As I am reading Eva Dreikus Ferguson’s paper for democratic relationships, I have a strong urge to share it with you. Eva is an active member in Adlerian psychology research, and I enjoy reading her papers. In 2004, she published the paper “The 2003 H.L. and R.R. Ansbacher Memorial Address: Democratic Relationships: Key to Adlerian Concepts.”
In the research paper, she stated that “Individual Psychology is founded on the premise that human striving integrally involves both the individual and the community.” The core of Adler's individual psychology is the big German word of "gemeinschaftsgefühl," the oneness and owning the feeling of the community. All of us contribute to this oneness of the community, and the sense of the oneness of the community could also imply that we are considering ourselves equals in the community and even the equal between individual and community. Regarding society, as small as a family, or as big as a country, what kind of style allow us to feel and function that way? It seems obvious that authoritarian style will not let us feel that way. We felt rather controlled, and the individual feels much smaller than the leader in the group, as well as the community. The laissez-faire style lets the individual feel bigger than the community, and thus the welfare of the community cannot be guaranteed. The democratic style is built on mutual respect, takes consideration with both individual aspect and community perspective.
Many might get confused democratic as been loosening autocratic control and become laissez-faire. A Democratic leader is very different from merely loosening the autocratic control. Eva mentioned in this paper that “Specific method, attitudes, and goals need to be adopted to function democratically.” A democratic relationship has different values and goals than autocratic or laisse-faire relationships. Eva states that democratic relationship has a long-term goal to let children learn mutual respect, conflict integration skills, and working with others with a supportive and cooperative aspect.
Eva Dreikus also address the differences between social influences with social equality in her paper. People might have more expert power or informational influences than others based on their experience or their expertise in the field, yet they possess the same social equality. For example, parents in the family usually have more information or more experience in regards to what the child is facing. Thus they have a greater expert or informational influences than their children in the family. Never the less, they have the same social right as their children, being a human. So the child should also feel free to share their need, thinking and feeling in the family. Parents who have expert power and informational influences can make sure the children's feeling and thought counts towards any decision-making process. The best decision can be made if everyone's opinion and need take into a count. The democratic relationship gives equal right to everyone, as well as to the group.
In the paper, Eva reviewed the four basic steps for conflict resolution as (1) show mutual respect, (2) pinpoint the issue, (3) reach a new agreement, and (4) all parties in the conflict participate in decision making for a new solution. P.E.T has essentially the same concepts, and what great about P.E.T. is that it offers practical ways and backbones about how to do each step. To pinpoint the issue, P.E.T. first help parents identify who owns the problem. If both parent and the child has a problem, P.E.T. have effective ways to determine the different needs between two parties. The P.E.T. method III, the no-lose method for conflict resolution, begins with mutual respect by having setting stage step before the actual process, so both parties understand what is coming and agree to try something new that both needs will be considered. Then it contains active listening, confrontive I-message and gear shifting to pinpoint the issue, either it is a conflict of needs or conflict of value. Then everyone participates in brainstorming actives, and a list will be generated with all the possibilities to solve the conflict. Everyone evaluates the ideas listed one by one and then agrees to choose one solution to implement. Everyone agrees to try the solution for a period, and check result later to see if it works well, and see if another round of method III is necessary.
I feel the democratic relationship Eva talked in the paper is resonate with P.E.T. concepts. Please feel free to read the whole article and find out why democratic relationship helps an individual get a sense of belonging and significance, and why it is mentally healthy to feel that way.