7 Deadly Habits that Destroy Relationships

When we attempt to control another person, we tend to use one or more of the 7 Deadly Habits. Glasser encourages us to identify our disconnecting habits and replace them with new, connecting behaviours.

Reality Therapy, the counselling application of Choice Theory, recognises and tackles the fact that most people’s unhappiness is the result of relationship problems and most of these problems have as their root the attempt by one person to control another.

When a couple who have been having trouble in their relationship start to get along better, they do not always recognise that they have ceased trying to control each other.

It is useful for children to learn that the only person’s behaviour they can control is their own, and familiarity with the 7 habits* is useful when teaching conflict resolution skills. The children – and their teachers and parents ! – need to learn how to replace manipulative, controlling behaviours with self-control.

When another person is not doing what they want them to do, it is tempting to try and control the other person’s behaviour, by using one or more of the 7 deadly habits.

In his book, Glasser examines the questions of why some marriages work and others fail, Dr Glasser advises readers on how to create loving and happy relationships by applying his tradmark ‘choice theory’.

In the picture below 2 7-year-old Slovenian girls explain to me how they try not to use the 7 disconnecting habits and replace them with the 7 connecting habits.

Seven Deadly Habits:

1) Criticizing;

2) Blaming;

3) Complaining;

4) Nagging;

5) Threatening;

6) Punishing; and

7) Bribing or rewarding to control

7 Caring Habits:

1) Supporting;

2) Encouraging;

3) Listening;

4) Accepting;

5) Trusting;

6) Respecting; and

7) Negotiating differences

Charlotte Wellen, Head of Choice at Murray High, a Glasser Quality School in Virginia USA, told me that all staff in the school practice teacher-student conflict resolution skills on a monthly basis. I have tried her ideas and they are very effective ways to empower teachers:

On 7 red cards, write one of the deadly habits, on 7 golden cards, write the 7 connecting habits. Select a challenging classroom situation such as a pupil using their mobile during a lesson. Pick a Deadly Habit card and act out the scenario of a response using this habit ( such as criticising, threatening etc). Discuss how it feels for the teacher and the pupil and the effectiveness of this approach. Next, repeat the same scenario using one of the Connecting Habits, then repeat the reflection as before. I takes a lot of practice and courage to abandon the disconnecting habits, expecially when we are so used to using them on pupils.

Interestingly, although we feel we have licence to use these controlling behaviours on our students, offspring, partners and employees, we rarely us them on our friends. I wonder why?

Now read The Beautiful School Rules

Let the Students do the Work

Mentoring and Problem Behaviour

Misbehaving on the School Bus


*Glasser,W. and Glasser, C.  (2000) Getting Together and Staying Together : Solving the Mysteryof Marriage. New York: Harper Collins

Image Credit: Mark A. Hicks

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