We Change Anyway

Saturday 24 November, 2012

This week was the final session. The last in a series of nine workshops I have been running over the last six months with a team in Amsterdam. The main goal was to enhance the group’s communication and personal development by raising their level of awareness. This post is a reminder to them that they have achieved more than they may realise. It also highlights that the power of development work can be found in the simplest of comments.

Prior to the workshops the team was already a cohesive, supportive group. The workshops allowed them to see that more clearly, to appreciate each other more intensely and, most importantly, to advance further as a group and as individuals. They made some immediate connections, relating the theory to their own experiences, and in time they began to notice the nuances of behaviour, interaction and communication. When asked how the workshops are helping them in their work, they responded that they are:

  • Relating to each other more consciously
  • Actively seeking feedback and involving others more
  • Becoming more observant
  • Becoming more aware of themselves and others
  • Communicating more effectively
  • Understanding behaviour
  • Becoming more patient
  • Showing greater involvement in meetings and discussions
  • Being more proactive
  • Better able to avoid the games people play
  • Writing more effective, more succinct emails

The highlight for me came in Workshop 7 when the group demonstrated 3 things: the kind of support of which they were clearly capable; the insight they had developed over the course of the previous sessions; and the determination to contribute to a colleague’s growth. One of the team reported a conversation, saying he was dissatisfied with the interaction even though he was sure he had created the right intention beforehand. When asked what that intention had been, he replied that his aim had been to instruct the other person on how best to avoid ‘making the same mistakes I made’.

The rest of the team were quick to point out that this was more the approach of a parent than of an equal, represented by the interaction from Nurturing Parent (NP). In creating this dynamic, the response is very likely to come from the Adapted Child (AC) and can be either conformity (‘Okay’) or rebellion (‘Leave me alone!’). Fortunately the advice was followed, but there is nonetheless an alternative interaction which creates an altogether different, healthier relationship.

A better approach would have been an Adult-Adult interaction: an informative discussion based on the choices available, with no attachment to a particular outcome. There was an age difference between the two, but both were old enough to relate from the Adult ego state (which starts developing when we are only 10 months old). In this way the recipient could be encouraged to make his own choices based on the information provided, rather than feeling he is being told what to do. Such an interaction shifts the focus of the relationship from control to empowerment.

The team challenged their colleague, showing an understanding of the different ego states and transaction types, and a persistence which eventually meant he was able to see what they were seeing. Initially he resisted, justifying his approach on the grounds that he was the elder in the communication, but it was not long before he agreed with their feedback. It may have seemed to everyone like a brief episode, quickly forgotten, but it demonstrated the power of the group to contribute to each other. It’s not always obvious. There are no fireworks in personal development. There are observations, insights and learning points. And there is steady progress.

The entire series of workshops was summed up beautifully by one of the last comments of the final workshop. Had I not revisited one person’s feedback, we would never have got there. The fact that we did was a demonstration of what can happen when we pursue interactions to their conclusion. We were talking about whether or not it’s possible to change yourself. The comment came amid competing voices and was delivered in typically understated style by one of the quieter members of the group. He simply said, “You change as you get older.

I learnt during my own training that when the quiet ones speak you listen. He was right. Life changes us. Its myriad experiences, interactions and relationships have an unavoidable effect on us. We are going to change anyway, so why not guide the inevitable? Why not see our behaviour for what it is and strive for a more effective way of relating to each other? The work the team has done had that as its goal. It will contribute to their continued development and ensure they have a greater influence over how they change in the months and years to come.


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