Hey! It works!
A teacher shares what happened recently when he had the opportunity to use the conferencing skills he learned earlier this summer.
This summer I had the privilege of taking the Soul Shaper 1 & 2 class at Pacific Union College. After doing so and reading a number of Glasser books, I was extremely interested in putting conferencing into practice. We did a number of role plays in class to prepare for a conference, but there is something exciting about leading out in a real life scenario.
I received a call from a close friend about a relationship issue he was experiencing. He was looking for some advice from me, so I told him to meet me at a local coffee shop. On my way to our meeting, I thought back to the role plays in class and the acronym WDEP came to mind. After reminding myself what each letter stood for, (W – What do you want, D- What are you doing? E- Evaluate if it is working, and P- The plan) I convinced myself that this would be the ideal time to practice what I had learned.
After breaking the ice a bit over coffee, I finally began our dialogue by asking him what was on his mind. He gave me a long version of his dilemma, which was whether or not he should break up with his girlfriend. He was quick to blame this dilemma on his significant other, telling me how he didn’t like how she did such and such. I listened carefully and after he was through I simply asked him, well what do you want right now? He looked at me, kind of perplexed and asked me what I meant. I asked him again, “deep down, what is it that you feel you need right now? I know we are here about the relationship, but that aside, what do you want?” He thought a bit, I sipped some coffee trying to keep myself from talking to break the silence. Finally he spoke up and began to paint a picture that depicted freedom to me. After he was through, I said, “would it be safe to say that what you need right now is freedom?” He assured me that this is what he needed. I then asked him if he could find this freedom in his current relationship. Without much thought he told me no. To make sure, I asked him what it would take to gain the freedom that he felt he needed and again asked if there was any way the relationship could still work with this need. He assured me that he did not think he could get the freedom he needed while maintaining the relationship. I then reminded him about the blame he put on his significant other for the current conflict. I asked him, “Could it be that deep down you have wanted out of this relationship for awhile and you were waiting for a good excuse to end it?” At this point he looked at me and told me that I was “freaking him out”. He thought I was reading his mind or something. We joked a bit and then continued on. He agreed that this was indeed the case, but he was worried that if he broke things off he may not find someone else that had some of the traits he appreciated about her. We worked through the process again a bit and he came to the conclusion that he needed to end the relationship. We role played how that would look and talked about blame and how destructive that could be. He agreed and we were able to talk out what a break up might look like.
I don’t want to say that this experience went perfectly. I talked a bit more then I have expressed here and wish I could have been better at listening, but overall I saw that he had self-evaluated which made for a very rewarding experience for me, and hopefully for him.
The story above reminds us that we experience problem-solving conferencing opportunities in many normal, every day moments. We can use WDEP conferencing skills as teachers and principals, but we can also tap into WDEP skills as parents and friends. The above story also seems to embody the definition of problem-solving conferencing – that being
A lot of us are well-intentioned “fixers” who quickly start sharing advice and solutions when our student, colleague, or friend really just wants someone to listen and help them figure things out. The concept of self-evaluation is hugely important in the choice theory scheme of things. Whether it relates to academic performance and grading or to conferencing with a student regarding a behavior at school, the student’s ability to self-evaluate is the key. The KEY! We can count on this reality as surely as we can count on the law of gravity or the sun coming up in the morning. There is no getting around it. We can advise, direct, order, prescribe, or even threaten, but until a student comes to understand and acknowledge the situation for himself our efforts will lead to frustration and a strained relationship.
When we can non-judgmentally ask WDEP questions the results are frequently amazing! Often, people just need a little help thinking through things on their own and coming up with a plan of their own creation.