Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bonus Blog: Twade (Or, what you can learn about business relationships from toddlers)

So, every week my friends get together, rain, shine, snow, etc. (we do dodge out on hail, I'm afraid, as we do not deliver the mail). As the group has been spawning, the small children increase the total size of the group who goes walking or running (usually the kids come with the walking group).

In waiting for all parties to assemble (exercising on a Saturday morning involves a little patience for everyone to arrive and more than a little hesitation in leaving the warmth and comfort of the house for a walk in the weather, I was watching two of the little ones interacting. A had brought a beautiful toy boat to play with, which he loved. He had, however, put it down, and, per the rules of the toddler jungle, E had picked it up and was playing with it.

A wanted that boat.

A used his words (bless his three year old soul), but his argument was unconvincing to E (2.5 years old and almost as big): "Give me the boat."

The little incident reminded me of other incidents, substantially less little, at work, where person Z has grasped that he needs something from person X, but rather than give a logical explanation for what Z wants and needs, Z just demands the thing. This typically makes X somewhat cross (sorry about the pun, really)--especially if X is having a great time with whatever it is, such as a racing boat--and in the work world, while we often work for the same company with, at their deepest roots the same successful intent for such a company, that is not usually enough to get a really cool toy out of X's hands, just because Z asked for it.

Back to the kids. A's mom has been working with him about not only using his words, but actually building situations where he can get what he wants without conflict. Yeah, A is 3 and understands this; his mom and/or A are genius(es). In any case, she demanded he acquire another toy (not currently in use, so fair game per the toddler jungle law), and then offer it to E in a Trade.

A reluctantly complied, shoving a green wooden caterpillar into E's face and half announcing/half questioning with the word "Twade?"

E, startled by this tactic, handed the boat right over.

I have said so before, and I'll say so again--adults have a lot in common with toddlers. Managers and upper management (executive management), even more so. We have to share our toys. We have to make decisions that can result in tantrums (on our part or the part of others). We have to gain independence but not at the cost of collaborating with a mom figure.

And we can also Twade.

I mention in the concepts of Transactional Communication that you should offer something for what you are asking, and this little example of a blonde and a red headed toddler (which you didn't know until now, but hey, they seem cuter in my mind's eye already identifying them as such) is a great example of how transactions--trading--can get you what you want with a minimum of fuss. Its best, of course, to have laid the groundwork ahead of time, but sometimes that's just not possible. Sometimes you hit the ground running and all you have is a green wooden caterpillar. Sometimes, though, unlike this poorly abused metaphor, that's enough.

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