When it comes to communicating in adult relationships, it would be amazing if we could keep the dynamic ‘adult-to-adult’ as often as possible. Yet, particularly in response to stressors, it is easy to develop unhealthy parent-child relationships or communication ‘transactions’.
(Note: In psychology there is a theory in Transactional Analysis that delineates between states of being- child, parent and adult. However, this post does not strictly reflect these archetypes, especially in relation to the child state.)
Sometimes when communicating with your loved ones, partner or colleagues, you may feel so exhausted that you slip into ‘child’, hoping that someone will take care of everything for you. Sometimes, we step into ‘parent’ when someone is having a meltdown, because instinctively we are looking to balance the dynamic by treating them like a child.
But the best way to balance any adult relationship dynamic is to have both parties respond and react in ‘adult’, even when it feels unnatural.
Here is an idea for a really nice way to communicate in ‘adult’ when you want to channel your parent persona. Be honest by acknowledging that you are working on changing your communication.
‘Right now, I’m getting this urge to try to tell you what to do, but I know that you know what is best for you. If something comes up, I’d be interested to hear about it and I’m here for you.’
The same principle of talking through these urges applies when you want to be in child OR when you believe you are about to be ‘parented’. ‘Darling, I feel like crying and dwelling in this feeling of helplessness so you’ll step in and rescue me with advice and compliments. But I am capable of getting through this on my own and I would love to be held accountable to my own strength.’
You can imagine, too, that even just thinking these thoughts would create a remarkable shift.
I personally feel like in many areas of my life, I too often respond in child-state (or let people ‘parent’ me), as I’m eager to learn and interested to see what people have to say when they have their parent hat on. But this has also made it difficult for me to have real, balanced conversations with people who have become accustomed to this dynamic.
Working as a teacher, I’ve become used to being in parent-state, and even been advised to ‘be a mum’ when in a teaching-learning space. Yet, I know that the more adult to adult transactions that occur, the better it will be for the education and empowerment of my students. I think coaching adults is when it is easiest to foster that adult-adult communication.
Wondering if after reading this you are even more aware of when you may be in child-state (lost, curious, positioning yourself as less capable/ in need of mothering), parent-state (bossy, giving, domineering, critical) or adult (acknowledging that we are both ok and capable).
Let’s talk adult to adult sometime.
Would love your thoughts in the comments, especially in terms of how where you have noticed interesting relationship dynamics according to the various states of being.