Did you know there was a communication test? A key question…. do you act like a spoilt brat and get your own way, or are you the people pleaser in your relationships? Whichever one you are, I bet there are arguments and fights in your relationships, with you and your partner vying for power. This article is going to let you into a little secret, to show you how you can begin to ensure your relationship stays on an even keel, and that communication with your partner, friends or family improves!
I want to introduce you to Dr Eric Berne, who was a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist and studied human behaviour. He believed that when two people communicated with each other, it was a “transaction” and then we “analysed” that transaction and responded accordingly. The problem is, we often misinterpret the message being sent. How many times have you got upset or angry over a text, instant message, tweet or voicemail because you got the wrong end of the stick, and YOU argued that it was because THEY didn’t explain themselves properly?
Have you and your partner passed the relationship communication test?
Dr Berne thought that we responded to messages or transactions in one of three ways:
Parent Type Response
We use experience of the parental figures in our lives in the way we relate to others. It might be that you become the one who asks “What time do you call this?”, when your partner comes home late from a night out, or you may be the one who makes sure everyone gets in a cab home at the end of the night, despite you all being the same age. These characteristics could be from our real parents, or people we’ve seen as parental figures in our lives. He’s NOT saying we have to BE parents to react in this way. In a recent situation, someone hit my car from behind whilst I was stopped at a red light. The woman driving was so apologetic and shaken up by it, I forgot she had hit me and gave her a hug and told her it would be OK. It was my natural response to ‘nurture’ her. How many of you, would have told her off, and said she should have been more careful? See, either way its a parental form of response.
If this is you, you are often used to looking after people (whether you want to or not), and may feel taken for granted in your relationship. You may be the one doing most of the houseful chores and shopping, whilst nagging your partner to be more tidy or to get the other type of ketchup next time he goes shopping. You may want to control most situations and have the final say in decision making. This can cause some huge communication problems and may cause your partner to back off and do less around the house, as he knows that whatever he does, it won’t be right!
Child Type Response
This is when we react to events in the same way we did when we were small. We may use extreme behaviour and language to show how angry or upset we are. [Tweet “We may use extreme behaviour and language to show how angry or upset we are #communication #relationships”] We may also exaggerate our responses, such as slamming doors, shouting and screaming and smashing things. When the woman hit me in her car, I was shocked and could have stormed out of my car, slammed the door and screamed at the woman “You stupid idiot, are you blind?” and then burst into tears. This would have been a normal reaction to shock, which a child figure could display, and shows that a situation has overwhelmed us and so we revert back to name calling and extreme displays of emotion, if this is how we remember dealing with situations when we were small. What did you do when you were young? How did you get your own way? Did the tantrums or crying work? If so, you’re probably still using the same methods now despite being older.
You may be known as being a diva, a princess or always wanting your own way – your choice of film, restaurant or club, otherwise you have a strop and can’t get out of the mood all evening. Does this lead to lots of arguments and ruined nights out, or failed relationships, or does your partner just give in for an easy life?
Adult Type Response
When we are like this, we are able to recognize our potential child and parental responses but keep them in check and maintain control and deal with the facts of the situation. Again, in the car situation above, my initial response on getting out of the car was to ask what had happened, was anyone hurt, then later on to check my car and hers over and then take her details for insurance purposes. My hands may have been shaking and I may have just wanted to sit down and cry, but the “Adult” response kicked in.
This is the kind of communication you are aiming for in a relationship. One in which conversations, discussions and debates happen. It’s not just your way or the high way! He IS allowed to have a different opinion to you. You DON’T always have to have things your way. You’re NOT always responsible for the meal or doing the washing.
[Tweet “Have you passed the #relationship communication test? Take it now!”]
OK, now that we’ve cleared that up, we need to identify which sounds MOST like you. Look at the words below, and think about the ones you use most often in your relationships:
Parent – “never”, “should”, “always”, “do this”, “don’t do that”
Child – “I feel”, “I hate”, “Always”, “I don’t want to”, “I like”
Adult – “probably”, “I think”, “I realise”, “perhaps”, “I believe”
Ask your partner to do the same and go through examples together to see if you agree. Can your relationship pass this test? However, there is good news, because although you will have a natural preference when responding to situations and people, you CAN move between the Parent, Adult and Child responses, phew!
We’d be very dull if we lived in the here and now constantly and responded to each comment and situation logically (Adult). We’d also be exhausted if we acted as a ‘controlling’ or ‘nurturing’ parent to others all the time (Parent), and we’d drive ourselves mad as well as everyone else if everything was a joke or needed a tantrum to sort it out.
What you have to work out is how to use all three types of response in the right circumstances, to avoid rows and confused communication at home. This might seem difficult, but you’re already doing it to some extent at work, or when meeting the in-laws or talking to the conductor at the train station. In these circumstances, you are changing how you interact with someone depending on the situation. In the next blog, I’ll tell you how to avoid having rows at home!
In the meantime, please tweet me @therealme_PDP and tell me how you and your partner got on in the communication test.
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