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Rising Stars: Transactional Analysis.

For this issue, let me offer a concept that is rooted in research and key in interacting with anyone but very valuable when working with our Rising Stars.

Rising Stars:  Transactional Analysis
Rising Stars: Transactional Analysis

Transactional Analysis provides us with a basic approach to understanding why people behave the way they do. As you watch and listen to people, you can see them “change” before your eyes. Eric Berne defines each ego state, or state of mind as a “consistent pattern of feeling and experience directly related to a corresponding consistent pattern of behavior.” They are the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. We each have all 3 in us but which one is driving. These states of being are not roles, but psychological realities that are produced by the playback of recorded data of events in the past, involving real people, real times, real places, real decisions, and real feelings.

Let me begin by giving an example.

Several years ago, my girlfriend and I went to an athletic store because I wanted to get some new gym shoes for my weight workouts. I was wearing my Air Force flight jacket which had my wings on the shoulder. As we approached the checkout, the cashier was a young man who looked about 16 or 17 years old. I was about 55 at the time. The young man saw my jacket and wings and immediately asked me if I was in the Air Force and I told him I was retired and he asked about what I flew and what rank I retired and such. In the process of talking about it he mentioned his father was military and then he asked if I had ever been to Clark AFB, Philippines. I said no and he said, “I was born in the USAF hospital on the base”. After we chatted a bit and paid up, I glanced at my girlfriend and she had a look of amazement in her face as she was fixated on me. I shook hands with the young man behind the counter and told him to extend to his dad my compliments.

On the way out as I held the door for my girlfriend, she was shaking her head and she just said, “You are amazing”. As we talked about it, she just said “Why is it youth really seem to always connect with you that way?” She could not figure it out.

As we got to my Camaro and I opened and held the door for her, she turned out and looked at me and said, “You know, I know why youth connect with you like that”. I asked her why and without missing a beat she looked at me and said “…because you connect with them as if they are peers and not beneath you”.

It goes to the heart of a key issue that has been researched and referred to as the


When you interact with anyone, there are 3 levels that stand out. Let me highlight each of them.


The Parent is a huge collection of recordings in the brain of unquestioned or imposed external events perceived during the first five years of life. Think about this in terms of a “parent” interaction. Parents often tell as in with kids such things as:

“I'm the boss here.”

“Little girls are adorable.”

“Let me help you finish that report.”

“You should have more insurance.”

This is a level where one of the two try to control the other’s behavior or pressure them to doing what the parent wants. Realize that when two nations and governments both go to a parent level….wars happen. While there are some cases where one must fight for something important, one must be aware of whether or not Parent behavior is being involved.

CHILD Level:

The Child in you is basically what you were when you were little. Your Child has the same feelings and ways of behaving you had when you were very young. During the young years, there are many demands on the child. On one hand, the child has the urge to explore, to know, to crush, and to bang…to express feelings and to experience all the pleasant sensations associated with movement and discovery. On the other hand, there is a constant demand from the environment, essentially the parents, that the child gives up these basic satisfactions for the reward of parental approval. Think about what is typical in what many children say. Children will often say such things as:

“Don't blame me for the error.”

“It wasn't my fault.”

“I'm using a calculator just like Mr. _________ uses.”

“Wow! Look at that cost.”

Keep in mind that often when one side goes to the parent level, it can drive the other to either Parent or Child. Both are bad because both going to parent causes conflicts and a lack of synergy and teamwork at a minimum. If one goes to child, they are not really complimenting the team and goals.

ADULT Level:

The Adult is a data processing computer which grinds out decisions after computing the information from three sources: The Parent, the Child, and the data which the Adult has and is gathering. Thinking independently, rationally, and objectively are characteristics of the Adult ego state. One of the important functions of the Adult is to examine the data in the Parent, to see whether or not it is true and still applicable today, and then to accept or reject it; and to examine the Child to see whether or not the feelings are appropriate to the present or are archaic and in response to outdated Parent data. They work together in a synergistic way. People that stay at Adult level might say such things as:

“We can have this proposal ready for you on Friday.”

“This error in figures is not typical.”

“I can be downtown in 35 minutes.”

The Adult level keeps everyone in the team and engaged in a positive way. Additionally, those involved avoid situations that would push someone else to Parent or Child. In doing so, they help maximize clarity and create radical solutions for unexpected results.

Lastly, it is interesting that these 3 levels can be employed with both verbal and non-verbal communication. It is words but also your tone, you posture and even the look on your face.

Remember, all three ego states are important. The Child allows you to laugh, cry, get excited, get angry, and enjoy life. Your Parent keeps you from going to jail, becoming a bank robber, or selling drugs to children. Your Adult helps you to help other people solve problems from their Adult, communicate from their Adult, and become more effective in their jobs.

What do you see through the week in your team? How can you employ the Adult Level better in your role?

Randy Swaim, Coaching for Relevance, LLC


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