Encounter bats


No… it’s not an episode of “When Animals Attack.”  I’m talking about a confrontational therapy tool from the 70’s.  These cloth-covered foam encounter bats were used for anger and aggression release, allowing two people to have a “safe and fair fight”. They could also be used to hit pillows, chairs and in my case… little brothers.

My mom was willing to try anything to get me and my brothers to stop fighting, so she bought a couple of these bad boys for her, uh… bad boys.  She told us to use the Encounter Bats when we got mad, instead of wrestling and punching each other.

They looked innocent enough, and we welcomed the opportunity for a legal hit.  The first few clonks on the head were kind of fun.  Soft and cushy.  But after repeatedly banging on each other over the next few weeks, the foam center wore out and actually tore loose inside.  The hard plastic core could now be fully felt… if you swung it hard enough.  (Talk about having a major breakthrough.)  It only took a few more body blows from the “kid-safe” bat before I went crying to mom.

This reminds me of the way people sometimes criticize each other. At first your words may be constructive, soft and cushy, with no intent to harm.  But if you repeat the same criticism often enough, it starts to feel a little hardcore to the recipient. 

Here’s something I learned at Toastmasters.  If you’ve got a constructive critique for a co-worker or family member, start with something positive, then deliver your suggestion for improvement, and finish with another positive.  Then let it go. 

It’s up to that person to receive it and act on it.  You’ve done your part by offering your perspective and it’s time to move on.  If you keep delivering the same blow over and over again, it’s going to eventually touch the core… and someone’s going to go crying to mom.

Just something to think about.  Did I mention that you look nice today?

Explore posts in the same categories: Communication

6 Comments on “Encounter bats”

  1. Jenell Says:

    Can I have some of those bats?

  2. Good advice, David…

    One technique that I have found much more effective is to first ask the person, “What did you like about what you just did?”… Then, you can provide positive reinforcement to and point out other things that worked well.

    Next, you ask, “What would you do to make it even better?”… The power of this technique is that it gives the person a chance to mention the obvious things first, preventing you from telling them something they already know.

    Finally, you ask permission to give recommendations – “May I suggest something that could make it even better?”

    While the standard Positive-Opportunity-Positive method is effective…the outcome of the conversation using the Questioning technique is much more positive and long-lasting.

    (from: Stephen)

  3. Jeff Bagby Says:

    Oh my gosh! I actually remember hitting you in the head with those. What was your mom thinking? ;- )

    Nice tie-in to criticism though. The problem with these techniques is that they first require that we have removed our emotions from influencing our technique. This is tough. We either have to control our emotional response or wait until they have died down, and far too often we tend to do neither before opening our mouths. Sage advice though, Dave.

    Nice memories too.

  4. Mike Johns Says:

    In the world of industrial construction workers, that’s called a “S#%* Sandwich”. My less restrained friends withstanding, I appreciate your point, Dave. It gives me reason to pause and consider before my next critical episode. Growing up, I just locked my sister in the truck of my parents VW bug… that worked, too!

  5. Roland Says:

    When I first read the heading I thought of the bats in the bellfry… personal ones that people carry with them… LOL!

    Some people are good at constructive communication and some are not. If the relationship a “super” has with his or her work group is not a good one, no technique applied is going to work. However if the relationship itself is a good one, this “sandwich method,” especially enhanced with Stephen’s system of approach with questions, is really good stuff. Thanks, both of you, for the reminder.


    PS… hey Dave, is that short enough? :o)

  6. Shell Says:

    I can always count on you and the other birds to show another aspect of one of your mom’s psychology tools. Creative before your time. Like the analogy though. Thinking I might try the VW trunk techique when Jeff pushes my buttons next though.

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