TO: Dr. Scarcella

FROM: Victor E. Dike

DATE: January 29, 2005

RE: 502/3, Glasser Book Report, Dike


Choice Theory


By William Glasser, [New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 1998], 352 pages

ISBN: 0-06-093014-4


Dr. William Glasser, who has worked with choice theory for over 40 years, is a renowned psychiatrist. His other books include Reality Therapy, The Quality School, and Getting Together and Staying Together. He is the president of the William Glasser Institute in Los Angeles.

Choice theory is based on the principles that the only behavior we can control is our own; that we can’t change the past, but we can only satisfy our present needs. It also posits that external control, which is widespread (home, work, school), causes people to revolt or resist more when they are forced to behave in a certain way. Choice Theory says that all unhappy persons have similar problems: "they are unable to get along well with the people they want to get along with" (p.5), because human beings tend to control others. Therefore, ‘to achieve and maintain the relationships we need we must stop choosing to coerce, force, compel, punish, reward, manipulate, boss, motivate, criticize, blame, complain, nag, badger, rank, rate, and withdraw’ (p.21). In other words, one must listen, respect, and care about other people’s feelings, instead of applying external control mechanism, because we cannot control anyone else, but ourselves.

Dr. Glasser notes that human behavior is made up of four components (acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology p.72). He blends theory with practice and application and choice theory with reality therapy, and uses reality therapy to help his patients to deal realistically with their personal problems. If each party in a sour relationship would stop the blame game they could get along better. Choice Theory could help teachers and parents to have effective control of disruptive students at school, or change a child’s misbehavior in the home. Thus instead of using the boss-management method that would not be effective in solving problems, Dr. Glasser recommends lead management application of Choice Theory. He notes that bosses fail at work because they often apply force and punishment, and that leaders succeed without forcing and punishing. This non-bossing approach or system allows students and workers to achieve quality work through self-evaluation rather than through external control.

Dr. Glasser tells a story about a man whose wife abounded and noted that his only choices are to change what he wants her to do or to change the way he is dealing with her. But he warned that doing these things might not bring his wife back, but it would help him to feel better. Thus "When we actually begin to realize that we can control only our own behavior, we immediately start to redefine our personal freedom and find, in many instances, that we have much more freedom than we realize." He sees conscious or unconscious desire for external control as the main problem in major personal relations (husband-wife, parent-child, teacher-student, and manager-worker).

Ordinarily, one would have the feeling or the believe that "it is right …moral obligation, to ridicule, threaten, or punish those who don't do what I tell them to do.'' But a complete absence of effort to control or judge others in any relationship (home, work or school) could make human relationship better. He argues that failing students is inherently "abusive'' and that a student who can't understand say "Shakespeare" (p.240) could be assigned another book, because the main purpose of education should be to nurture a love for lifelong learning in all students, not kill it.

In the end, however, Dr. Glasser admits that it is not easy for human beings to change their actions, but it could be done. This book, which focuses on individuals, on learning choice theory, and on getting along better with others, could help a community to get closer and take care of one another.

I really enjoyed reading this book and it has changed my approach to life. This book is a must read for any person who needs a new and better approach to human relationship. In particular, I recommend it to parents, teachers, students, and managers.