I think one of my own hardest struggles is to find the right words for the self-disabled, those whose prison is in their own mind, and of their own making -- those who keep themselves down. I have known any number of people who hold themselves hostages, whether from eating or alcohol or drugs, or the inability to handle money, or various other causes. How do you talk about that without triggering someone's defenses?
Simon Cowell had these words to say to the man who was too obese to get up from his wheelchair and sing:
When I heard you sing, I had a vision in my mind of you standing, singing that song: healthy, happy. [Response: Nodding, smiling.]That was masterfully done. He began by communicating hope and a goal: standing, singing that song. He introduced the power that comes from taking responsibility: It's in you to sort this out. He did that without using any words that the man might not be ready to hear, any words that were likely to trigger a defensive response. He made sure the man was aware of his own role in the picture before continuing ("you understand that?"), but without expressing blame or frustration. He clearly communicated his compassion and caring: I don't think you deserve to be stuck in that situation. He stepped forward and committed his own willingness to be involved -- and clearly made it depend on whether the man was willing to take that same step and put in the same effort as those who would be helping him, to meet them in the middle. He made it clear that he was willing to commit and work hard, so long as the other fellow was also willing to commit and work hard.
And maybe you need some inspiration to help you that next stage because it's really in you to sort this out, you understand that? [Response: "Absolutely."]
And I don't think you deserve to be stuck in that chair, I really don't. [Response: Me neither.]
But it has to come from you. [Response: "Exactly."]
And I kind of feel that if we're going to go forward, then we have to make a sort of a deal with each other, that we're both going to work hard to sort this out, yeah? [Response: (Nodding) "Exactly."]
'Cause I'll back you if you back yourself. [Response: "I'll absolutely back myself."]
It was really well-done. This could work as a general pattern for talking to people who are stuck in prisons of their own making, to show them hope and a way forward.
If you'd like to see it yourself, go here and start at about 5:35 in the video.