source: | 2000 Games, Devotions, Themes, Ideas and more for Youth Work
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"If you want to change someone else, change yourself first!"

learn the way to give feedback
learn the way to give feedback.... © GiZGRAPHICS - Fotolia

How many times have we already experienced that we are angry when children or teenagers behave wrongly in our groups, repeatedly did something wrong, in particular, when dealing with other group members. We wish they would change. We would like to tell them. But how do we say it best?

The full force method would be: "what you just did (not) was entirely wrong.” First of all, this causes a confrontational, defensive attitude while at the same time turning off the brain to think. I do not believe that this is the right way to win someone over.

However, if you try to express your feelings, show how the child's behaviour was received by you (and most likely by the other group members as) it becomes more likely that the person starts to rethink their actions. Those feelings could, for example, be mortification, disappointment, appreciation, uncertainty, etc. In addition, it is possible that the child’s intention was not to deliberately hurt another kid. A positive feedback from the youth worker can help significantly for the “offending” person to reconsider their behaviour.

If we let go of criticism (what you did was all wrong); and harassment (you have to change you, or else) we are open to offering opposite suggestions (try it out this way.) This will trigger much better feelings towards oneself.

I feel it is important to mention that such a conversation is taking place on an equal footing, so the child or young person feels accepted the way they are. The young person needs to know that he is important to you. This creates the best possibility for the child to reflect on your suggestions. After all, it is important to the young person being accepted by you and others.

It is reasonable to assume that most teenagers are not used to this kind of feedback. Most young people will only know their parent’s criticism attached with a long list of wrong doings. By telling the young person, which feelings their behaviour triggered in me, I am reflecting back the consequences of their conduct – without attacking them. This triggers in the young person: here is someone honest and meaning well and does not threaten with punishment.

As the young person becomes aware of his effect on others, he will learn to observe his behaviour and eventually this will enable him to change his conduct as well.

Coming back to the initial statement; "If you want to change someone, change yourself!" simply means for us youth workers that we just have to learn this way of providing feedback. Because we are conditioned to the “old way” of criticism and punishment, just the very way we were brought up, it might not be easy to change our behaviour in this regard. However, if you succeed, you can help greatly. Not just the other person to feel taken seriously but yourself as well.

You cannot teach men a thing; you can only help him to discover it for himself.
Galileo Galilei

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