Engineering mindset behind Emotional Assertiveness – a conversation with John Parr

In this episode of OnCoaching, Zoltán Csigás talks with John Parr who is

the founder of the Emotional Assertiveness Model, Certifying Master Trainer of

PCM®, a highly experienced coach and trainer with a rich background. John and

Zoltán talk about how to join thoughts and emotions in a supportive process,

how John utilizes his extensive knowledge-base when dealing with client cases,

and so much more!

Transcript
Zoltán Csigás:

Hello, my name is Zoltan Csigás, and this is Zoltan Podcast ON COACHING. . In the series, I'm talking with an internationally renowned coaching scientists and coaches. We explore their personal and professional insights on the science of coaching, and on the helping professions. Are you interested in how they got close to this profession? Are you curious about the new frontiers they are exploring right now? Join me and listen to the conversation, inspiration, and some fun is ahead. Welcome, John, I'm delighted to have you on this conversation. And I'm absolutely amazed to have you and I have to come clean for all of for LDS that you are my mentor and probably calling you a friend. I think I have some bias in my questions and some answers that I may be already aware of. But I'm very glad to have you in the conversation.

John Parr:

Thank you.

Zoltán Csigás:

May I ask you to give us a quick introduction of yourself? Because there will be so many things that I could say you but I think the focus is on you now not on me.

John Parr:

Well, I'm from the UK, England consider myself to be English. 79 years old. I have neurodiversity issues. I'm dyslexic. When I went to school in the 50s, dyslexia was not known and so add another labeled stupid. There's no bad news, Ollie, I remember knowing even though I was being told I'm stupid. I knew I wasn't. That was a part of my neurodiversity. I was smarter than they were. I went to Ireland, pretty tough time to be school, punished for being lazy, punished for not learning how to spell words, learning them today and forgetting them again tomorrow. Being told, you can look forward in in life to a career as a dust marry or road sweeper. Oh, when I got to the end of my school, we took examinations. We sat nine in those days, I sat nine exams, I passed all of them. Suddenly, the teachers said, Oh, you must stay on you must do advanced education. And basically, I gave them a middle finger, left Left school, there was no way I was going to sign up for a whole bunch of that abuse again. And I became a electronics engineer and apprentice. But after about a year of that, not earning very much money as an apprentice I joined the Royal Navy. In the Royal Navy, I continued on engineering, training. So it also electronic engineering or navy for 10 years. And then about 1968 I had a religious experience and conversion, decided that I really didn't want to be belonging to an organization that was designed to kill people. Rather, I wanted to be in an organization that was about helping people to have a good life. So I left the Navy, I ran a drug rehab center, or residential treatment center for treating people with substance abuse, like opiates, for example, did that for three years, went to university. So psychology led me into the probation service working with people who have gone through the criminal justice system to see if I can help them to change their behavior. By 1980, I got recruited by a multinational electronics company would be an HR manager, because they were looking for an HR person who understood engineering. That was me.

Zoltán Csigás:

Happy to hear that they weren't interested in you because of your probation experience.

John Parr:

No, no, it was because they was wanting someone to work with the high tech engineering people in HR who understood that business. When I had the interview, I said, Look, I know nothing about HR. And he said, Don't worry, we can teach you that. They sent me to college to learn the HR bits that I needed to know and I worked with them as an HR manager managing all the Recruitment Training of of engineers. And while I was with that company, that's when I discovered transactional analysis. That takes me on another dog's leg of my journey changed from being an HR manager to training as a psychotherapist, becoming a transaction analyst, psychotherapist, and later, trainer and supervisor. So that's the that was to get me through into working with people really. And the coaching then started back there so that we're talking about 1980. Whilst in standard term planning and cables, I began to do some coaching work then, that developed over the years alongside of counseling and psychotherapy.

Zoltán Csigás:

But it's very interesting to hear for me is that you have all these very different aspects, very different elements in your career. And that can be a guest that gives you a bit of a divergent insight into whole people and organizations can work. But there was one thing that I I wasn't aware of till now is that you had the religious experience that turn your feet from the military, to the helping professions. And will you tell us a bit about that? Is this is this something public that you can share?

John Parr:

Yes, I can share, very happy to share it with you. I was the first 12 weeks or so of my training as an advanced electronics engineer. I was working on the bench making metal object, we had to learn how to work with metal with basic hand tools. Because let's see, a radar, for example, has lots of moving parts, the gear chain breaks down, you have to be able to fix it. It's pretty boring. During that time you stood at a bench with a piece of scrap metal, turning it into something that has very fine tolerances in its size and fit with other pieces of scrap metal. The guy on the bench next to me was wanting to become a priest. I was at that time I was an atheist, and used to have long conversations each day with him. Because I knew a fair amount about the Bible. I've read it a lot. That like WC Fields said one day when he was on his deathbed, someone says hey, W failed. What are you doing reading the Bible? I thought you were an atheist. And he said, so why are you reading the Bible? And he said, Well, I'm looking forward. And that was me, I was looking for loopholes. But reading the Bible, I found some things that I thought was really odd. And as I began to build up a picture that there was something in there that was beyond someone sitting down and thinking it up, I decided to shift my point of view.

Zoltán Csigás:

And is religion, or the religious aspect, still a part of your way how you are dealing with, with people when you are acting as a helping professional?

John Parr:

Fascinating question. The answer is yes. Basically, I love people I enjoyed being in a profession enables me to do a journey with people that they can use to help themselves. But in terms of am I religious? The answer is no, because I found that organized religion really didn't suit me. I'm not belonging to a group of organized believers. But I still very much an active believer in the way that I live my life. So it's more about walking the walk rather than blocking them.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much. Can I jump back to transactional analysis TA and and my question is what caught your attention in ta so how come that you, you stick with TA for such a long time? And you bid and change schools?

John Parr:

The basic answer to that is always I'm an engineer in my heart, I like things to be logical and functional. And when I started looking at different models of psychotherapy ta was incredibly logical, incredibly functional, like a piece of machinery. I know if I turn that wheel that way, that wheel over there, it's going to turn that way. And it's highly predictable. So I love to da for the logical aspects, but also for the fact that it lends itself to adopting whatever it needs from any other form of therapy that will work. So it's not exclusive tapes in a broad view. That's why I still use the I no longer belong to a TA Association. But I still consider myself to be a transaction analyst at heart.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much. And I really like the the engineering picture of TA because I love the the interrelatedness of the concepts in C and and the predictability. Yeah. You know what, I've always been curious about what always it means the last few years is that, that how did you get to the topic of emotion, so emotional assertiveness with this electronic with this engineering background and with the predictability of the human machinery. For me, emotions were always the things that made people unpredictable. And irrational lens change, and whatever, you know, of course, the good perspective or the positive perspective. So how did your interest get into emotions and dealing with emotion,

John Parr:

because emotions are predictable. They're not predictable. And they're chaotic, and rioters when we don't manage our emotions well, but when we manage our emotions, they provide us with lots of really good information about how to solve our problems, they talk about joined up writing. Now when you're a child, you first learn to do an A, and then a B, and then a C. And then one day someone teaches you how to join the A and the B and the C together. What I talk about joined up thinking, for me joined up thinking about problem solving is that we have a brain that thinks logically, we have emotions that give us huge amounts of information about what an issue is about. And when we think and feel at the same time, link those two capacities, it increases our ability to find healthy solutions to our problems. I was training as a psychotherapist in the 80s, the late 80s and early 90s, I'd had a lot of clients and began to realize that basically, they fell into two clusters. One group of clients, major defense mechanism was to climb into their head, and try to think their way out of the problem and avoid their feelings like the plague. And another group seem to go heavily into their emotions and become swamped with them. And so swamped and overwhelmed by their emotions, that they couldn't think clearly. So I realized, I needed to find ways to help my clients to join up their thinking, to link their thinking and their emotions together and to understand the nature of the problem, and what they needed to do about it. So I began to experiment with techniques that help people who were in their heads climbed out of their hands, into their hearts, and people who were in their hearts, climb out of their hearts, and get into their heads. And then when they could do that, to then figure out that they can actually have one foot in one camp, or the other foot in the other camp, and use it all together. And I saw the body is the tool for that. So I was working on, when people having strong emotions, we see it in their body. When people are blocking their emotions through their thoughts, processes, we see it in their body. So I was using Where did I see the blockage in the body, to help them to unblock to lift the block, and put the two things together, I got quite a few techniques that I've built. And then I read Daniel Goldman's book, emotional intelligence,

Zoltán Csigás:

before we go there, we would share one of these techniques, so just a glimpse of it. So what would you do with someone who is an I think that would be typical of me, for someone who is blocking their emotions. I'm kind of an over thinker person. So how would you approach me? Or what would you do with this kind of defense mechanism?

John Parr:

So if we assume this is a problem that you're bringing to me in therapy? Yes, I would say so. When you told me that zali what emotion were you? You would probably say nothing. And I would say, That's interesting, because I noticed on your face that when you were telling me that your eyes were screwed up and you had deep lines between your eyes, and your face look a bit tense, though, are you aware of that? Or you'd say no. I'm trying now. We experienced that make your face do what it did back then. Yeah, like that. Stay like they really accentuate it. Now as you begin to do that, what are you aware of in your body?

Zoltán Csigás:

Yeah, tension in my stomach and the lower part of my chest. tension in my arms, I would say Right. So.

John Parr:

So from there, we won't do that now because the session but from there, I would say Okay, so let's focus on that. tension in your stomach is only What's that telling you? And I would have you explore when you experience that? What emotion are you feeling and get you in touch with your emotion. Now that tension in the stomach is fear when you If we're able to spot that, what might you be afraid of? In asking that question? What might be your fear? And get you to think about the fear? And then get to the point of it and say, Ah, that wasn't a really good friend, I can ask that question. Without fair. It's got to do with the relationship. So it's got to do with, you're asking me a question. And somewhere, you're wondering, is it okay to ask that question? Am I okay to ask that question? When is it that their relationship? Okay, but then I'd go back to, and you said, you're experiencing something in your arms, experiencing your arm, and you get in touch with that. And that could be anger? So what might you be angry about, and so on. So I'd help them to chase their feelings, their emotions, physical sensations, and track the physical sensations to the emotion, and then link the emotion? What was going on at the time? What was I thinking? When I was experiencing that? Bring it together? So what do I need to do so that I no longer am afraid? I no longer angry, can give up my anger. That's it, you find the problem.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much. This requires a pretty good observation skill. It's

John Parr:

something I was teaching the student I was working with yesterday about communicating with empathy and compassion. I was telling them, you've got two eyes, two ears and one mouth. And that's the ratio, we need to use them in

Zoltán Csigás:

four to one, that's something I'm going to steal from you. Thank you. And they've interrupted when you mentioned that you read the Daniel Gomez book.

John Parr:

Yes, I read Goldman. And I like what Tom was saying. And at the end of it, I thought, well, this is all very well and good, Daniel, but you're telling us how important it is to be emotionally intelligent, but you're not giving any clues at all about how to be. So as I began to read more and more around that subject, and saw that that was pretty much the theme of most of the books and articles, I read, how important it was to be emotionally intelligent, but no idea about what to do to increase your emotional intelligence. I thought, Well, I actually have some tools that help people to do that. They began to call it in those days, applied emotional intelligence. And then I wrote a master's degree thesis on it and submitted that. And that's what led me through to the model that I've got, and I now teach people

Zoltán Csigás:

may ask you about your thesis, what was the research or the observation background that you've been betting on?

John Parr:

The primary research was reading, I read all around the neurosciences and the various chemistry of emotion, or Greeks. But also, I then made note studies of clients that I worked with, because in my thesis, I used some case study material to demonstrate the application of the model.

Zoltán Csigás:

So then for the synthesis of the teacher, and your professional experience. That sounds very good. How does PCM fit into this picture? Does it fit into this picture? And I know, I'm introducing another line of theories here, but we've been knowing each other from the role of that's where our friendship started. That's, you were my first ever trainer in the role of process communication model. And I just like to put that into the picture because PCM is important for me.

John Parr:

My memory is Ollie is is that we actually started before then I think I did some ta training for you through sorry,

Zoltán Csigás:

but it was a PCM core topic cemetery.

John Parr:

And so I've done some ta training with you as a student, because I used to train people in Hungary in ta

Zoltán Csigás:

but later lecture the there was ta training as well. But the very first thing where we met was my first ever to a PCM core topic seminar. So

John Parr:

I stand corrected. Zoey started with PCM with you and I will PCM came into the picture of it casually really slowly. I had a really good business, taking training and consulting into industry, around human behavior. And particularly I had a good business with Hewlett Packard. I worked with Hewlett Packard as a consultant for 11 years, 1012 years for quite a long time, all over Europe. So I was working with Packard for a long time. And it was with Hewlett Packard that I began to actually spot the stuff about emotions and our bodies in the work that I was doing and he looked back and I'm a friend of mine Maybe Colorado. I've known TV for a very long time. TV contacted me and said, Why don't you do PCM in the UK. And at that time, I was way too busy. And I said, Thanks, baby, I'd love to, but I just don't have the time. I then moved to live in Romania with my wife. When I moved to Romania, my business changed direction quite a lot. And I had more time to develop other things. So I said to Toby, look, I'm ready to do some PCM now, and he organized the CMP in Europe, would train me and certify me. That's how I came into PCM. That's in about 2003 2004. And I took on the license for Romania, in 2000, at the end of 2004, beginning 2005.

Zoltán Csigás:

So my, what is interesting for me, when I'm speaking with people who have such a vast knowledge lecture is how you manage all these different theories and approaches in your mind. How do you choose do you choose? Okay, this is a situation for VCM for TA for emotional assertiveness. So is there a way we will be ready to have a big picture of something? But these are just small elements? Do you have your own all encompassing theory that runs in your mind all the time? So how do you manage all these different theories and models when you are working with someone?

John Parr:

It's the same boring answers. I am an engineer. It's also to do with the neurodiversity because the form of neuro diversity that I have, involves me being able to think outside the box very easily. It's I see problems in a holistic way. So when I look at a problem, I can often I often know the solution to the problem. Without knowing how I know the solution. It's a kind of a bizarre experience. And then what happens is, when I know the solution, I can then figure out well, from here to there, what do I need to do to arrive at that solution. And that's the way it works. So I pick the model that I will use and apply, depending on the person that I'm working with, and how they present the issue pretty much on using more than one model at a time. So I see all these models as tools in a toolbox. Now I may at the moment, I may need a spammer to remove the cylinder head from the engine. I'm using a spanner because it's like it's no good using the screwdriver to takeoff. That's, that's. So that's what I use, I use the spanner. But when I've got the cylinder head off, I realize, oh, well actually, now we've got to check, is the cylinder head true? Is it been buckled or twisted? Use measuring devices to see is it flat and true and square? And if it's not, I'm gonna use grinding pace to grind it and get. So it's like what do I need to do at any given time, and I just pick up the tool that I need when I'm doing the thing that I'm doing. Probably my overarching tool, though, is the one with emotions, because I've discovered that emotions sit at the root of pretty much everything we do, even though often we're not aware of it. Whenever we have external stimuli, or internal stimuli from the way that we think that send it messages to the amygdala, which fight flight mechanism. And it's that mechanism, a very primitive mechanism that triggers us to have an emotion. So we have an emotional response. That everything before we have time to even think about it. It takes about 25 milliseconds after the emotion or the logic to kick in. Pretty much all the time I'm looking at the thing through the eyes of so what emotion is there? Because that tells me what was the trigger? What was what did the trigger mean in terms of their needs? And then how does that link up with the way that they think, which either helps them meet their needs, or blocks them getting their needs met?

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you very much for this engineering feature. I really loved it. And I think that's very inspiring, because I see people either craving for big unifying theory of everything around human nature, and I think I'm one of them. And I see other people who are working very flexibly and using very flexibly, a number of different tools that theoretically may seem unrelated, but they do the job. And I think what we need to do is to do the job, but it is there. And I start to doubt that there is a single theory or a single approach that could describe the super complexity and and beauty of human nature. So thank you for sharing your way of thinking or updates.

John Parr:

Well, it's very similar to yours I, I do believe that it would be great if we can get a unifying theory, it's just that I don't think we can do it by buying one theory that covers everything. I think that what we have to do is to find a way of connecting all of the theories through an overarching principle, unity, for me comes in. At the bottom line, we're dealing with the same piece of kit, we're all human beings, that we all have the same piece of machinery that we wander around this planet in. And we all work pretty much in the same way. And all that the different models and theories do is they look at the diamond through a different facet, our job is to keep turning the diamond till we find the facet that works best in this situation. But we live in a three dimensional universe, at least a minimum of three dimensional, or diamond is three dimensional. And I can only ever look at a diamond from one side at a time. So doesn't make any sense to try and draw a map of a diamond that is on a flat piece of paper doesn't work any more than a map of the globe works on a two dimensional sheet of paper, we have to have three dimensions for that. And the only way to do that is a globe. But anytime I'm looking at the globe, I'm looking at one side and not the other side. So all the time, we have to remember that people aren't two dimensional, and that no model is the truth that every model has a part of the truth. And that what our job is, is to find where that part of the truth bits to the other parts of the truth.

Zoltán Csigás:

And if you take a look at the emotional assertiveness model, then as the owner or the father of the model, what do you think? What is the truth? In your model? What is the part of the truth about human nature that the emotional assertiveness concept discovering?

John Parr:

Well, the part of the truth that I think is core, is that all human beings have the same emotions, that every human being on the planet, when they express an emotion, the facial muscle muscles show that emotion on their face. I work on the basis of all emotions, other people have rather more. But as Paul Ekman, his work discovered was that he could go to Papua New Guinea, show pictures of people in New York, to Papua New Guinea and, and they would be able to say that person is feeling angry, that person is feeling sad that the person has been scared. Those people who had little or no contact with people in New York, could recognize emotions. And he could do the thing in the other way around, take pictures of Papua New Guinea ins and take them to New York. And they could say that's this. That's this. That's this. And it's highly predictable. And Ackman that did that wonderful research. It all comes goes back to Charles Darwin proposed emotional universal, and the facial expression of emotion is universal. And it's that universality of human beings that I think is the core of the whole thing.

Zoltán Csigás:

I have one question here. What is the most far fetched concept that you would like to link to the emotional assertiveness model? So what is the thing that would be the hardest thing to link to it, but seems to be out there in the world, but it would be a challenging thing to relate it to the emotional assertiveness model

John Parr:

interesting questions only when it relates to human beings. I don't find anything that's so difficult to relate when it comes to some of the rather more wacky theories of life, theories of past life regression, the emotional issue that we carry today, inherited from our ancestors, or from not necessarily from our ancestors, but from our past. So we've lived in the past, that life somehow or other impacts the life that we have today. I find that a bit far fetched, I don't find the possibility that we lived in the past far fetched. But I do find, blaming how we react to things on something that we've dragged with us through the universe from a previous life. And for me, that's a bit Farfetch, and I don't go there on the basis that I don't see any need to something you said earlier, that I thought was really important was that it's about what works. And for me, throughout my career, it's always been Based on, if it works, it's okay. You don't necessarily have to be able to explain why it works. If it works, use it. But do it ethically. That for me is the marker. And the one thing I know about this material emotional certainty is, is it works. And the unblocks people who have been blocked for years, I do it, I see it working, I'm going to carry on using it. And

Zoltán Csigás:

I hear two assaults in the background or endeavor. But as you just said, some that are very important for me, one of them is, is using things ethically. And the other thing was responsibility. Even transgenerational responsibilities, I am responsible for my own sheet, my own whatever, or at least to the way, I'm dealing with the things that I've inherited.

John Parr:

Absolutely. How does it help me to know that when I was once a captain of a pirate ship, that this happened to me? And if that's where this today, it doesn't help me at all? I have to deal with what I'm doing today? And how am I going to deal with that in a way that helps me to live a good life and had helped me to be happy? In fact, that is the real core of emotion, assertiveness, happiness, is your inbuilt homeostatic emotion, what you're designed to be.

Zoltán Csigás:

Oh, that sounds so beautiful. That could even be a closing sentence. If I didn't have one more question. Where do you see the future of the model? Do you see any developmental tracks where you would like to further take it? Are there any lines of research or curiosity inside you where you would like to expand it from its current form,

John Parr:

I have lots of research ideas as I'll leave, but they have to be on the back burner at the moment, because the primary objective I've got today is to get the profile validated. I've built a profile. But I won't release it until I validate it. Getting the validation process together is proving very difficult. So having a valid profile, and then being able to link the profile to a progression to people being able to use it to self develop. So that's my primary objective today. And that's what I want to develop right now. The other thing that I'm keen to do, is to get it out there so that people around the world know about it. So I'm seeking to train trainers internationally, to deliver seminars around the world. I'm very excited about what we've been doing with schools are having absolutely amazing results with school children, to the point that sometimes some of the stories and feedback I get from the schools, these be in tears, our children are being liberated, would be able to express their needs and their emotions.

Zoltán Csigás:

Will you share one of those stories with us?

John Parr:

Yes, I'll share a cup of tea like in a school in England, they work with the entire school population. So our plan seminars are all of the children. One group was a group of kids, he ran 770 or five hours seminar that spread over several days. And that picture language that children that age can understand. Halfway through the seminar, little boy said, Oh, I get it. We said, What is it again? And he said, I know why I'm always in trouble is because I don't express my anger in a healthy way. mind boggling, but what's even more mind boggling is the head teacher told me what did you do with this child? Before he went to that seminar? He was in my class in my office three or four or five times a day, not a week, every day. Since he's done the seminar. I haven't seen him is behind. So for me knowing that I'm so overwhelmed by touch one little and helped him to see anger can be expressed in a healthy one. A school in Australia with 150 children run it there. They took it on wholeheartedly and now keep the children thinking about the emotional assertiveness aspect of their lives. When I started the seminars with them, they were having a 70 odd percent rate of kids being held in detention was after the fires and the floods and the serious traumatizing stuff that was going on. And the children were able to voice that the reason why they did naughty things was They were scared. And they wanted to stay around adults in the best way to stay around adults just to be naughty, because they'd be put in detention. And they would be grownups around them to take care of them. Only two months ago, I spoke to the head teacher, this program was run with them about two years ago, two and a half years ago. He said, We don't have detention anymore, we don't need it. The other thing and that same school, immediately after the seminar, within a week or two of the seminar, finishing five children reported to the school that they were being physically or sexually abused my time. Because they they got their voice to be able to talk about what was going on in their lives and what they needed in their emotion. It has an amazing impact on children.

Zoltán Csigás:

I think that these are the results that we are, we would all like to see in the world to have fun. And I'm so glad that you brought up stories about kids. Because I frequently share that I love working with adults. But I think most of the trainings that I've been doing were more suited for kids that if we are they had learned all the things that I'm teaching to adults in the elementary or in the high schools, then I think we will have a much healthier society and a much better working system of everything. And if we have told kids, all of the things that we are teaching to adults these days.

John Parr:

But the interesting thing that I see is that when I work with grownups who are hurting, actually, I'm working with kids who just happen to be in grown up bodies. It's their child that is hurting, they're doing things that they learned to do to defend themselves, years ago, aren't working anymore. But they don't have any options, but to carry on doing it. And I think that in my book, in fact, both of my books I talked about one of my therapy clients who had came to me with Crohn's disease, which is an incurable inflammatory disease of the intestines. When she came to me, she had already had an operation and had a large portion of intestine removed, and she was on the waiting list for another operation 30 plus years ago now gave him maybe 35 years ago, she did her therapy with me, she has not had the second operation. She now has minimal discomfort, because she's learned how to use pains and discomfort in her gut, the teller I've swallowed something I shouldn't have swallowed what I've got to spit out what I've got to deal with here. And in doing that, she's now she considers herself to be cured from pain. Well, that is a case study in the book, how we did that.

Zoltán Csigás:

So thank you very much. These are very honestly hot touching stories for me. And I'm so glad that you have shared all these with us.

John Parr:

Really, I'm humbled by the fact that people come and trust us to do this kind of thing with them. It's a real privilege to have someone come and tell you things that they haven't talked to anyone about in their lives people or tell you things that they haven't even ever thought about realized the impact it was having on. It's a privilege. We need to treat it with care.

Zoltán Csigás:

And I don't feel privileged that you have shared these stories with me and with us. Thank you very much.

John Parr:

You're very welcome.

Zoltán Csigás:

Thank you for listening to on coaching podcast, where I have curious conversations with verging on coaches and researchers. If you enjoy this episode, make sure to rate us and subscribe. I also invite you to visit Zoltan shoegaze.com where you can access more resources regarding the coaching industry very well.

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