Be an adult if you want to communicate professionally. This was the message at the latest Coffee Club of Safrea’s Eastern Cape region.
The small group tuned into a webinar on how to communicate professionally in the digital age. The presenter highlighted the pros and cons of online communication, noting that technology is only as good as the human beings behind its use. On the positive side, it can be fast, efficient, productive and reliable. However, communication can be negative if it is impulsive, hurtful or bullying.
Do you communicate like a parent, adult or child?
The webinar drew on the Transactional Analysis principles devised by psychiatrist Eric Berne, which outlines three ego states:
- Parent– Critical or nurturing: this is where we react based on judgment values.
- Adult– Based on the facts: this is where we react calmly, without emotion or judgment, using the “voice of reason”.
- Child– Natural or adapted (manipulative, ingratiating, whiny): this is where we react from our feelings.
The ideal mode and the risks of the other modes
While all three ego states have their place, the adult mode is most useful for professional communicators. The danger of speaking from the ego state of a parent or child, rather than that of an adult, is that it could trigger the opposite response, which could escalate to further tension. For example: if a message was conveyed in a critical (parent) tone, it could lead to a petulant or defensive (child) response.
Dashing off an impulsive message when you are in a parent ego state comes with the risk of sounding bossy or patronising. Likewise, pressing the send button on an email when in a child ego state may make you sound like a needy whiner. Neither of these is ideal for a professional working relationship.
Let the natural “child” in for playful encounters and the nurturing “parent” for times when you want to help others. On the whole, however, recognise – and then use – your “adult” ego state for communication.
The group also discussed how the whirl of social media rapidly amplifies any communication imbalance, which adds to misunderstandings, anger and hurt feelings. What’s more, once online, these words could be in the public domain, forever.