Posts tagged “external control

So, There’s a New Deadly Habit

Not that we need another Deadly Habit. We have enough of them already. Still, in our effort to get what we want, and to just feel right (darnit), we are capable of coming up with some pretty interesting behaviors. Take “ghosting,” for example. Yes, it’s an actual behavior, and yes, it deserves to be included in the pantheon of Deadly Habits.

Around for centuries, ghosting was finally labeled as a social phenomena (according to one author) in 2014. In case you’re wondering about its definition, ghosting is “the practice of ending a personal relationship with someone by suddenly and without explanation withdrawing from all communication.” Originally, the term was used to describe how a person in a dating relationship one moment could disappear without a word the next moment. In this scenario, a person ghosts when he or she doesn’t want to confront, negotiate, explain, or say good-bye.

It is confusing, and even painful, when you are ghosted by a friend. It is even more confusing and more painful when it happens in a church setting, as it did to Benjamin Corey and his family. In his blog*, Benjamin, a church leader and teacher, describes how he and his family were ghosted after fellow members questioned whether or not he was “truly the head over his wife.” This, along with his stance on advocating for a higher minimum wage, his stance on loving our enemies (church members saw his message as unloving toward gun owners), and his stance against bringing guns into the church.

“And then it happened. Silence. Distance. Non-existence.” Close friends, people he and his family hung out with and did things together with on weekends became invisible. His children’s close friends no longer included them. Their social and spiritual network was laid waste. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day threatened to ostracize people from the temple and all religious life if they didn’t think and behave the way the Pharisees demanded. Such a threat was taken seriously because being a part of the community meant everything, even survival. Such ostracization strategies continue today.

When a person close to us – a spouse or child or relative – doesn’t behave as we want, or when others in our life – co-workers, fellow church members, a driver on the road beside us – behave in a way that upsets us, we have a choice as to how we will respond. If we view the world through “reward and punishment’ glasses we will call on behaviors that attempt to make or force the other person to behave according to our expectations, or that at least give us a shot of brief satisfaction for expressing our anger or disgust. Reward and punishment behaviors are known, according to Choice Theory, as Deadly Habits and include behaviors like Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Reward to Manipulate. They are called deadly because whenever these behaviors are used they are damaging, and even deadly, to the relationship. When I was younger my go to Deadly Habit was Withdrawing, which is form of Punishing. After reading Dr. Corey’s blog I will now include Ghosting as another form of Punishing.

Fortunately, there is also a list of Caring Habits, too, which I hope would especially be present within the behaviors of a church family. Maybe Benjamin Corey not have having control over his wife and not wanting guns in the church is a deal-breaker for people within that congregation, yet isn’t it possible to talk about this difference in views and separate amicably, rather than by inflicting such pain? The church, of all places, needs to teach and model Caring Habits, which prioritize relationships, and which include Listening, Encouraging, Accepting, Supporting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences. We will not always agree with others, but we can choose to respond in a way that at least maintains the relationship.

(Click here to read Benjamin Corey’s article – Christian Ghosting: The Destructive Christian Practice We Don’t Talk About.)


It is especially toxic when externally-controlling ways are combined with religious views. It adds to our authority when we claim that God thinks like us and when we claim to be doing His will, but we misrepresent Him when we try to control others. For more on this topic, check out the following links –

Stuffing God into a Box

Religion and the Only Person I Can Control

God as Coercer

Why Are So Many Christians Un-Christian?



Genius or Toxic?

A mother taped this note to the refrigerator for her children.

A mother taped this note to the refrigerator for her children.

Genius or Toxic?

So what do you think, fellow choice theorists? Many external control motivators are obvious, easily analyzed, and quickly labeled as hurtful or destructive. What about this note, though? Is it genius or are there elements of being toxic in the approach? The mother adds a “proof of life” element that you see in movies about kidnappings, and she tries to make it feel more lighthearted with “Thank you for playing.”

If we see genius, are we overlooking something manipulative that always come back to haunt or hurt relationships, and if we see toxic, are we making too big a deal out of a parent having fun with incentivizing the chore of cleaning the kitchen?

Genius and Toxic?

Maybe it isn’t either/or; maybe it’s both genius and toxic. Help me with this one; what do you think?


This is where I will be landing in Japan - Kansai International Airport - an incredible airfield built in the middle of a bay on landfill.

This is where I will be landing in Japan – Kansai International Airport – an incredible airfield built in the middle of a bay on landfill.

Heading for Japan tomorrow. Looking forward to giving presentations on the writing of the Glasser biography. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the biography, Champion of Choice, has been translated into Japanese. And for good reason since there is a very strong Glasser organization and choice theory presence in Japan.

Glasser's story and his ideas in English and in Japanese.

Glasser’s story and his ideas in English and in Japanese.

The Last Soul Shapers

The Soul Shapers 1 class I teach each summer at Pacific Union College begins on Monday (6-22-15) and I plan on it being the last one. No more Soul Shapers for me. I’ve taught the class for 10 summers in a row, ever since the Soul Shapers book was first published, and this is it. Soul Shapers is about to be history.

Last summer's Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Last summer’s Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Truth be told, the only thing that I want to be history is the label Soul Shapers. I look forward to future summer classes and in-services across the U.S. and beyond, but I want them to be billed using a different title. I want them to be billed as The Better Plan. I am as convinced and enthusiastic as ever about the ideas and principles of choice theory, and I am as committed as ever to sharing choice theory with others. Labels are important, though, and The Better Plan is accurate, whereas the title Soul Shapers is not.


Glasser faced something similar with the label control theory, a story with which I was completely familiar, so it is interesting to me that I could have gotten into the same situation. Glasser adopted the label control theory during his initial work with William Powers in the late 70s, but eventually changed the label to choice theory in the late 90s. (His book Choice Theory was published in 1998.) He was frustrated with the label control theory, partly because he frequently had to explain how the theory was about self-control, not about controlling others. The internal vs. external control issue is so important to grasp and apply that Glasser wanted the label of his ideas to contribute to an accurate understanding.


I got into the label situation because I wasn’t assertive enough to push for what I wanted. When you sign a publishing contract you pretty much sign away the rights to the book, including whatever the title of the book will be. My experience has been, though, that publishers don’t bulldoze their way to the title they prefer. They want your input. I was contacted early on by a rep from the Review & Herald (one of the main publishing houses of the Seventh-day Adventist church at the time; it has since gone out of business) and excitedly told that they had come up with a title for my manuscript. She then told me the book would be called The Blind-Folded Dolphin. I said “Excuse me?” One of the anecdotes I shared in the book referred to the dolphin show at Marine World and the manner in which the dolphins use echo-location to navigate (p. 33). While I like dolphins a lot, I didn’t want the book to be titled that way. The rep was not pleased with my response, but begrudgingly said they would keep working on it. (The working title of the manuscript I initially submitted was The Better Plan, but apparently that title wasn’t grabbing them.)


When they called later with a new title, Soul Shapers, I must have been so relieved that it wasn’t based on fish (ok, mammals) that I went for it. When I later received my 10 free copies of the book (as the author) it was the first time I had seen its cover – the title, the graphics, and the color scheme. There was a richness about its look – the layout and colors were very good – however as I considered the title and the graphics my heart sank a bit.


As agreed, in bold, large letters, the title Soul Shapers is prominently featured. And then below the title is a picture of a cookie-cutter in the shape of a heart, with what appears to be a child inside the heart. The implications of this title and graphic began to form in my awareness. In the world of tools and gadgets there are few items more externally-controlling than a cookie-cutter. It’s sharp, strong edges push into the soft dough and form an exact, very particular shape. The large words above the cookie-cutter, Soul Shapers, complete the supposed message of the book – teachers and parents are externally shaping the souls and characters of the children in their care. In some ways, it would be challenging to come up with a more inaccurate title.

Soul Shapers cover

The message of the book is that every person is responsible for the shaping of their own character, and that as teachers and parents our role is to guide and support children as they begin the journey of self-control and character formation. It is a delicate process based on free will and choice. As adults our goal is to reveal to children the details of their own personal internal control systems. There is no greater gift we can endow to them. The Soul Shaper book was meant to alert readers to the ways in which Scripture, Ellen White, and William Glasser emphasize this internal control system.

Ellen White, who wrote at the turn of the last century, explained that –

True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. Desire of Ages, p. 307

You yourselves are responsible for the kind of character you build.   Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 245

“Every child should understand the true force of the will… The will is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or choice.”           Education, p. 289

The sub-title of Soul Shapers is A Better Plan for Parents and Educators. When the publisher let me know I responded “Why not use the original phrase and refer to it as The Better Plan, rather than A Better Plan?” They explained that using the word “the” makes it sound like this plan is the only way or the one best way and that the letter “a” made it sound more reasonable, like it was just one of many ways to accomplish what was needed. I responded that “the better plan” was not my phrase, not something that I came up with, but that it was directly from the pen of Ellen White. As you can see the cover ended up with “A” Better Plan. Sigh.


The Ellen White quote that originally alerted me to the better plan, and more importantly to the principles of the better plan, is such a powerful choice theory statement. It goes like this –

Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.             Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

“The better plan” is about helping students to recognize and apply their own internal control guidance systems. Sadly, she admits that teachers who help students in this way will be misunderstood and underappreciated. This is significant. How much more clearly can this be said?

Born in an Adventist home, educated in Adventist schools, having served in Adventist education my entire career, yes, I have heard the term “blueprint for Adventist education.” My dad was an Adventist preacher who was very, very supportive of Adventist education and I heard him refer to the “blueprint” more than once. As it turns out, though, I have never seen this blueprint. The closest I have come to seeing something like a blueprint is this phrase “the better plan,” an approach that has everything to do with the principles of internal control and choice theory. This is the direction we need to head together.

And so this is the last time I am going to teach a class called Soul Shapers. I like The Better Plan a lot better.



External Standards vs. External Control

Do you want a doctor who “thinks” she has learned enough to do your surgery?

Writing from a coffee shop in Spokane, Washington, this morning. Margaret and I are on our way to Missoula, Montana, to see our son, Jordan, graduate from law school. More on Jordan and law school this weekend.

Tim Mitchell and Jim Weller brought up great questions regarding the process of evaluation and specifically, self-evaluation, and today, Bob Hoglund, senior faculty at William Glasser, Inc., and the chairperson of the Glasser board in the U.S., adds to our understanding in the following article –

External Expectations and Standards vs. External Control
Bob Hoglund, Senior Faculty, WGI

With Dr. Glasser’s emphasis on External Control Psychology vs. Choice Theory®, it seems necessary to distinguish between reasonable external expectations (standards) and external control. Consider the following:

  • Do you want a pilot who self-evaluated that he is able to fly a passenger jet?
  • Do you want a farmer to self-evaluate that his meat is acceptable for consumers?
  • Do you want a manager who NEVER gives you feedback or direction?
  • Do you want an auto company to decide on its own that the problem with the brakes isn’t that bad?
  • Do you want a doctor that “thinks” she’s learned enough to do your surgery?
  • Do you want a dentist that has “decided” he’s ready to do your root canal?
  • The flaw of self-evaluation is… If all you do is self-evaluate, how do you know what you don’t know?

Given the above questions and expected answers, it would seem that there is a place for external standards and evaluations. For example,

  • Teachers provide needed instruction and feedback to their students. Without this, students may not learn properly or may practice incorrect methods.
  • Coaches correct actions to improve skills the players have not yet mastered.
  • Parents provide instruction and limits to teach their children the values and behaviors that they expect.

Many professions require external certifications in order to ensure standards of safety are met; however, unless an individual finds some worth in the external expectations and evaluations, there is little likelihood that he will produce quality work. The key to external evaluation is involving the individual in finding value in expectations and evaluations.

Additionally, it is important for the workers to be taught exactly what is expected of them, prior to any self or external evaluation. Dr. Deming said, “It is not enough to do your best. You must first know what to do and then do your best.” When there are set processes, procedures or policies, rubrics, checklists and other quality tools are helpful to the teaching/learning process and to enhance the quality or self and external evaluations.

When external evaluations are required, there are three factors that increase the likelihood that external evaluation will produce the desired result. External evaluation and information is crucial to our learning and growth. The external evaluation doesn’t “make” us do, think or feel anything. We take the external information and use the “self-evaluation” process to determine if we will use the information we are getting.

The term learner is used from this point forward to represent anyone receiving feedback or evaluation information because successful external evaluation results in learning.

There are three factors that determine the effectiveness of external evaluation?

1. Does it benefit the learner?
a. How will the evaluation be used?
b. Does the learner have a chance to improve the rating/grade or score?

2. Is it wanted / asked for?
a. Does the learner “respect” the source of the evaluation?
b. Does the rating / grade / score mean anything to the learner?

3. Does the evaluation give the learner the information needed to make the necessary improvements?

“Does the evaluation give the learner the information needed to make the necessary improvements” is the crux of the Glasser Quality School Model. Reteach and retest.

Dr. Glasser’s emphasis on self-evaluation and co-verification can coexist with the expectations of external evaluation that are expected in many workplaces and schools. This coexistence can become positive by involving others in the evaluation process.

A suggestion for increasing meaningful methods of external evaluation is to survey the individual(s) who will be evaluated. Questions, such as the following, provide a base from which to build useful, meaningful evaluations.

1. What does your ideal performance review look or sound like?
a. What would you like it to say?
b. What knowledge and skills would be recognized?
c. What accomplishments would be included?

2. In what type of environment do you work best?
a. How do you get along with others?
b. How do you treat others?
c. How do others get along with you?
d. On a scale of 1 to 10, how autonomous would you prefer your job to be?
i. How often do you think you should report your progress?
ii. How would you like to report your progress?

3. What expectations do you have of yourself?
a. What expectations do you think that the company has of you?
b. What expectations seem reasonable to you?
c. What expectations don’t seem reasonable to you?
d. How do you reconcile any differences between the two?

4. What type of evaluation is most helpful for you?
a. When do you want to receive it?
b. How do you want to receive it?

In conclusion, The Three E’s (Hoglund, 2000) provide the framework for optimal benefit:
The expectations and evaluations occur within a positive, supportive, trusting learning and working environment.
The expectations, even when external, have benefits for the learner or worker.
The evaluation is helpful because it meets the above criteria.




Sticking It In Their Ear

Newspaper article from 1962

Newspaper article from 1962

Early in Glasser’s career he emphasized the idea of being responsible. Reality Therapy (1965) echoed this theme a lot. Taken as part of the overall elements of reality therapy – elements like involvement, no punishment, and never give up – responsibility could be kept in perspective. However, Glasser soon discovered that teachers were taking the idea of responsibility and using it as a hammer to whip kids into shape. Seeing that people were misusing the idea he began to pull back from it.

Early on he was also known as an expert on classroom discipline and his “get tough” approach was advertised in national magazines. He let this happen for a while, but realized that such a message didn’t accurately capture what he was trying to do. Once again, he began to pull back from what people thought he was saying.

We still face this challenge today. We love the sound of choice theory and are drawn to its application, yet when we have marinated for so long in external control (reward/punishment) it is easy to go back to what we know. Teachers chuckle in agreement when I suggest that it is possible to use internal control strategies in an externally controlling way. As Glasser used to say, “It’s easy to believe in choice theory, but it’s hard to do.”

I thought about this during our recent Choice Theory Study Group as we focused on the concept of total behavior. Key pieces of total behavior include that 1) all behavior is purposeful and that 2) all behavior is made up of four parts – thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology. A key piece of total behavior is that two of the four parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control.

And this is where a potential problem lurks. In the same way that teachers back in the 60s and 70s misunderstood and misapplied the idea of responsibility as Glasser intended, teachers today might be tempted to tell students that they are responsible for their own thinking and acting. If something is under our direct control, like how we act, then it may seem reasonable to emphasize this to students, even to bombard them with it.


This is the thing, though. Gaining insight into total behavior and understanding how it applies to you personally doesn’t come from someone else telling you about it, especially during a tense moment when they may be telling you to get your act together. Such insight comes from being gently led toward the concept and being asked the right questions at the right moments.

One of my mentors, a man who taught me so much about supervising teachers, shared that

“It is better to get something out of someone’s mouth,
than it is to put it into their ear.”

As teachers and parents this can be our goal, too. Total behavior is correct, in my opinion, and our having direct control over our thinking and behavior is correct, too. Helping our children and students realize that, without damaging our relationship with them, is our challenge. Somehow we need to help them talk about what the idea of total behavior means to them, rather than just sticking the concept in one of their ears.


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