I’m on the airport, waiting for my next flight, and I have time to read.
“What are you reading?” Someone says next to me.
“A book on Transactional Analysis” I reply.
“Oh, I thought TA didn’t exist anymore.”
Carla is sitting next to me, looking somewhat surprised at my TA book. It’s as good a conversation starter as any. Luckily, I have the time… I get into a conversation with Carla.
She tells me she manages a team of 16 people at a large company, and she wants to learn how to do this more efficiently. She wants to listen to her employees, but she also wants the job to get done. As if one excludes the other…
Carla doesn’t always know how much attention she should give to her employees when they express that they are experiencing problems in the work relationship, and when she should ‘send them back to work’. “Especially when my employees start to cry,” she says, “Then I don’t have a clue what to do. The only thing I want is that they stop crying. I don’t care what promises I have to make, as long as they just stop crying.”
Following this she starts talking about her husband. She says that her husband also cries “every now and then”, or that he gets angry and she really doesn’t understand why he’s crying. Again, she doesn’t know what to do. She wants him to feel better, and she wants to solve his problems.
TA’s Model of Ego States offers a solution
The TA model of the ego states clarifies exactly where communication goes wrong. Understanding is half the battle, and fortunately this model provides a view on new perspectives. At the end of this text, I’ll tell you where you can learn this model.
You can communicate from three different positions: Parent, Adult and Child.
- When you communicate from your Adult Position, your thinking is nicely solution-oriented. Your mind is open and you listen without judgment to your partner in conversation. You express your feelings in a mature way and you are interested in the other’s experiences. When you disagree, you gently lay down your own values and norms.
- When you communicate from your Parent position, you place yourself above the other. Either you are critical, you go tell the other what he is doing wrong, or you are overbearing and treat the other as a young child. This doesn’t work if you have to work together. The others will then either adjust themselves as an obedient child and make themselves smaller. Or they will rebel strongly, so that working together becomes difficult, and you can’t solve any problems.
- The opposite is also true: if you behave like an obedient Child, or like a rebellious teenager, you invite the other to behave from a Parent Position. They will often become very critical or will treat you like a child. This doesn’t help anyone to move forward. It turns communication into a painful, difficult and frustrating experience.
The TA Model of Ego States helps you understand why communication goes wrong and gives you options to improve your communication, so that you understand each other better.
Communicating better in 10 steps
- Draw two columns of three circles stacked on top of each other.
- Identify from which position you were communicating (Parent, Adult or Child)
- Identify from which position the other was communicating (Parent, Adult or Child), connect these two positions by two arrows (as shown in the drawing)
- This will probably give you a better idea of what went wrong.
- Decide what you can change in your communication:
- If you determine that you communicated from your Parent, you should communicate from your Adult: less critical or less worried.
- If you determine that you communicated from your Child, you should communicate from your Adult: Say in an Adult way what you feel and what you need. Be less obedient and also less rebellious.
- Go to the other and say you want to take a different approach. Saying sorry tends to help quite well.
- Start a new conversation from the Adult position.
- Stay in the Adult position as much as possible, even if the other communicates from his Child or Parent. This way you can change your own communication patterns.
We all have patterns that we use in our communication. These patterns are often based on what we learned earlier on. Fortunately, we can change these patterns. Fortunately, we can learn new patterns of communication.
Carla felt that this was really an eye-opener and wanted to know more. Would you like to experience this too? In that case, my Female Leadership Program is something you should check out.