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Transactional Analysis: Crossed and Complimentary Transactions – Psychology for Business

Transactional Analysis:Crossed and Complimentary transactions

Ego States and Transactions

Last week, I introduced Dr Eric Berne’s concept of Transactional Analysis, and the three Ego States (parent, adult and child). I examined some of the language and behaviours attributed to each of these ego states, and have had some interesting feedback from readers of the article, including one individual who realised that she behaved like “a spoilt brat at Christmas” and used the term “I want..” when talking about presents.  Her husband said that he “always” got his wife everything on her list, even when it was expensive or difficult to obtain, “otherwise she sulked and made Christmas unbearable”.  Classic Child and Parent behaviour, which both parties recognised, both knew what to expect from the other and it seemed to work for their relationship (Complimentary Transaction).

I want to briefly explore the three ego states a bit further, and as you can see from the diagram below, the Parent ego state is divided into Critical or Controlling Parent and Nurturing Parent.                                                           Transactional Analysis

Critical or Controlling Parent

Can you think of occasions when you have been in one of these modes?  What behaviours did you display?  What language did you use?  Do you often find yourself saying “I sound just like my mum!”.  If you do, are you pleased or horrified? We internalise the words, voices, body language and rules from the parent figures from our childhood and use them again in adulthood.  Are you very critical and need to control situations and those around you?  Think back to someone in your past who may have displayed these same behaviours.  Why have you adopted them and in what situations?  How do others respond to you when you behave in this way, do they give in and agree with you (Complimentary transaction) or argue back so that you have to change your stance (Crossed transaction)?

 Nurturing Parent

The other aspect of the Parent ego state is the Nurturing part, and in the last article, I outlined how this came into play for me, when someone hit the back of my car, whilst I’d stopped at a red light.  After my initial shock and checking that there was no serious damage, I comforted the person who had hit me, as she was so apologetic and concerned for me (Complimentary transaction).  Part of my upbringing, was no matter what was happening to me, I had to always think about how others could be feeling and respond to them, i.e. even if you don’t like a Christmas present you’ve received you show some form of joy and gratitude, so as not to upset the other person.  You literally nurture their feelings.

The Child ego state can be divided into three sections: Rebellious Child, Adapted Child and Free or Natural Child, and these are self-explanatory.

Rebellious or Adaptive Child

Sometimes we rebelled and refused to say thank you for a Christmas present, or said it with bad grace so that it was obvious that we didn’t mean it.  Other times we may have been very dutiful and done as expected of us.  As adults now, how many of you are having a Christmas to please others rather than what you really want?  Are you happy cooking for everyone (Nurturing Parent), or would you have liked to be in a hotel somewhere putting your feet up, but are doing what others expect of you (Adaptive Child)?

Natural or Free Child

The Natural child ego state is when we behave in ways which have nothing to do with external pressures or remembered ways of behaviour and we are just ourselves.  We are spontaneous and independent of any rules about how we should behave, and what we should say, and people just have to accept us for how we are, when we’re in this ego state.

As the diagram above shows there are positive and negative aspects to each of these ego states and you can read more about them in Berne’s book ‘The Games People Play’.

 Complimentary and Crossed Transactions

Transactions are a form of communication, I might ask “Is the meeting still at 9am?” to someone in the office, and they might respond “Yes it is”.  This is a straight forward communication and if we keep this going, it would form a transaction chain.  It’s as this chain develops that we begin to see whether our transactions are complementary or crossed, and will have to make a decision as to whether to change our response in order to get a different outcome to the conversation.

 Complimentary transactions Transactional Analysis:Complimentary or crossed transactions

These are where the arrows in the diagram are parallel, and either means both parties are speaking from the same ego state as with the example above, where both were in Adult. Or where two people are happy with the status quo, such as in the husband and wife example at the beginning of this article.  The wife was in Natural Child and the husband was in indulgent Nurturing Parent mode and both were happy with each other’s standard responses, and so the lines stayed parallel.

As long as the lines of communication DO stay parallel, conversations and relationships run reasonably smoothly, even if it’s not on an Adult basis.  However, when individuals become confused about a situation, a task or a comment this is generally where crossed transactions occur.  For example if I ask you a question from my Adult ego state, such as “What’s the time please?” and expect an Adult reply, but instead receive “Have you lost your watch again!”, this shift will surprise me and I will try and move into a parallel or complimentary position, hence an answer from Controlling Parent could be  “You shouldn’t have moved it, then I would know where it is!”, or a move into Adaptive Child “I’m sorry, I left it by the sink upstairs”.

Crossed transactions                              Transactional Analysis: Crossed and Complementary transactions

The crossed transactions often happen due to people giving emotional responses to questions or situations, rather than assessing the situation and responding from the Adult ego state.  Reflect on the people who you find difficult at work, or situations at home that always start an argument, and begin to adjust your response accordingly. It’s similar to using the broken record technique when someone wants to argue with you, but this time you are choosing your words carefully so as not to inflame the situation, but to clarify your position.  If I said to a member of staff “Have you finished that report yet?” depending on my tone of voice and body language it could be seen as a Controlling parent comment, rather than an Adult question. My colleague could become defensive and say “No, you only gave it to me yesterday” (Rebellious Child).  It would then be up to me, to bring the conversation back into alignment, by not responding in the same manner, but perhaps saying “I know I only gave you the report to do yesterday, and was wondering if you needed any more information from me in order to complete it?”.

Transactional Analysis is a fascinating look at human behaviour and this article has begun to examine some of the intricacies of the three ego states.  Once you understand what drives certain aspects of your behaviour, you are then able to examine your conversations and transactions with others and adapt your response accordingly.

In the next article, we’ll look at the games people play both consciously and subconsciously.  Can you recognise the behaviour of someone who is smiling and has a light voice, but whose actual message is undermining you?  Email me with your exaperiences and I’ll include them in my next article.

 

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Is Transactional Analysis a viable business tool? Psychology for business –

Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis or TA as it is commonly known as, is a tool used in many areas of business and education, and it’s a concept that once explained, makes complete sense and you’ll wonder why you haven’t used it before!

There have been many books and articles written on Transactional Analysis such as ‘Games People Play‘ and I’m OK – You’re OK .  Their premise is to  help us become more effective in the way we respond to and communicate with others. Read on, and in laymen’s terms I’ll explain the terminology and how to begin to understand why we communicate in certain ways, both in the work place and in our personal relationships. However, there are complexities to this concept, and so this series of articles will only look at transactional analysis on the simplest level.  However, you can contact us if you want to explore various concepts further.

Transactional Analysis – What is a transaction?

Dr Eric Berne was a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist, whose work on human behaviour was influenced by Dr Sigmund Freud and neurosurgeon Dr Wilder Penfield.  At it’s simplest level:

 “Transactional Analysis is the method for studying interactions between individuals”  

This includes any form of verbal or non-verbal communication between two people. This communication is the ‘transaction‘, whilst the ‘analysis‘ is what you understand or take from the message you are receiving.  Someone smiling at me is a ‘transaction’ and my ‘analysis’ is that the person is happy to see me.  Berne’s work asks us to reflect on these interactions and try to understand our own behaviour as well, i.e. why am I smiling back and crossing the road to meet them, if I really want to avoid them?

Transactional Analysis – What are ego states?

To help us understand the nature of our transactions with each other, Eric grouped our ways of thinking and behaving into three areas, that he called ego states:

Parent -when we are thinking or behaving from this ego state, we are drawing on our experience of the parental Is Transactional Analysis a viable business tool?figures in our lives which have been absorbed into our way of relating to others.  These parental figures could be warm, loving, indulgent, distant, controlling, or ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’ types. These characteristics could be attributed to our real parents, or people who we saw as parental figures in our lives.   In a recent situation, someone hit my car from behind whilst I was stopped at a red light.  The woman driving was so apologetic and shaken up by it, I forgot she had hit me and gave her a hug and told her it would be OK.  It was my natural response to nurture her, once I realised everyone was OK.

Adult – when  we are involved in transactions from this ego state, we are rational and able to think and make choices.  In this state, we are able to recognise our potential child and parental responses but keep them in check and maintain control and deal with the facts of the situation.  Again, in the car situation above, my initial response on getting out of the car was to ask what had happened, was anyone hurt, then later on to check my car and hers over and then take her details for insurance purposes.

In between these clearly adult ego state behaviours, I was shocked and shaking, but comforted her when I realised that she was worse than me emotionally.

Child – from this ego state, we are remembering how we used to respond to events outside of ourselves when we were small.  We may use extremes of behaviour and language and have strong feelings about a situation or statement, and exaggerate our responses, i.e. in the car shunt situation mentioned above, I could have slammed the car door and screamed at the woman “You stupid idiot, are you blind?” and then burst into tears.  This name calling and crying is a way of showing that a situation has overwhelmed us and so we can revert back to name calling and extreme displays of emotion, if this is how we remember dealing with situations when we were small.

We can move between the ego states depending on the situation, the people involved and the communication itself.  As you can see in the above example, my thoughts were in the adult ego state and ruled my emotions initially, as I was very rational and dealt with the damaged car, before moving into my parental ego state.  Not everyone is able to do this, and certainly not all of the time.  We tend to have an ego state we naturally adopt when under stress and times of pressure.

Question: Do you know what your natural ego state is?  

Do you handle situations from different ego states depending if it’s home or personally related, as opposed to a work problem?  Most of us do, because we’ve learnt the types of behaviours expected of us at work and conform to them. However, at home and with our partners we can let rip and behave in an emotional way (child or parent), which would be unacceptable in another situation or in front of a different audience.

What type of language do you use? 

Parent – “never”, “should”, “always”, “do this”, “don’t do that”

Child – “I feel”, “I hate”, “Always”, “I don’t want to”, “I like”

Adult – “probably”, “I think”, “I realise”, “perhaps”, “I believe”

In the next blog, I’m going to explore complimentary and crossed transactions, as well as ‘game playing’ examples, and begin to look at how you can change the course of a conversation or interaction that is going wrong.

In the meantime, please tweet me @therealme_PDP and give me examples of how you know when you are in a particular ego state.

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