17 Sep

How to Handle Tense Situations at Work

Do You Tend to Respond Like a Parent, Adult or a Child?

I’m guessing you don’t get asked that very often.  If I wanted to rephrase in psychology lingo I would have asked it slightly different: “What is your most dominant ego-state?”

Still not clear what I’m getting at? It’s about how we express our personality in the way we behave when stressed – based on what’s come to be known as Transactional Analysis (TA).

Before you let the complex label dull your attention span, the following information may just save your job.

Understanding TA can actually help us make better choices when confronted with workplace decisions, especially ones that tend to be more difficult or risky. It is one of the simplest and easy to use communication models in psychology today. Not only is it basic to understand, it can be easily remembered for later use and requires little practice.

Here’s How All Conversations Work

Everyone assumes one of three roles during a conversation – the Parent, the Adult or the Child. We tend to react in conversation based on what role the other person plays. As I describe each role below, you will probably identify with some.

These are the behaviors we copy from our parents and tend to be authoritative. You might hear someone say, “Under no circumstances,” or “always,” or other verbal commands. When in the Parent ego state, you might point a finger, raise your voice, clinch your fist, get flush in the face etc.

These are behaviors that tend to focus on what’s happening in the present, uninfluenced by  past or future. These are direct responses to the here-and-now and may be described as detached involvement. This is the ideal ego state for successful communication as you respond thoughtfully, without emotion.

These behaviors are heavily feelings-based and lead to actions such as pouting, temper tantrums, rolling eyes, whining, teasing, delight, squirming and giggling etc. The child ego state can most often come out when stress or exuberance dominates reason.

Each time we enter into a communication with a colleague, we assume one of these roles. The role we assume is often  based on the role played by the second individual. If the discussion gets heated and your colleague gets angry, you may be either tempted to act like a Parent and get stern or take the role of the child and storm out of the room.

How to Handle Tense Situations at Work

The best way to respond is to assume the role of the Adult. Be calm and take in what the person is saying. Acknowledge how they are feeling and validate their viewpoint.

This type of self-control is what helps propel a career. Guidance is given throughout the scriptures on this type of self-control. Here are a few examples from Proverbs:

Proverbs 16:32 (NASB)
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)
Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.

Proverbs 19:11 (NIV)
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

So now that you know how important it is to be aware of your ego-state within a situation, how can you go about changing it?

What About Thought Tuning™?

If you have been even a casual reader of my material you’ll know where I’m going next: Thought Tuning™.

Note: If this is new to you, find the free guide at Motivationeer.com and learn how simple it is to use and master.

Thought Tuning™ is a unique and powerful way to immediately shift your thinking when a tense discussion or activity presents itself. It gets its power from the realization of your 5 Core Values! With knowledge of these foundational beliefs at the front of your mind, you then ask yourself six questions that instantly flip you from Parent or Child thinking immediately to Adult thinking. It really is that fast. Over time, the six questions become just two and your self-awareness increases.  You will learn to enter each conversation prepared in advance.

If you already know about Thought Tuning™, recall your core values, take them with you and practice the six questions as much as possible – in the smaller frames of discussion. Then, when a big opportunity arises for you to be calm, level-headed and Adult-like, you’ll be ready to make a great impact.  This was the mindset of Jesus.  He acted like an Adult in every conversation, even while suffering physically.

Please let me know if you would like some help. Just use the Contacts tab on my website and let me know how I can.

Shawn Sommerkamp is a motivational speaker and Executive Coach with 20+ years of Fortune 100 leadership experience.  He founded Motivationeer™ to coach Christian professionals how to bring the power of Christ’s word, as the foundation of career success, into corporate and small business America.

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