Model of Communication: Transactional Analysis
Transactional Analysis (or TA) is a model of communication. It was developed during the 1960s by Eric Berne, a Canadian-born psychiatrist and is based on the premise that we always converse and communicate with others from one of three parts or "ego-states" of our personality. Knowing that we can choose which ego-state to communicate from means that we can make choices about how an exchange with someone is going to develop and whether we want it to succeed or not.
The Three Ego States
It was Sigmund Freud who first coined the phrase "ego states" to describe that part of ourselves that operates in interactions with others. Eric Berne showed that the way we converse with, and respond to, others comes from any one of 3 of these ego states:
· a Parent state: the "taught" state
· an Adult state: the "thought" state
· a Child state: the "felt" state.
Berne went further by describing 2 parent states, the Nurturing Parent and Controlling (or Critical) Parent; 3 child states, the Natural Child, spontaneous and playful, the Little Professor, curious and exploring, and the Adaptive Child, fitting in or rebelling.
A Model of Communication
Here are examples of transactions from different ego states.
a. If you say, "What time's he expected?" and the other person says, "At 2 o'clock", this is an Adult to Adult transaction. In transactional analysis, this is a reciprocal transaction.
b. If you say, "I'm worried he'll be late", and the other person says, "Don't worry, he'll be fine", the transaction is from Adaptive Child to Nurturing Parent. In transactional analysis, this is a complementary transaction.
c. If you say, "What time's he expected?" and the other person says, "How should I know, I didn't arrange it!", the transaction is from Adult to Critical Parent. In transactional analysis, this is a crossed transaction.
The Importance of Transactional Analysis for Managers
When a transaction succeeds, it is because we respond to others from the state expected, eg from the same level or from Critical Parent to Adapted Child. When it fails, it is because we don't. To get back in sync with others, we can go to the state that the other person is in or transact from the Adult state. Transactional analysis is a powerful tool which managers can use to give themselves more options when conversing and more options when responding, thereby developing their skills of effective communication.
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