Verbal communication is generally accepted to be at the centre of human social relationships and despite the electronic era, also in business. When coaches engage with business to maximise performance more often than not, poor communication is at the root of potential not being reached. When two people meet, one of them will speak to the other and a response normally follows. Transactional Analysis (TA) is the method of examining this activity.
Transactional Analysis is a theory developed by Dr. Eric Berne in the 1950’s as a method to improve communication. The theory outlines how we have developed and treat ourselves, how we relate and communicate with others, and offers suggestions and interventions, which will enable us to change and grow. Theoretical concepts within the Transactional Analysis world are constantly being challenged and developed making it a rich dynamic process. Berne died in July 1970 at the age of 60. However, Transactional Analysis has not stood still and continues to develop and change, paralleling the processes we encourage in ourselves and others.
Eric Berne developed his theory around three identities/roles: ‘Parent’, ‘Child’ and ‘Adult’ – although these terms have different definitions than in normal language ! The role we adopt is determined by our feelings at the time and affects the way we communicate – if you are angry, you are unlikely to be conciliatory ! In return the other person responds by fitting into the appropriate other role. In each case we subconsciously flavour the ‘parent’ and ‘child’ roles from that which we recall from our childhood experiences.
Our Parent identity is our ‘Taught’ concept of life. When prejudice or over protectiveness dominates, the ‘Parent’ is in control. The flavouring learnt from childhood experiences fall into two broad categories and in extremis, these are displayed as controlling or indulgent. It is possible to change this ‘flavour’ with effort and commitment.
Our Child identity is our ‘Felt’ concept of life. When anger or despair dominates reason, the ‘Child’ is in control. It represents the child we once were and falls generally into two categories: the ‘natural’ child being impulsive, instinctive, spontaneous, undisciplined and demanding and the ‘adapted’ child influenced by an upbringing, which ‘does as it is told’ giving rise to guilt, rebellion, disobedience and compromise. Like our Parent, we can change our Child.
Our Adult identity is our ‘Thought’ concept of life. It is our ability to think and reason, and determine action for ourselves, based on relevant facts and intuition. It is that part of us which differentiates the human animal from other animals. The Adult is the means by which we keep our Parent and Child under control. If we are to change our Parent or Child, we must do so through our Adult.
It is the learning to develop our ‘Adult’ identity further, which is the key to successful communications and the intervention of a coaches with this in mind can make a considerable difference.