Ring Theory – How Not to Say the Wrong Thing

When someone is going through a difficult time we don’t always know the right thing to say, but sometimes it’s just as important to know how not to say the WRONG thing. Susan Silk, a clinical psychologist, has developed a technique called The Ring Theory to help people avoid making a mistake in conversation during any kind of crisis: medical, legal, financial, romantic or even existential.

To understand the Ring Theory, try creating your own diagram. First, draw a small circle. This is the center ring. The center ring is reserved for the person at the center of the current crisis – the aggrieved or afflicted. Next, draw a larger circle around the first one. In that circle, write the name of the person who is next closest to the crisis. This could be a significant other, family member, or best friend. Continue by adding more rings to the diagram, as many as you need, and in each larger ring put the people who are next closest to the crisis.

Ring Theory
The Ring Theory illustrated by Wes Bausmith

Here’s how it works. The person written in the center ring can say anything they want to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Any utterance of “why me” and “life isn’t fair” is acceptable, and they can complain, whine, cry and curse all they like. Everyone else can say those things too…but only to people in rings outside of their own.

When talking with a person in a ring smaller than yours, your only goal should be the help them. When speaking to someone closer to the center of the crisis, you should ask yourself if what you want to say is going to provide comfort and support. Sometimes listening can be more helpful than talking.

The rule is to comfort IN and dump OUT. Push love, care and support into the center of the ring and the rings beneath you. Scream, cry and complain to those in rings outside of yours. It’s important to remember, don’t just avoid venting into the center ring; avoid dumping into any ring that’s smaller than your own. Complaining to someone in a smaller ring doesn’t help anyone.

If you are looking for the right things to say to someone who has or is caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, call us any time at 800.272.3900. We are here to help provide care & support for all affected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information about the Ring Theory, read the article here! http://articles.latimes.com/2013/apr/07/opinion/la-oe-0407-silk-ring-theory-20130407

 

AlzTex Admin

The Alzheimer's Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter (www.alz.org/texas) consists of families, caregivers, scientists, health professionals, and concerned citizens who are committed to finding a cure for Alzheimer's Disease and to easing the burden of Alzheimer's Disease and related disorders on patients and their families and loved ones.