Analyze your social intercourse

Few Years back, I was in a 3-day course on agile coaching where the trainer mentioned about the work of Dr. Eric Berne on Transactional Analysis. The discussion lasted for not more than 5-minutes, but it got my interest as I found it extremely valuable. You may have observed that sometimes your conversations go smooth but at other times things get confusing, unclear and do not end well. Analyzing these conversations with the help of Transactional Analysis can help in having clear, concise and on-track conversations.

What is a Transaction?

In this context, a transaction in simple terms is interaction between individuals. Dr. Eric Berne defined it as the fundamental unit of social intercourse.
The unit of social intercourse is called a transaction. If two or more people encounter each other… sooner or later one of them will speak or give some other indication of acknowledging the presence of the others. This is called transactional stimulus. Another person will then say or do something which is in some way related to the stimulus, and that is called the transactional response

Berne, Eric. Games People Play

What is Transactional Analysis?

Transactional Analysis (TA) is a psychoanalytic theory wherein social interactions(transactions) are analysed to determine the ego-state of the individuals as a basis to understand the behavior and use that understanding to alter the ego-state to solve emotional problems.  

What is ego-states?

Dr. Eric Berne suggested that each human personality is made up of 3 ego-states which he referred to as Parent (P), Adult (A) and Child (C) i.e. PAC model. These ego-states are one of the building blocks of Transactional Analysis. It is not that one ego-state is better than the other, but what is more important is that to what degree does a person live in one ego-state. Let’s explore more about these ego-states.

How to analyse the transactions?

We will analyse two types of transactions in this post i.e. Complimentary(straight) and Crossed Transactions.

Complimentary Transactions

When the sender(ego-state) of the transaction stimulus receives a response from the expected ego-state, such transactions are called straight or complimentary transactions. In the 1st example, the manager is ordering the employee to finish all the tasks given to him/her by today end of day and the employee simply commits to the work and time. In the 2nd example shown, the manager is a bit more empathetic in its approach on inquiring about the status of the tasks given by him to the employee, this has got the employee thinking and therefore the employee is trying to understand the priorities of the task to help the manager with the tasks.
Examples of Complimentary Transactions

Crossed Transactions

A crossed transaction is a transaction in which the sender(ego-state) receives a response from ego-state which it has not addressed. When there is a crossed transaction, the communication starts breaking apart and to re-establish the communication one or both the individuals need to alter their ego-states. In this example, a manager is ordering the employee to finish all the tasks by today end of day. The expected response by the manager is a “Yes”, however that’s not what the manager received; the communication further gets complicated as none of the individuals altered their ego-states.
Example of Crossed Transaction
Now, let’s see if what if one of the individuals alters the ego-state during the transaction, here response # 3 from the manager is empathetic and the manager has offered to help, this has triggered the adult ego-state of the employee thereby responding constructively.
Example of Crossed Transaction turned to Complimentary Transaction
Awareness of the ego-states and altering it can help in having more meaningful conversation leading to results that matter to you. Some of you may be natural at this however for some like me, needed awareness ?. For those of you, who think this is helpful do read materials on Transactional Analysis as there is a lot more on this topic and most of it has been truly interesting (at least for me).


Transactional Analysis
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view.