The Behaviour, not the person

I was explaining to a young relative the technique first introduced over four decades ago by Thomas Gordon P.E.T (Parent Effectiveness Training).

The conversation had come about because of their comments about people being dumb or stupid. I had explained it can be useful to separate the person from the behaviour. I said the behaviour might be dumb or stupid, however attaching it to the person limits them, and makes it harder to see them as a person instead of their behaviour or actions. When explaining it I used an example of driving a vehicle and observing dangerous driving, saying the behaviour of driving very fast was stupid, instead of the person being stupid. It is more effective to name the action rather than the person as being stupid.

We also discussed  making assumptions for the reasons why someone might speed or overtake in a dangerous place.  There was some discussion, debate and disagreement before the conversation ended.


I got ‘schooled’ by my young relative the next day as I observed in the rear vision mirror someone  overtaking a truck on a bend which had double yellow lines. Automatically, from my mouth, came out  “you bloody idiot!” From the back of our car  a voice pipes up with “remember it is not the person it is the behaviour!”

 It was a great reminder about how instinctive it is to attach the behaviour to the identity of the person and how  easily it is to fall into the trap of the behaviour not the person!

Not forgetting also how quickly young person learn!