I was up early this morning and tried to get some emails done while Bean (our 7-month old baby) played on the carpet. First up was an email from a website administrator of a website that I recently joined reminding me about website rules and – as was my feeling at that stage – lecturing me about web behaviour (I wasn’t even guilty of any of the stuff!!). As I prepared to write a reply that would ‘show’ them how wrong they were, Bean started crying because she was stuck behind the couch. “I told you not to do that!”, I heard myself say. And then I laughed because 1) I sounded like the website administrator and 2) 7-month old babies really do not care what you tell them! I revisited the reply that I was crafting and instead wrote that I appreciated the reminder and that I would try to observe the rules. (they were just doing their jobs and I did appreciate the reminder.
As I caught myself reacting like a Child towards the Parent-sounding administrator, I reminded myself of some small things that I try to notice throughout the day that would help me have more meaningful conversations.
1) Are you behaving like a parent or a child?
Through a transactional analysis lens, we behave in one of three ego states: Parent, Child and Adult. At some stage in life most of us behave a little like our parents behaved towards us when we were kids. Sometimes, as grown-ups, we still react a little like the children we used to be when being reprimanded. When we enter conversations with other adults while sounding like a parent or child, the conversation is not ideal. The best way to communicate is by behaving in the Adult ego: as equals exchanging information while being objective and non-judgemental.
**based on Berne (1964)
2) Where is your energy directed?
Try to think of relationships (and even conversations) as an exchange of energy. Whether you find yourself drawing into yourself and pulling energy from the outside without giving some back (1st circle) or whether you blast energy outwards without taking any in (3rd circle), you are not engaged in mutual relating and therefore engaging in an unbalanced conversation or relationship. The balanced thing to do is to take energy from the outside while giving just as much energy back (2nd circle). In this state we engage in a balanced exchange (much like when we are in the Adult ego state above).
**based on Patsy Rodenburg’s work (2009)
3) Are you a part or apart?
As humans, we tend to protect ourselves from things that we do not understand by tagging those concepts as something other than ourselves – as good and bad. This causes a split between ‘them’ and ‘us’. This also happens when we ignore the connection between concepts on a spectrum by breaking them up into binary extremes. When we approach relationships with the mindset that we are apart from others we cannot engage in a meaningful exchange because we cannot bridge that split. It is when we see ourselves as a part of something (we accept the odd and familiar, the good and bad) that we create a meaningful connection. I found it very helpful to try and see how I am like others as apposed to looking at the differences.
**based on Melanie Klein’s work (De Board, 1978)
4) How are you experiencing, interpreting and communicating?
There are “three ways of experiencing, interpreting and communicating […]” that also influences how we have those meaningful conversations. These are:
|About-ism:||Frame things as abstraction; separate things i.e. separate self from feelings (splitting); much like egotism above; take the stance as a watcher and not participant|
|Should-ism:||Like introjection; internalises rules made by society and others; suppresses own feelings because they “should” not be seen; sticking to ‘shoulds’ to avoid shame and conflict|
|Is-ism:||In touch and aware of current feelings and emotions; speaking through the experience rather than about the experience; it is about me, and the use of ‘I’, and dealing with ‘now’|
By using more is-istic language we give ourselves to the conversation and encourage others to participate at the same level. We give energy and take energy, we speak as adults and we become a part of a conversation.
**based on Herman & Korenich (1977, p. 43)
5) How good are you at noticing yourself do things?
We notice things better when we slow down and by noticing better we connect better. I am terrible at noticing myself do stuff when I am in a rush, anxious, or preoccupied. The first four hours of the day was a mad rush to get to places on time and to get things done. I know that I spoke to people but cannot remember anything about them and this makes me wonder how helpful our exchanges were to them. I was only able to slow down enough to take notice once I sat down for an important business breakfast. This allowed me to take stock of the 5 concepts above and thereby allowed me to participate in a very meaningful conversation. The conversation was remarkable and the meaning that we created will really stay with me and help me in business.
I find that taking notice of these 5 concepts really help connect with people. How did they work for you?