The Pot Fillers And Pot Drillers Approach

There are many ways to encourage people. One way is to be a pot filler rather than a pot driller. This approach is based on the work of Virginia Satir, a great family therapist.

Virginia introduced this idea in the 1960s. It was later adapted by many other people, but it is worth revisiting her work. She invited people to see their self-confidence as a pot.

Sometimes they would have lots of confidence in the pot, other times they would have little. Sometimes this was related to whether they were surrounded by pot fillers or pot drillers. She outlined this concept in her books, such as Peoplemaking.

If you wish, it can be worthwhile doing this exercise yourself. You can then focus on how to be a pot filler and, if appropriate, invite other people to do the exercise. They can focus on how to spend more time with fillers rather than drillers.

Clarifying your own level of self-confidence

Imagine you are looking at your own level of confidence. Try tackling the following exercise. Start by drawing an imaginary pot.

Looking at the pot, draw a line that corresponds with how high you feel your self-confidence is today. If you have high confidence, draw it high up the pot. If your confidence is low, draw it at a lower point in the pot. The next step explores why it may be at this level.

Clarifying your pot fillers and pot drillers

Write the names of your pot fillers. These are the people who give you encouragement and energy. You look forward to seeing them and feel more alive after meeting them.

Describe the things you do to give yourself energy. You may enjoy listening to music, gardening, being with animals, designing beautiful things or doing other activities.

If you have lots of things that give you positive energy, then your pot will be overflowing. You will then be more able to pass on encouragement to other people.

Write the names of the pot drillers. These are people who sap energy. They leave you feeling drained and discouraged. The more significant they are in your life, the nearer they will be to the base.

You may also do things to drill holes in your own pot. One athlete continually criticised himself with negative self-talk after competitions. Reviewing performances is vital, but he devoted 90% of his energy to focusing on his failures, rather than his successes.

He finally managed to change his script by adopting a different approach. After each performance he focused on: a) the specific things I did well and how I can do more of these things in the future; b) the specific things I can do better next time and how.

Some people may be both pot fillers and pot drillers. They may have a pleasing–hurting pattern. Sometimes they do things to please people and then, without warning, they lash out. Clarify the specific things these people do to encourage or drain you.

Clarifying how to raise
your level of self-confidence

How can you continue to raise your confidence and also encourage other people? Below are some suggestions you may wish to consider.

You may want to spend more time with the people who give you energy. If possible, work with colleagues you find stimulating. People often find that, as they get older, they spend more time with personal and professional soul mates.

Do more of the things you love. You may enjoy listening to music, skiing, visiting the theatre or doing other things. Pursuing these activities will put more energy into your pot.

Spend less time – or no time – with the people who drain energy. Radical changes are difficult to make overnight but, unless the holes are filled, encouragement will simply flow out of the bottom. Energy is life. You need pure energy, rather than poisonous energy.

Faced by a person who is difficult, one approach is to make positive suggestions regarding how you would like them to behave in the future. You can also describe the benefits – both for themselves and others – of them behaving in that way.

Don’t expect the person to respond immediately, but don’t argue or fall into the blame game. What if the person refuses to respond? Make the decision whether you want to continue to see them.

Being an encourager and
pot filler for other people

You can do your best to encourage people. Keep giving but don’t become a victim. Do not stay around to have your pot drilled by people who choose to be miserable or who are observer critics. When in doubt, ask yourself:

“Does this activity give me positive energy?”

If not, switch to spending time with the people and doing things that provide stimulation. You are then more likely to be a pot filler for other people.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things you can do to continue to continue to do things that help yourself and other people.

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