Adults and Children

All adults are big kids sometimes, but often the wrong kind. We keep the petty, squabbling, thin-skinnedness of children but often lose the curiosity, spontaneity and sense of fun.

It’s a bit hackneyed but I still have a lot of time for Transactional Analysis. The simple insight that a lot of our interactions are marred by deliberately or carelessly behaving like a domineering ‘parent’, lecturing or judging an errant ‘child’, describes a lot of what happens at work.

I was congratulated this week for doing an hour-long ‘all staff’ talk without once descending into parent-child. Apparently I was ‘adult to adult’ throughout. But the funny thing is, I wasn’t conscious of it. It was simply a case of being open, honest, respectful and genuinely answering the questions people asked. I used to be quick, slick and evasive. Now I’m slower and straighter – a good thing I think.

But I’ve also learnt that there’s still a space for the ‘free child’ at work. That’s when someone comes over all reproving or domineering and you prick their ‘parental bubble’ with a nifty joke at their expense. It’s risky, but done right it doesn’t half work. A bit of ‘free child’ brings some fun too, some laughter, a feeling things are ok and makes for a happier day. As Aristotle would advise it’s all about finding the golden mean between ‘boor’ and ‘buffoon’. He generally gets these things about right.

To finish, a happy chapter on our local community. I write on return from a public meeting, where we overcame some spirited and sustained resistance to more play equipment, in our once bleak – but now thriving – community park. People overlooking feared noise and teenagers and graffiti. Not unreasonable, but there’s a wider community to serve.

I said a few words in favour, but the Chair – a volunteer of course as all the best people are – managed the meeting with great dignity and some skill. I wrote to him just now to say:

You managed that really really well. Inviting everyone to speak – individually – but not allowing ding dongs was the genius of your chairmanship. It kept it civil, kept us from polarising and allowed people to be heard without hijacking. In the end defeat was calm and dignified not angry and litigious.

His skill was helping us to stay adult, as we discussed children. Being the best of both is what I’m working on.

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