Understanding Transactional Analysis

The theory surrounding Transactional Analysis was developed in the 1960’s by a man known as Dr. Eric Berne. His model maintains that each person’s personality contains three distinct parts and that each of these three parts work with each other (ie. perform transactions) on a daily basis.

The three “ego-states” of our personality are that of the parent, adult, and child. Parents can be either nurturing or controlling, offering protection and love or asking the child to do what he wants. The adult maintains rational thought patterns. There are three types of children: natural, little professor, and adaptive. One is unaware of his self, the next loves exploring, and the latter constantly tries to fit in with the rest of the world.

Every single time you communicate with someone you are each going to adapt one of the above roles. A parent, for example, will speak to a child, but can speak to other parents and adults as well. A nurturing parent, however, may only speak to a natural child while a controlling parent may only ellicit what he views as a positive response from an adaptive child.

When two individuals are on the same level (ie. adult to adult) they can have a complementary transaction – one in which they are in agreement. It is often difficult, however, to formally communincate (or have a solid transaction) if both are in different states – also referred to as a crossed transaction.

As a manager you’ll need to learn to adapt to different situations. You should be able to clearly identify the type of role you need to take when dealing with each individual employee. Can you both speak as adults, or must you adopt a parental role? Are you adopting a role that will allow you to communicate effectively with your employees?

Think about your employees and the way you interact. Are you usually on the same level or do you normally have to adopt a more powerful role? Knowing the differences will have a huge impact on the development of your communication skills. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks again,


Sean McPheat

Managing Director

MTD Training   | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

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Originally published: 20 January, 2009

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