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Diplomacy-relevant References

Diplomacy-relevant References

[Return to: Diplomacy Home Page & Reading Options; ebook, paperback, & hardback available]

In the time since I've written the several articles on the importance of critique phrasing--

-- other folks have pointed out to me how the advice is similar to other, more famous descriptions of human behavior.

The first is the similarity to the observation in How to Win Friends and Influence People that harsh words never garners the desired reaction (unless you have power over someone, then it's really the power and not the harshness of the words). That a pleasant delivery of bad news does the job more effectively than a "brutal" approach. (Again: Same content, just different delivery.)

The second observation I was alerted to refers to what's called Transactional Analysis (TA), made famous by Eric Berne in his book, Games People Play. In this, he notes that people have three facets, which he calls the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. As I understand it (and as relates to workshop critiques, even if I'm unknowingly bending things a bit here), the Adult is the rational mind, factual, reasonable, etc. The Parent mode is how people act when playing a role of "power" (parents have power over children, instruct them, etc.). Child is the "not mature" mode, etc.

As relates to critiquing, diplomatic critiques are presented in the Adult manner, not the Parent mode. Thus, as I've said in my articles, when you say "Never use a..." or "Don't..." or "You have to..." you are acting as if a parent instructing a child -- and this causes problems. Similarly, saying "It's a rule of writing that..." or "Editors say..." or "Editors don't like it when..." are adopting an authoritative tone, thus an (ineffective) Parent mode. If you say, "It didn't work for me when..." you are using an Adult mannerism.

TA indicates that for communication to occur, there can't be a mismatch of modes. If someone is expecting an Adult-to-Adult comment (like a critique comment) and gets instead a Parent-to-Child response, they don't hear it, communication gets fouled up, stops really, until the modes get realigned.

In fact, it appears to me that what happens when someone makes a Parent comment is that the author being critiqued reacts in the Child mode. This is not to exonerate the "Parent" critiquer, by blaming the author for reacting "like a child": If anything, the "child" in all of us is reacting as normal humans do. Thus the problem lies with the use of the "Parent" mode.

What happens in practice when someone uses Parent modes is that the Child in the recipient gets angry, both because that's a natural child-like response to improper authority from a parent, and because the critiquer is not, in fact, in a position to make Parent control/demand statements. So they complain to me, or argue back. Regardless, the "Parent" has failed in this case, since they have no standing to play Parent, and all their efforts have in fact been wasted.

Bottom line: Don't use "Parent" mode when critiquing; it's not your job. Use "Adult" phrasing for your opinions, such as I've documented in my articles on how to phrase critiques.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that there are others out there who've already described why diplomatic critiquing works, and explaining why the other kinds fail miserably even when the underlying content is the same.

[Return to: Diplomacy Home Page & Reading Options]

© Andrew Burt


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