Submitted by John McKee
Want to know a four-decade old secret for climbing the ladder?
In the 1960s, Dr. Eric Berne created a communication tool called Transactional Analysis, or TA.
Dr. Berne proposed that verbal communication is the crux of all social interactions, especially face-to-face communication. His work is now used to examine and improve conversation between individuals conducting business.
TA works like this: You do something, and then I do something back. The idea is that a person is made up of 3 alter ego personas: Parent, Adult, and Child.
The definitions of these 3 states are:
Parent: This is the voice of authority. When we were young children, our parents conditioned us. This state is our taught ego.
Child: Our immediate gut reaction to events is what makes up the child state. This is the side that is attached to our emotional reactions. When feeling overrides logic, the child is in control of our reasoning. This state is our felt ego.
Adult: The adult state of being is the ability to logically think and plan a course of action independently based on the information we receive. The Adult is what keeps the balance between Parent and Child. This state is our thought ego.
In an ideal world, communication between 2 individuals should always be between Adults. In that way, both individuals are thoughtful, reasonable, and able to make mature decisions.
But in reality, many people find themselves having fallen into the state of Child of Parent, and when an Adult tries to communicate with them, it does not go well. Their feelings and conditioned responses render them unable to communicate effectively.
For example, imagine how it would be to talk to someone who is in the Parent state. She would most likely speak as though she knew better than you. On the flip side, if you are trying to explain a new theory to a Child, he will react emotionally, and the explanation will get lost in the reaction. These sorts of communication problems happen all the time, but we just don’t understand how or why they happen.
Dr. Berne saw that 2 people could have a successful conversation if they were both using the same ego state. So 2 Parents could talk to one another successfully, and the same goes for 2 individuals in a Child state. However, for business, the most ideal situation is for 2 Adults to converse, both listening and speaking in a mature and reasonable manner.
I challenge you to observe some of the conversations that go one around you at the office. It may surprise you to notice that many managers immediately take on the Parent ego when talking to their employees, which inevitably causes a failure in communication.