Coaching Icon copyAre you trying to work with someone who seems to be more often than not critical of others, and perhaps of you too?   Will Sudworth brushes off Eric Berne’s classic work on Transactional Analysis from the 1950s and finds that it’s still great for giving us options just when we think we’ve run out.

Have you ever tried blanking someone, e.g. not replying to someone who said ‘hello’ to you? It’s not easy to do. It’s as if we feel compelled to reply – to complete, as Eric Berne would call it, the transaction – the verbal interaction between two people. Berne ‘analysed’ these exchanges and determined that any person interacting with someone else is in one of three states: Parent, Adult or Child.

The person you’re trying to work with who quite often seems to be critical of others, and perhaps of you too, is probably in a critical parent state. Have you noticed that they don’t appreciate it if your first response is to try to be rational (i.e. adopting an adult state)? Transactional Analysis (TA) suggests that there are at least two better responses:

Mirroring their critical parent state, e.g. “I agree. The roads are in a terrible mess. It’s as if the whole country has to drive at 20mph these days”

Matching them by adopting a playful child state, e.g. “I know! Did you see the banter that went viral on Facebook responding to those ‘Drive slowly, my Dad works here’ pictures? I’m still chuckling over: ‘I’m sorry to tell you this, son, but I’ve been driving here for years and I’ve never seen him or any of his mates…my guess…he’s living a double life with a woman in Nuneaton…’”

The art of TA is to use this connection to move both of you to an adult state that allows business to be done.

It’s not just that these TA techniques work; the power comes from the simple model giving us options when we are in danger of feeling stuck or frustrated. And this is just scratching the surface of the insights that TA can give. When combined with the latest in Behavioural Science and Group Dynamics, we’re working with red10 clients to significantly increase their influencing skills through practising role-plays using an imaginary remote control with play, pause, rewind and fast forward buttons that allow everyone present to suggest different approaches to see what would happen using different states whilst in a safe environment..

So, think about an interaction you are having with someone at work at the moment…Parent, Adult or Child? ’Pause’…what state are you in? What state are they in? What are your options?