Bringing Transactional Analysis alive…

When you’re designing learning content that covers difficult conversations, being more effective, self-awareness, influencing, people management…. In fact, for almost anything to do with people, Transactional Analysis (TA) could be a helpful concept to introduce.

In this article we explore a bit of the background and how you can bring the concept to life to help your learners.

Analysing interactions (or transactions) between people, spotting where things are going wrong and looking at what we can do better: that’s what TA is.  And so, whenever we are looking at personal effectiveness and working with others, there is an opportunity to look at this wisdom from the 1950s.

Eric Berne developed the idea of our three states: Parent, Adult and Child, releasing his first book on the subject in 1961.  As you’ll see below, the Parent and Child states are further broken down into two sub-sections.

We can all think of times when we have been keen to care for someone, maybe fixing something for them: this is our Nurturing Parent way of being.

We have been strict, telling people what to do or telling them off: this is Critical Parent.  We have been rebellious, disagreeing with someone or on the flipside, working overly hard to please them: that’s our Adaptive Child.  Finally we have acted like a child enjoying themselves, having fun, doing a wheelie on a bike or squealing over coloured pens and new stationery: say hello to your Free Child.

When we have our best conversations, we can usually see that we have been rational, logical and spoken to someone like they were our equal: that’s the Adult.

How is this useful?    

Think back over the times when you have demonstrated each of the states and you’ll spot that the impact you had on the other person or situation overall was generally more positive when you stayed in the Adult state.

Recognising the times when we tend to fall into Parent or Child states can help us spot the unhelpful behaviour and choose to move back to Adult.  You could try this exercise for yourself and with your delegates….

Draw out the following chart and fill out the boxes for you personally.  Everyone’s answers will be different, so do this just for you.  We’ve filled in examples from our own experiences and stories we’ve heard on workshops, to give you some ideas….

Now you have considered all of this, you can prepare to both notice your behaviour changes and beware of situations that cause you to move out of Adult state.  Bringing awareness to these shifts in behaviour means you can have more control over them, rather than unconsciously acting on auto-pilot.

So next time you are running a workshop that looks at people and relationships, you could consider adding in a bit of work on Transactional Analysis: helping people notice their changes in behaviour and choose more effective, Adult-Adult conversations.