Improving Relationships In The Workplace By Handling Different Communication Styles

Have you read Part One of this two part article series? Read Part one

To Improve Communication In The Workplace We Need More Adult - (But Not Too Much!)

Adult In The Workplace

The Adult is the part of you that figures things out logically, looks at facts and figures and then reasons out an appropriate answer. In your Adult you remain rational and non-emotional - no matter the circumstances or aggravation going on around you.

Facts not feelings!

Think of it as the Dr. Spock of your personality.

The more you can use your Adult, the better most dealings with others will go, (particularly if there is some 'heat' in the conversation).

A word of caution ... If someone uses the Adult all the time, they are a fairly boring person to be around - and most people will find him or her clinical, remote and hard to warm up to.

The Adult is analytical, fact-based, rational and calm and would say things like:

  • What are the alternatives?
  • Lets look for causes
  • According to the statistics
  • If we take a calm, rational approach

The Adult is the most useful of the communication styles when tempers are up and people are speaking at cross-purposes.

The Child And Its Impact on Workplace Relationships

The Child is the 'felt' part of you and is the storehouse of your creativity, curiosity and the desire to explore and understand. When a person is in the grip of feelings, (for example, their anger dominates their reason) we say their Child has taken over.

Imagine someone comes to you and says, 'Hurry, the boss wants to see you'. Most people's immediate reaction is for their stomach to lurch and thoughts to the effect of 'What have I done wrong?' This response is their Child ... transporting them straight back to school days when called into the Principal's office ... feelings of anxiety and nervousness at some (yet unknown) wrong doing.

Like the Parent, there are two aspects of the child: Natural and Adapted. However, the Adapted Child can be split into two further types: Rebellious and Compliant.

Child and its impact on Communication

Natural Child

Have you ever had one of those days where you just felt on top of the world ... A Disney type day where everything you did and encountered just felt wonderful - nothing could shake you from the sense that everything is okay with the world? That was your Natural Child coming out to play.

You will hear someone in their Natural Child saying things like:

  • Let's make sure this is fun
  • It's so great to be here at work
  • I'm really feeling sad that we didn't achieve our goal

We tend not to see much of the Natural Child in the workplace. Maybe during brainstorming sessions, or training sessions, but more often than not the Natural Child is squashed in most work environments.

Great leaders are awesome at balancing the playfulness and delight a Natural Child brings, with the need to get on and get things done. If you can master that balancing act for yourself and your people, you'll be a strong influencer.

Compliant Child

The Compliant Child wants to do the right thing: polite, sociable and considerate of others. S/he knows right from wrong, and conforms to what is expected. The problem faced by a person who is strongly tuned in to the Compliant Child is that they lose sight of their own needs, always looking to how others want them to be, they can lack initiative and feel quite vulnerable in the world.

In the workplace, these people are seen as 'Yes Men'. Lacking initiative. They follow the meaning of the law rather than the spirit. Having many unexpressed needs, the person with a strong Compliant Child, may internalize a lot of resentment and one day it will overflow and there will be an explosion ... leaving everyone around that person wondering what on earth happened!

At work you will hear the Compliant Child saying things like:

  • Here it is, just as you asked, sir
  • Sorry, I'll try to improve
  • We'd best follow the procedure

The Rebellious Child

The Rebellious Child is the part of you that resents the demands of others and complies with them grudgingly. This is the sulky argumentative, authority questioning part of you.

Because they can show more initiative than the Compliant Child, if handled well, the Rebellious Child can be a good leader.

At work you will hear the Rebellious Child say:

  • That's a stupid rule anyway. Let's do it this way
  • Forget about it, he's just the boss, this is how we do it around here
  • Let's knock off for today! It must be beer o'clock somewhere!

A strong dominant Child means that you can easily spread good will and cheer, that you can be creative and spontaneous and will often easily influence people through the sheer force of your personality. The watch out is that you can easily slip over to the 'devil' side and spread disharmony, angst and selfish reactions.

By completing the exercises in the "Understanding and Influencing Difficult People" training you will get a better handle on your predominant communication style and have the tools to help you to deliberately choose how you will respond to someone who is causing you problems ... and better yet ... you will have the tools to get them to shift to a more useful state when interacting with you.

Want to improve how you get along with others? Over the next couple of weeks take the time to analyze conversations you are having with various people. Ask yourself:


Then decide if you should choose to use a different communication style to respond to that person in order to get a better reaction.

If you learn how to identify States mid-stream (hint the ebook Understanding and Influencing Difficult People will get you a long way toward having this expertise - ~wink! ... you will grow your confidence and ability to make the choice to change your communication style mid-conversation so that YOU can lead the conversation to a much healthier and more rewarding conclusion.

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