A fascinating podcast from Invisibilia (and shared recently on NPR’s Morning Edition) reminds us about what can happen when we flip the script. In this short video clip (is eight and a half minutes short?) we learn what happens when a gun-toting robber interrupts a dinner party, only to be offered a glass of wine.


As the NPR article explains, psychologists call it noncomplementarity, or in other words, responding in an unexpected way to prompt a positive response.

Complementarity exists when like begets like – for instance, when we give another person the cold shoulder when they slight us, or when we respond angrily when someone gets in our face. Of course, complementarity also exists when friendly behavior results in a warm response.


The Caring Habits and the Deadly Habits are such clear examples of this theory of communication. Glasser believed that using the Caring Habits would keep us connected to others, be they loved ones, colleagues, or maybe even intruders at a dinner party. It is powerful, even disarming, when we respond with a Caring Habit to a person who is using a Deadly Habit on us.

For a wonderful example of a person using a Caring Habit in the face of an intense Deadly Habit check out this story about –  Mama G

Teachers have opportunities to put this communication theory to use every day. Students may use a Deadly Habit in the classroom in an attempt to control a classmate or the teacher, but their anger or frustration is taken down a notch as the teacher (and maybe even a classmate) responds in a caring way.


Posting the Caring Habits and the Deadly Habits in the classroom is a simple way to teach and remind students of the importance of how we choose to relate to others. With the Habits posted it will be easier to tap into teachable moments as they arise, and help students really begin to understand their significance. The Habits being posted will be a good reminder for us as teachers, too, as we continually attempt to model a choice theory life.

From a spiritual perspective, Jesus described a perfect love as being able, like His Father, to love even those who are unfriendly to you, and maybe even your enemy. (Matthew 5:43-48) Can you think of examples from the Gospels in which Jesus behaved in a noncomplementary manner?


(The NPR piece can be accessed at http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/15/485843453/it-was-a-mellow-summer-dinner-party-then-the-gunman-appeared)