Unconditional Positive Regard

My father was a professional teacher. For the most part he taught Speech, English, and Drama in high school. He was a big believer in life long learning. Every summer he and my mother both enrolled in graduate level college courses. My brother and I attended summer school programs at the university school.

I remember one summer when he was studying for a masters degree in guidance counseling he was taking some course or another in psychology. He would often share some of the interesting things that he learned with my mother, brother, and me. On this occasion, he was telling us about a counseling technique that was based on showing the client unconditional positive regard.

Unconditional positive regard is not unconditional approval. Instead it is an attitude that one takes toward the person instead of the things that the person may have done. By giving the client your positive regard without making it conditional on anything that they do or refrain from doing, you open up the potential for dialog with them.

I took this technique to heart and used it in my personal relationships. Consequently, I made friends with people that were outcasts. In some cases, they were actually pathological liars. That is, they actually believed the tall tales that they told. They were so hungry for friendship that they were extremely loyal to me. The problem is that they tended to put off other people that weren’t so willing to accept these people at face value.

I always used the following criteria when deciding whether to accept things that these people told me, “Would it hurt anyone or thing to accept what they are saying?” When I say accept, I mean that I didn’t argue with them or openly contradict them. I wouldn’t stand by and let them tell lies about other people but if they wanted to tell me that they had been taken for rides in UFOs, I was willing to take them at their word.

The thing that I didn’t realize that resulted from this practice was that I became considered to be an outcast by many people because I had friends that were outcasts.

I’ve been giving this a good bit of thought lately. I think it is a contributing factor in why it has taken me so long to learn accepted social behavior. Thank goodness my wife is so good at such things. She keeps me from making too many social gaffs.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.