Basic SIS Components PDF Print E-mail

SIS Training Components:

The length of training depends on the purpose and the makeup of the group. It has been done in 7-10 fifty-minute sessions for basic Say It Straight Training with students. Parts of it can be done in one to two days over a weekend with couples and adults and it has been done in 14-25 sessions over a period of several months with adults in treatment. The training focuses on experiential learning rather than lectures. To give participants more ownership of their positive changes, they are invited to keep the learnings they found useful and leave behind what was not. A Say It Straight trainer is the guide on the side not the sage on the stage. Furthermore, to reinforce experiential learning, each participant is given a journal to contemplate and record their learnings and choose what they want to share in the group.
The training components are described below.

Creating a Setting of Safety and Trust: Teams

The training begins with creating teams (Together Everyone Achieves Miracles). Guided visualization is used to root diversity in sameness even with people who disagree or have a fight and root uniqueness in sameness and diversity. The guided visualization can go beyond the training group and can extend to the whole world. This engages nations, religions, cultures that our country or some people may be at odds with. This is an important component in the reduction of bullying, blaming, being passive-aggressive, being irrelevant, ridiculing and aggressive or violent behavior. This process has been successful across all populations where SIS has been done and with people as young as second graders and as old as 80.

The Components of an Interaction


The three components of an interaction, I, You, It (the issue) are shown in the diagram. We view congruent communication/behavior (saying it straight) as honoring all three components of an interaction. The diagram also is used to represent disempowering communication/behavior by crossing out one or more of the components (or parts of a component) to illustrate placating, bullying, blaming, being passive-aggressive, being super-reasonable and being irrelevant.

Body sculpting intensifies the experience of disempowering and empowering communication/behavior. Participants explore how they feel when they behave in different ways and how they feel when someone else behaves in different ways toward them. In addition, they get feedback from others about their body-language, tone of voice, facial expression and the impact of their behavior. In this way people discover that saying it straight enhances their self-esteem and their trustworthiness as well as the self-esteem of the other person. As mentioned before, saying it straight empowers others to do so as well. We have worked with populations, both youth and adults, who shared that they have never before experienced saying it straight.

It is empowering for people to discover the hidden treasures in every disempowering communication/behavior. In placating there is already a seed for compromise, negotiation, being helpful. In blaming there is already a seed for leadership. In being passive-aggressive there is already the seed for standing up for oneself. In being super-reasonable there is already the seed to think things through clearly. In being irrelevant there is already the seed to have a sense of humor and to take time-out. In all of these disempowering ways of being, when we count all of the components of an interaction (I, You, It) we can be kind without being weak and powerful without being destructive and we can be leaders for positive change.


We use sculpting with individuals, with couples and larger groups. Sculpting is used to give people the opportunity to experience the different communications/behaviors as they impact one’s breathing, body sensations, feelings and thoughts. Sculpting is used to explore relationships. One example is creating a sculpture with one person down and the other up. This can represent a child and a parent, a boss and a worker, a physician and a nurse, a teacher and a student, etc. In this particular sculpture, people become aware that even with best intentions, it is easy to create relationships of submission and dominance, because we are all born little and someone else knows better. This is a universal human condition that leads to relationships of submission and dominance, not only between two people but also between groups and nations. The training gives people the opportunity to explore what they can do to transform a relationship of submission-dominance to a relationship of equal value, not necessarily equal function. An example of a large sculpture is a multigenerational sculpture that gives people the opportunity to discover the rules from past generations that bind them today.

Another example is our multigenerational sculpture that focuses on discovering the strength in our roots. This sculpture helps people to experience the strength that must have been in their roots for them to be here today. Regardless of the hardships in their past generations and their own hardship and even abuse, there must have been enough nurturing for them to be here today. This awareness moves people from shame and blame to pride in their roots and recognition of their own strength.  The picture to the left is a small version of the poster we use to draw the analogy to trees that had to have enough sunshine and rain even in a difficult climate, for a miracle to happen that allowed them to burst through rocks to be alive today. In a workshop for teachers, counselors and coaches, one of the counselors volunteered to be the star of this sculpture. Everyone in the workshop knew everyone else as they had all grown up and lived in the same small town. At the end of this sculpture and guided visualization, this counselor was sobbing and at the same time was very happy. Although she looked white, she said that there was a secret in her family that she had always been ashamed of. There were slaves in her heritage and for the first time in her life, she was proud of her ancestry as she realized the strength, courage, hope that must have been there for her to be here today.


Participants create movies portraying difficult interpersonal situations that are important in their lives. In this way, the movies give participants ownership of their training. Participants use method acting (the feelings are those of the actor or actress, not what the actor or actress thinks they should feel or what someone else might feel in that situation. The movies could be about school, family, friends, community or work, etc. Some movies used situations involving alcohol or drug abuse, drinking or speeding and driving, bullying, cheating, stealing, vandalism, sexual behavior or other problems that arise at work, home, school, etc. The actors and actresses explore how they feel as they communicate in empowering and disempowering ways and get feedback from others in the movie about the effect of their behaviors and they also get feedback from the observers. They discover they can be strong without bullying or putting others down and kind without being weak.

Movies can be videotaped to give participants the opportunity to observe themselves. Using feedback, journaling, and small- and large-group sharing, participants reflect on their experiences, learn to listen to their own inner voice of wisdom, their deepest wishes for wellness and positive relationships, and eventually implement what they have learned in the training in real-life situations.

Rule Transformations

Disempowering communication/behavior is often the result of one or more rules that we carry from our childhood. The language of rules uses words such as must, should, ought, always and never. Some rules are contradictory. For example, we may have the rule, “I must always be honest” and at the same time we may have the rule, “I must never lose face.” Sometimes the same rule can lead to different behaviors for different people. The rule, “I must always avoid conflict,” can lead someone to placate, someone else to be irrelevant, or even be super-reasonable. This happens because any behavior can result from more than one rule. For example, if I have a rule, “I must always avoid conflict” and a rule that “I must always appease you,” I may placate. However, if my second rule is “I must always use reason to avoid feelings,” I may become super-reasonable. If my second rule is, “I must always lighten up a difficult situation,” I may become irrelevant. It is interesting to note, that the rule, “I must never have rules,” that we have encountered working with young people, is a very powerful rule.  It leads to rebelliousness and is important to transform.

When taken to the extreme, rules can lead to destructive consequences. For example, the rule, "I must always be right," can lead to ignorance, not being open to new information or acceptance of a new idea. The rule, "I must always be more deserving," can lead to greed. The rule, "I must always win," can lead to cruelty or dishonesty.

The process of a rule transformation goes from “I must always…” or “I must never…” to “I can when…” with at least three possibilities. If we only see one possibility, we can be stuck, if we see two possibilities, we can find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, so we need at least three possibilities for making choices. A transformed rule can lead to a useful guide for living. We can look at difficult situations as opportunities to connect to our inner resources and develop our skills to honor ourselves, others and life. If we find ourselves in a life-threatening situation, we need to honor our fear.

Necklace of Resources

There is always more to us than what can come out in a moment of stress. At times, participants, regardless of age, can find it difficult to transform disempowering communication/behavior into empowering communication/behavior. This difficulty can occur when making movies and transforming a disempowering behavior into saying it straight. It also can occur when making a rule transformation and in any situation that calls for a transformation into empowering communication/behavior. In such situations, we can help a participant create a “necklace of resources.” We use a guided imagery to help participants be aware that they have infinite resources within themselves. We ask them to think of some resources that can be important at that moment to help them in the transformation. Some of the resources that people have come up with are courage, kindness, wisdom, ability to be a good friend, ability to honor oneself, to honor others, to honor life, to honor nature, ability to learn something new…infinite treasures. When working in addictions, we have found spirituality to be the most often called upon resource. We ask the person we are working with to choose people in the group to be physical representations of resources and those who agree create the “necklace of resources.” We have worked with people who created jewelry of their own necklace of resources. In one group of women in outpatient addictions treatment every one of the 18 women in the group requested to do their “necklace of resources” in the group.

Temperature Reading

The temperature reading is a process that gives participants the opportunity to voice their thoughts and feelings as the training is progressing. It is conducted with the whole group and consists of expressing appreciations, worries, puzzles, suggestions for change, new information, accomplishments, hopes and wishes, excitements and commitments. The trainer leads the first temperature reading and then participants take over leading it. The amount of time dedicated to this process depends on the setting. In a classroom this may be 5 minutes and in a treatment setting it might be an hour. 

From Breakdowns to Breakthroughs with Corporations and Organizations

The process of moving from breakdowns to breakthroughs in corporations and organizations requires counting one’s own contributions (I), the contributions of others (You) and dealing with the relevant issues (It). When we say it straight, our intention is positive for ourselves, others in our organization, our customers or clients and our products. When we say it straight, we take ownership and responsibility for our actions. Our decisions are realistic results of our contributions and the contributions of others. We can negotiate, compromise and come to constructive decisions that could not be reached with disempowering behaviors. At a deeper level, the positive intention reaches out to the world beyond the corporation or organization.

Workshops for corporations and organizations are specifically designed to deal with issues that could range from teamwork to long range planning. We use many of the exercises and sculptures discussed above. We also ask participants to create sculptures of the corporation or organization, how they see it in the present and then sculptures of their vision for the future. In our experience, people are surprised to discover that their visions for a positive future are rooted in the fundamental ingredients of an interaction, honoring the I-YOU-It. More details can be found in, “Transforming Breakdowns to Breakthroughs in Work Teams.” Paula Englander-Golden, David Golden and Brenda McCoy, Proceedings of the 1996 International Conference on Work Teams,  Dallas, Texas, September 1996. You can download a copy of this paper by clicking here.

To look at the relationship between Communication/Behavior and rules, click here.


Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 May 2013 )

Listen to SIS Song

Virginia Satir

SIS training is a well thought out program for improving the psychological health of people of all ages.

Virginia Satir, Pioneer Family Therapist and Author

Listen to the SIS Song

Listen to SIS Song

What Others Say

I thought I would never want to teach again. Then I did Say It Straight with my class and miracles happened.

Maureen Quinlan
Second Grade Teacher, California

What Others Say