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CBT Techniques for Building Client Self-Esteem (Abbreviated)
On the last track we discussed responding to the critic. I find that ineffective response styles manifest in three different ways. These are passive response, aggressive response, and passive aggressive response. To foster effective response styles we discussed a technique for acknowledgement.
On this track we will continue our discussion on effective response styles for building self esteem by focusing on the technique of clouding the critic. Our discussion will include three different methods of clouding. These three methods are agreeing in part, agreeing in probability, and agreeing in principle.
Technique: Clouding the Critic
Maria, age 36, used clouding to deal with criticism from her husband. Maria stated, "My mother constantly berated me for unreliability when I was young. It made me feel so useless. Now my husband does it. Last week he said to me, ‘Maria, you’re not reliable. You forget to pick up the kids, you let the bills pile up until we could lose the roof over our heads, and I can’t ever count on you to be there when I need you.’"
#1 - Agreeing In Part
As you know, in this example the blanket statement that Maria is unreliable is too global to agree with. The charge that they will lose the roof over their heads is an exaggeration and the ‘I can’t ever count on you’ just isn’t true. Therefore the respondent, Maria, picked one factual statement about not picking up the kids and acknowledged that.
#2 - Agreeing in Probability
At a later session, Maria explained how she used clouding by agreeing in probability "He kept saying I was riding the clutch and that I was going to ruin the transmission. So I just said, ‘Yes, I may be doing the wrong thing here.’ It felt really good, because I was appearing to agree with him and he was satisfied by that. I felt good because what I meant was ‘Although you might be right, I don’t really think you are. I intend to exercise my right to my own opinion, and I’ll continue to do just as I damn well please.’"
#3 - Agreeing in Principle
Clearly, the advantage of clouding in its various forms is that it quiets critics without sacrificing the client's self esteem. Clouding allows the critic to hear the message that they are right and are satisfied. Generally, critics don't notice that the client has said that they are only partly right, probably right, or right in principle. I find that as clients gain assertiveness, they sometimes find it hard to be content with a clouding response.
Maria stated, "I want to give voice to my opinions on these subjects. I want to argue and attempt to win my critics over to my point of view." How might you have responded to Maria? I stated, "That's all right if the criticism is constructive and the critic is amenable to a change of viewpoint. But most criticism with which you disagree isn't worth dignifying with an argument. You and your self esteem are better off clouding the issue with a token agreement and then changing the subject."
Like Maria, your client may feel guilty when he or she first tries clouding. Maria stated, "It feels sneaky and manipulative." How might you respond to your Maria? I stated, "If that's the case, remember that you don't owe anything to a critic. Criticism is unwelcome and uninvited. Criticism is often a sign of critics' basic negativity and insecurity. Most critics are manipulative themselves. Rather than asking you directly to change behavior, they try to influence you by complaining about you. You might want to consider putting your self esteem first."
As a therapist, counselor, et cetera, you may consider letting your client know that clouding has a disadvantage if used too soon. Client's may find it helpful to remember that if they don't fully understand the critic's motives or message, they may miss hearing something beneficial. As I stated to Maria, "Before jumping in with your clouding response, make sure that you understand what is being said and determine if the critic is trying to be constructive. If you can't tell, use probing."
On this track we continued our discussion on effective response styles by focusing on the technique of clouding the critic. Our discussion included three different methods of clouding. These three methods are agreeing in part, agreeing in probability, and agreeing in principle.
On the next track we will finish our discussion of effective response styles by discussing probing. We will discuss key words, a list of don’ts and techniques for probing the nagger.
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