Work and business roles are predetermined, fixed, and encapsulated categories, which never fully represent the wholeness of the valuable human beings behind them. In the same vein, Rogers (1961) stated that people are always more than their roles because they are intrinsically fluid and living. This prestigious author observed that a person is a “changing constellation of potentialities, not a fixed quantity of traits.”
In work and business environments, people continually enact their roles, which makes them feel separate from others. According to Goffman (1969), people play their work roles in a coherent and homogeneous manner, showing the unequivocal signs of these roles, which are intended to be believed by others. These roles have specific ways of expressing and behaving, which are intrinsically limiting.
Consequently, this author observed that, when people play their roles, they are prone to suppress heartfelt feelings and impulses to avoid showing their “all-too-human selves,” so they can be accepted by other people. Argyle (1994) observed that people comply with their roles because these roles are interlocked with those performed by the other individuals who they interact with.
However, natural conversations empower people to go beyond these social masks, in order to show themselves as they truly are. Johnstone (1987) observed that “masks are surrounded by rituals that reinforce their power.” In other words, every time people “wear” these social masks, they act and speak in an unnatural manner and their conversations become ritualised and structured. This is a very common trait of most traditional business conversations.
These masks often result in people communicating with others in a manufactured, rigid, and unfeeling manner. People’s true expressiveness lies concealed behind these social façades. However, when people hold natural conversations, they drop these masks and become more aware of their shared humanness, which prompts them to inter-relate in a more expansive and meaningful manner. In simple words, natural conversations bring people much closer.
Traditional business conversations fail to embrace the participants’ human side and their complex and unique experiences, because these interactions only cover narrow business topics related to their roles. Natural conversations instead include both business and informal topics. Sometimes, natural conversations can be solely based on personal topics, such as: interests, preferences, hobbies, pastimes, family topics, and others, without including any business topic.
-Argyle, M. 1994. The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour. London: Penguin Books.
-Goffman, E. 1969. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
-Johnstone, K. 1987. Impro. Improvisation and the Theatre. London: Methuen Drama.
-Rogers, C. 1961. On Becoming a Person. London: Houghton Mifflin Company
Excerpted from the book “The Art of Compassionate Business: Main Principles for the Human-Oriented Enterprise” (2019, Routledge) with permission from the author and publisher.