This week, I’m preparing to teach a Counseling Theories and Techniques class. In our opening session, we’ll dive into the thoughts and ideas of the Father of Modern Psychotherapy himself, Sigmund Freud. Since I have spent all week brushing up on psychoanalytic theory, I thought it would be fun to share pieces of this with you, especially in regards to how it relates to communication.
My goal is that during this series of three posts you will:
- Better understand your own unique communication style.
- Recognize which aspects of your style are and are not working well for you.
- Be able to answer the question, “What’s your Freudian communication style?”.
Sigmund Freud described the human psyche in terms of the id, ego, and superego. One of the easiest ways to understand these three parts is by comparing them to members of a family. And as we will soon see, these three family members are incredibly relevant to communication.
If the id were a family member, he would be the baby of the family. The id operates on the pleasure principle. His motto is, “if it feels good do it, and if it hurts avoid it.” Some communicators operate primarily on this principle, too. From a communications perspective, those with strong id impulses will demonstrate some of the following strengths and weaknesses:
- Communicate passionately, and express their emotions freely.
- Write only on days that they feel like writing.
- Minimally edit and proof their work. After all, who cares what the final product looks like? Writing should be fun and shared with the world.
- Share their message quickly and easily with others.
- Tell lively stories that paint themselves in a positive light.
- Stop communicating the moment it becomes painful or difficult.
As we all know, babies can be incredibly cute, and like babies, the id can be a whole lot of fun, too. Id communicators are lively and engaging. They have a blast when speaking and their audience is sure to enjoy the ride.
However, the id has a downside too. This portion of our psyche is undisciplined, and it masks the other important aspects of our humanity. Let’s explore these two negatives more in-depth. When communicating is no longer fun, id communicators quit. These types of speakers will have files filled with unfinished speeches, books, and blog-posts. The problem with communicating primarily out of one’s id is that, our greatest growth often results from pushing through our pain. When things get tough, expert communicators continue pressing forward and reap the reward of learning from their experiences.
The second problem with an overactive id is that it causes us to hide our weakness from others. So, what’s the problem with this?, you may wonder. The difficulty is that human beings connect best with other real human beings. It’s our rough edges, not perfectionism, which allows other people to connect with our stories.
Let me illustrate:
I love to cook. I also occasionally burn the food I prepare. Because of this, I’m absolutely enamored with Teflon pans. They are smooth and incredibly easy to clean. No matter how great my culinary catastrophe, nothing sticks! Some communicators have Teflon exteriors. They share only the smooth, unruffled parts of their life. Yet, I’ve never met person who lives a pain-free life. If we only share the calm parts of our stories with others, we end up hiding our humanity. And it’s our humanness, with all of its flaws, faults, and rough edges that allows others to connect with us. While a smooth Teflon coating is an excellent exterior for pots and pans, it’s a poor outer layer for communicators.
So, what should you do if you’re primarily an id communicator? First, build on your strengths.
- Continue to have fun when you speak.
- Share humorous stories.
- Engage your audience.
But, don’t allow pleasure to rule your communication style.
- When writing and speaking becomes difficult, push through the pain, and continue to write and speak anyways.
- Start sharing some of your failures and short comings with others.
- Watch your audience light up as they learn from your mistakes and empathize with your pain.
As you can see, the id can add much to our communication style. We just don’t want it to be the only place from which we operate. Next week we’ll dive into some of the strengths and challenges of communicating chiefly from one’s super ego in part 2 of, What’s Your Freudian Communication Style?