Our communication patterns - [website] Email Print
Published: 31st of Jan 2017 by: Debbie Engelbrecht CEO

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to enjoy our beautiful and idyllic Paternoster, a South African West Coast town where the sea, sand and sun make you forget about the daily stresses of life and the seafood is to die for.

The town locals however do not always live the same life as the visitors. Some of them have thriving little businesses and others definitely live below the poverty line.

In addition to this many of the youth have turned to the use of a drug called Tik, one many South Africans recognise as being highly destructive. To sustain their habits they also turn to petty theft of just about anything, thus when we collected our little holiday home’s key we were warned to be very careful with our belongings and to keep them close at all times.

Hence we locked our handbags, wallets and cellphones inside and we enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the front “stoep” or balcony marveling at the peace and beauty.

There were three of us and the large table in front of us had amongst others a pair of off-the-counter reading glasses, refreshment glasses, an ice-bucket the obligatory bottle of wine and a packet of cigarettes, a deck of playing cards and a lighter on it.

As the Blitsbokke were busy annihilating their opponents in the Wellington round of the tournament, we quickly popped inside to watch a game. During this time all three of us were in and out to the balcony on a rotational shift as our South African “braai” was well under way.

A few minutes later a local dude sidles up to the balcony and tells us that he had just apprehended a “tikkop” down the road who had been stealing from people in the area and that he had retrieved two items, that he thought may be ours. My husband looked at them and promptly said that no, he didn’t think so. After all it was incomprehensible that anyone could as quickly and quietly remove items from a table a mere three meters from us without being spotted.

The dude insisted that he was sure that these were our items, with the sun having set and the light not so good my hubby held them up for me to see and I also said “nope, not ours!”

When the local dude insisted again that they were definitely ours, we took a closer look and lo and behold they actually belonged to our friend.

Being South African by nature, and naturally relatively cautious people, we immediately looked for this man’s accomplice but seeing nobody it then quickly became abundantly clear that this was a scam. The man himself had taken the goods and was now returning them for a reward!

And this is where the pattern of communication comes to mind.

Had this guy come up to us and said, “Hey dudes, I took this from your table and I am now returning it, just to let you know that you really should be more cautious.” I personally would have seen that as a big lesson in accountability (for us), after all we had been warned.

In that instance, I would have rewarded him, not only for his honesty, but also for his originality and I suppose because I can only imagine how gut wrenching it must be to have the wealth of others permanently rubbed in your face, when you so obviously have very little.

Sometimes even more so when you have placed yourself in an impossible cycle of dependence on a vicious drug. Now I know my thinking differs from many others on this point but that is not the focus of this writing.

My musing goes about the fact that he lied to try to get to what he wanted or needed, which in this case was just a bit of money. How his entire life goes about having to rely on his wits, whether honestly applied or not, to reach a particular goal. How difficult it is for such a person to come straight out and say what he wants. How it is likely that even as a kid this type of behaviour most probably brought the rewards and recognition sought. How rather than ask for what we needs, we feel that we need to “earn” it in a certain way. How these patterns of communication manifest in our daily lives.

For example if we ask nicely we are more likely to get what we ask for, how if we achieve certain things we are more likely to be rewarded, to receive the recognition we crave.

In essence we will become creatures of habit in communication, we don the cloak that others find acceptable. So at any given time we are likely to be operating from one particular lens of communication. We will be performing the same dance with the same people. Until of course we stop and we try the alternative. In this guy's case the alternative would have worked for him, with me.

Click here to learn about the Enneagram and the nine different lenses through which we see the world.

© Debbie Engelbrecht

Debbie is the MD of Staff Training, a soft skills training company offering more than 60 short courses including Etiquette, Diversity, Customer Care and Conflict Management. Find out more here.


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