The other day I was hanging out with two seven year-olds (my son and a friend of his). We stopped at a convenience store out on highway 531 to use the restroom. My son was coming out of the restroom, his friend was next in line, then me. Into the store and straight back to the restroom comes a big, bad-ass looking, Harley-riding dude. He looked tough. So, there I was with two kids and me in line. The biker had about 90 lbs on me and he was about 8 inches taller. I said to him, “The line goes from toughest to least tough. He was first (pointing to my 40 lb son), he is next (pointing to his friend), I’m after that, and you’re last.”
So, I’ve just told this biker that he was not as tough as a seven-year old. But I did it with a playful attitude. He laughed and we started talking. It turns out that highway 531 is one of the best motorcycle rides in the state. Nice guy.
Playfulness & Flexibility
The point is (it’s here somewhere, I swear), when you approach situations with an open or playful attitude and behavioral flexibility you can have a good experience. I’m not suggesting you taunt motorcycle gang members. Being a kid who since high-school has gotten himself out of tough situations with humor, I’m comfortable teasing people with a twinkle in my eye. I know if things go sour, I can dance fast enough to defuse the situation. Usually it’s fun.
If It’s Broke–Fix It!
I remember way back when, when I sold suits for JC Penney. Sometimes, when I would launch into a spiel about some selling point of a particular piece of clothing, I could see the potential customer wasn’t responding positively. I would stop, step to one side, point to where I had just been standing and say something like, “That’s probably the kind of crap you usually hear from salespeople. Now, what is it that’s important to you about a suit?” Oftentimes, I could get them back and help them better get what they want.
It’s useful with clients. It’s harder to do if you take yourself and the techniques you use too seriously. Dogma, rigid thinking and procedures are all enemies of flexible, spontaneous, effective, client-centered therapy.
Now that doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily be laughing our way through a traumatic regression session. It simply means don’t take yourself or your approach too seriously. And for goodness sake–don’t take me too seriously either.