Uncategorized, women and leadership

Communication: Parent-Child-Adult


My monkey mind postings relate to Buddha’s description of the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering, and carrying on endlessly. These postings come from my monkey mind.


How we communicate with others often defines our relationships with them. A few words may be all we get to set the stage for the future connections we have or don’t get to have with them. I have been thinking about that a lot recently and my thoughts are not just about adults, but also about children and youth who are just learning how to treat others. This is where my monkey mind has led me:

Last year ago I became aware of Molly Barker, a social entrepreneur who founded the successful international organization Girls on the Run and then left it to start The Red Boot Coalition.

She had written Girls Lit from Within about ten years ago and I wanted to use it in a life skills mentoring program I and some other women are involved in for middle school girls. The little book is so powerful because it is told from her viewpoint as a girl. The communication is somewhat childlike in parts. The message is about getting out of the girl box. Her storytelling allows the reader, even adults, to be in that girl mindset and see the world from a non-adult perspective. The girls and adults loved it. I learned a lot too.

About two years ago Molly decided to create an organization which revolves around what I call civil dialog and active listening done in a manner which is respectful of all involved. She is more eloquent in her description and I encourage you to go to the link for more details. The Red Boot Coalition is simply teaching and re-teaching us the process of communication; not telling us how to think.

Over the last year I have also found myself constantly referring back to a concept I learned in a leadership program which helps me better understand how to navigate these tricky times for communication. Today everyone seems to have an opinion which they feel free to offer without much consideration of how the listener might react. There is clearly an absence of communication by people who “begin with the end in mind” as taught by Stephen Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

The concept is called  transactional analysis and involves three levels of communication. The words seem complicated but the concept is really simple. A short overview is available by clicking here. It gives the basics. How I have adapted the components to be understandable to me is explained below.

  1. Child. When children communicate they often have limited or no filters. They haven’t evolved physically or mentally enough to have learned them yet . Sometimes children communicate with tantrums, withdrawing, being silly, crying and not doing what they are told. They rely on parents or parent figures to teach them how to manage their behavior and communications.
  2. Parent. A parent has some sort of authorized authority over someone. Maybe it is her child or perhaps she is the “boss” at work.  Parents teach their children, help them modify their communications; teach then what is appropriate based on their age and the audience they are communicating with. Parents can be very high directing when needed, especially in a life threatening or emergency. Parent mode is common with those in positions of authority. Sometimes turning parent off is hard for those who are doing it in their work and home every day.
  3. Adult. Adult communication is level, respectful, equal, open, and accepting. Neither party has any control over the other. Adult communication is highly negotiated with concern for the feelings, opinions of all parties and the outcomes are mutually agreed upon.   It is also a different skill and many of us are never taught about true adult communication or it is something we learn later in life. For me, going into a career with a strong sales component where everything is negotiated became my first step in communicating in a more adult style.

My work in financial literacy for girls and women requires me to just listen to what is on our/their minds. Not everyone I meet operates from my background, belief system, or has had my life experiences. So of course we are not always going to agree on everything—or maybe anything. However, if we consciously evaluate what communication style is appropriate for the situation; civil dialog is pretty amazing and possible. More next time!