about whether the other will do his or her part, just focus on your role.
Some time later, check the results. Agree to verify the solution together after a week, a month, etc. If that didn’t work, go back to the list of solutions you wrote together, and choose another one.
To summarize conflict resolution in 6 points :
- Define the problem.
- Both of you think about all possible solutions.
- Evaluate the solutions and eliminate those that are not appropriate.
- Choose one solution from the appropriate ones.
- Plan the implementation of the solution (Who, When, Where, How?).
- Verify the results produced by the solution.
The Fiutak Wheel
Invented by Thomas Fiutak, professor at the University of Minnesota in the United States, the Fiutak wheel is an excellent mediation tool designed in 5 steps. It will be particularly useful if you witness a conflict within your family, company, etc. You will see that this tool is very close to the method used by Thomas Gordon in conflict resolution.
Before beginning the mediation process, it is necessary to set a framework for the intervention. Thus, the mediator and the different parties introduce themselves, define their objectives and expectations of each and then set a time limit for the process. This does not necessarily have to be done all at once, and the mediation can be spread over several meetings.
Phase 1: The What?
This phase allows everyone to express their point of view, to explain what happened, leaving the same speaking time to all parties. At this point, it may be useful to ask questions to clarify the situation, and to determine each party’s share in the ongoing conflict.
Phase 2: Why?
This phase is the most important and difficult phase of the process. At this point, it is necessary for each party to understand the other’s point of view and needs, asking all the questions that need to be asked. The mediator must then ensure that each party respects the other’s word by exposing their problems.
By reformulating each party’s position, the mediator helps bring the parties closer together by making them aware that they have converging interests and needs. It is only when each party can agree on the same definition of the problem that opposes them that the situation can be changed.
Phase 3: Catharsis
This phase is not really dissociable from the previous one. It is the moment when each party can express their emotions, values, needs and interests.
It is about breaking the abscess to allow all parties to understand each other better, rather than hiding behind an abrasive or “politically correct” vocabulary. For Fiutak, this is the tipping point that really unlocks the situation.
Phase 4: What if…
This phase of negotiation allows each party to start thinking about solutions to the ongoing conflict. To do this, no sorting or selection is made, it is more a matter of thinking outside the box and being creative. The ideas found in this brainstorming process will be noted and explored in detail by each party.
Phase 5: How exactly?
This is the time to set up and implement an action plan. Here, all parties need to choose from the options they found in the previous phase, which ones are most suitable for them and agree on which one to use. Of course, it will always be possible to negotiate on certain details that have not been discussed so far.
Once the solution is agreed upon, it is time to write down the roles of each person by answering the question “Who does what, when, where and how” and how each will be able to verify that the other’s part has been carried out.
Then add the consequences if one of the parties does not fulfill their part of the agreement, and finally sign the agreement that includes the solution chosen to increase the commitment.
The final word
With the Gordon Method and the Fiutak Wheel, you will be able to resolve any potential pitfalls in your relationships, whether professional or personal, both as a simple witness or as a stakeholder. All you have to do is remain open to dialogue and allow yourself to express your feelings.
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