Posts Tagged ‘TA’

The Ten Heads of Ineffective Listeners

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Last week I was delivering a session on Achieving Results through Effective Performance Management. At the conclusion of the day, I asked the delegates to tell me what had been most impactive for them and what they would be implementing in the workplace as soon as practicable. Two of them both talked about the relatively short section we had covered on blocks to effective listening.

Then today I saw a Tweet from an acquaintance which said, “Someone told me once that to deal with a complaint well, you have to open your ears ten times as much as your mouth – they were so right!”.

Consequently, I decide to blog about the Ten Heads of Ineffective Listeners. They are (in alphabetical order):

The Adviser – The Adviser is a problem solver, and is eager to provide suggestions and what they perceive to be help. In Transactional Analysis (TA) terms, this person operates strongly from the Parent ego state. Sometimes they only have to hear a few sentences and they know what the solution is for the person. Sadly, they don’t realise that a solution from their own experiences and viewpoints is unlikely to work for the other person.

The Comparer – As the name suggests, they love making comparisons. They compare what they hear to their own experiences, and compare themselves to the person.

The Derailer – This person suddenly highjacks the conversation – possibly due to boredom or because they are uncomfortable with a topic – often by either changing the subject or making a joke.

The Dreamer – This person hears something that triggers a memory or association in their mind and they drift off so that they are, at best, only partially listening to what the other person says.

The Filterer – Our Filterer listens to some things and not to others. They pay attention to what has caught their attention, what they find interesting or surprising, or the parts that support their views or opinions.

The Judger – This person judges or pre-judges either the person or their reactions from a values perspective, rather than listening to all the information and coming to a logical conclusion based on all the facts. In TA terms, they again operate primarily from the Parent ego state as opposed to the Adult ego state.

The Mind Reader – The Mind Reader doesn’t pay much attention to what a person says because they don’t need to (or so they think). They make assumptions, or guess at what is coming next or going on in the other person’s head. The Mind Reader excels at displaying little empathy.

The Placater – The Placater wants (or needs?) to be nice, pleasant and supportive. They want people to like them so the Placater agrees with almost everything the person says and does not make challenges at the appropriate moments. In TA terms, they are usually operating from their Adapted Child or Nurturing Parent ego states.

The Rehearser – What shall I say next? How shall I say it? Is this word better than that word? The Rehearser is constantly thinking about what to say next rather than listening. By the time they say their well-rehearsed sentence, the moment has probably passed. And they will have missed what has been said in the meantime. And it probably doesn’t come out well as they haven’t got it exactly as they wanted, because they were trying to get it out word for word. Their action plan is then to rehearse more next time, and the downward spiral continues.

The Sparrer – The Sparrer argues and debates with people about what they are saying, doing, believing, or explaining. The Sparrer has to talk. The other person doesn’t feel heard, can feel very frustrated and can be drawn into explaining and justifying.

There you go – I hope that helps. What it doesn’t answer is just why so many of us are so poor at listening to others.

I’m sure specific individuals have come to mind as you have been reading through the descriptions. But perhaps we should reflect as to whether any of them apply to us?


Commons assault

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Every now and then something happens which makes me think about changing one of my tried and tested learning methodologies or examples. There has been such an occurrence this week.

When delivering sessions on Transactional Analysis and how to use it to develop rapport, instigate effective communication and manage conflict meaningfully, I often use Fawlty Towers. From the reactions of the groups I work with, it seems to be reasonably timeless and the majority of people enjoy its humour. In short, Basil plays a great Adapted Child to Sybil’s Controlling Parent, Basil enjoys the power of his Controlling Parent when dealing with the Adapted Child Manuel, Manuel then plays a lovely Nurturing Parent to his Siberian hamster, and Polly remains in Adult throughout most of the crisis happening around her.

From now on, however, I will have to include the Commons Select Committee which occurred earlier this week. It starred Rupert Murdoch, his son James Murdoch and a number of MPs from various parties. It also featured a walk on part (or stand up part) by Wendi Deng, Rupert Murdoch’s wife.

To set the scene …. Two of the most powerful media people in the world, who have had a huge influence within the British media for at least 20 years, have messed up big style. MPs, whose political parties have felt the need to seek their favour and work with them in order to gain their support in order to get into or remain in government, have suddenly been released from their self-imposed shackles and are free to express their opinions without a Murdoch backlash. They have an hour to ask the Murdochs questions about their big mess up.

The Murdochs don’t want to be there – they had been unavailable for the meeting up until a few days ago – but have agreed to come. Imagine what they feel like having to be under the cosh having  been able to dictate the rules for so long.  The MPs are wanting to exorcise their demons.   

So, off we go. The MPs want to ask the 80-year old Rupert a number of questions first. He starts to struggle with them. He is starting to expose his lack of leadership at the helm of his company. His son, who is sitting next to him, is feeling very uncomfortable for his father. Every now and then, James’ discomfort becomes too great for him, and he interrupts to ask if he can perhaps answer the questions on behalf of his father as he will be able to give far more detail. James is told that this will not happen, and that they will get to him in due course.  It is one of the best examples of the Drama Triangle (Karpman), one of TA ‘Games’, that I have witnessed. The MPs are the Persecutor and Rupert is the Victim. Every time James attempts to be the Rescuer, he also becomes a Victim. Time after time.

The MPs are queuing up with their questions and supplementary questions. The scheduled hour passes and it is apparent that this will go on much longer. But what did you expect? If you have been at the hands of the school bully for 20 years and then the school bully comes and says sorry and a person in authority says that you can take your retribution if you want to, you might take it. And if you can give him one metaphorical kick, and he can’t fight back, why not give him a few more?

And these MPs were, I think, trying to stay within their Adult ego states. But they didn’t do it very well. There was too much history.  They tried to dress their values and feelings up in Adult terms, but it didn’t work (“Mr Blair visited you hallway round the world before the 1997 election. Anyway, that does not matter”, and “Can you tell us how much all those characters have been paid off?”).  As a result Their Controlling Parent ego states were shining through like early morning sunlight through the slats of a blind. There they were, being Basil whacking his broken down car with a large branch – oblivious to who was watching.

Consequently, the majority of the questioning was disappointingly poor, even though they took 3 hours rather than the planned 1 hour. The Murdochs, on the other hand, remained in the Adult ego state remarkably well.

And then we had Wendi’s walk on part. Enter stage left a person with a foam pie, intent on presenting it unceremoniously into Rupert’s face. Wendi sees this. At this point we are about two and a half hours into the session and she is probably angry and upset on behalf of her husband. What an opportunity to off-load all that anger on to the pie man. And she does so with a right hook. In TA terms, he got stamped. The bell goes – end of the round. All parties retreat to their corners for time out (and to clean up the pie).

A parent who has just verbally laid into their child, and then extricates themselves from the situation, sometimes realises that they should have controlled themselves a little more. They go and be nice to the child to try and make up. Is that what happened to our MPs during the recess? Did the penny drop – either through self-reflection or because someone had the opportunity to tell them? Becasue when they came back, they tried to make up. How impressed they were with Wendi … what a hook … well done Wendy! How Nurturing they were – or were they Adapted, fearing that they might be next? Too late though, they had already shown their true colours.

And then it ended. And in comparison, the time the MPs had with Rebekah Brooks was very tame. But the main event on the billing had been a wonderful illustration of TA in action. Just a little disappointing that it turned out like a sitcom when it should have been so revealing.

Well, I think that’s ensured I will never have any opportunity of supplying services to the Murdoch empire.  And perhaps I should change my phone pin number while I remember …


Split your personality – improve your performance

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

One aspect of self-development that I have been working on with a number of individuals recently has been the aspect of how we do not always operate as ‘one’.  There are aspects of ourselves that we don’t always understand or access.  Failing to access such information stops us from being as effective as we could be.

This post develops the themes of Transactional Analysis (TA) and Emotional Intelligence (EI), so you may find it useful to access my previous blogs on these subjects prior to, during or after reading this post – links to which are through the theory titles above.

As a trainer, when facilitating a group, and someone (we will call them Sam) makes a comment, I sometimes think to myself, “What a daft thing to say”, or “Do you realise what you have just really said?” These are critical thoughts emanating from my Controlling (Critical) Parent ego-state – my beliefs and values. Up to that point I had been thinking and speaking from the Adult ego-state – my rational and objective thoughts. It is generally accepted that adults learn most effectively when the facilitator is non-judgemental (Malcolm Knowles, Andragogy), so I know that I’m best not to externalise my judgemental thoughts.  I also know that Sam has missed the point and so needs to consider their thoughts and other points of view. So, I say to the group, “What are anybody else’s thoughts on what Sam has just said?” This will then generate a conversation with other members of the group addressing the matter, with Sam being far more likely to openly listen to their peers rather than my views – be they from the Adult or Critical Parent ego-state. And I have maintained, and possibly improved, my relationship with Sam.

In that short scenario, in Transactional Analysis (TA) terms, Eric Berne (founder of TA and photographed above) would say that I had been operating in two different ego-states – the ‘Executive’ and the ‘Real Self’.  At the start of the scenario, my ‘Executive’ and ‘Real Self’ were at one, but when Sam made the comments that led to my Critical Parent thoughts, the two split. My Critical Parent ego-state was my ‘Real Self’, but my Adult ego state retained ‘Executive’ power. This enabled me to be as personally effective as possible, and to assist the delegate as effectively as possible – as my ‘Executive’ ensured that my Adult ego-state was used in my external transactions.

The challenge, often, when we are exercising both ‘Executive’ and ‘Real Self’ is that there can be incongruence in our gestures, behaviours, mannerisms, etc.  These can be confusing to people if we do not monitor them carefully. If, for example, I was shaking my head as I asked the question, “What are anybody else’s thoughts on what Sam has just said?”, my ‘Real Self’ would be being demonstrated through my body language – and the Adult ego-state would not have full ‘Executive’ power.

This also links with the Personal Competence aspect of Emotional Intelligence. In order to achieve this successfully, a person needs to be aware of their emotions and then use them in order to stay flexible and understand themselves more effectively. This entails experiencing and noting our Child ego states (feelings driven), and then considering – from our Adult ego-state – what we can learn from our Child.

Many people are unaware of this division in themselves, and so cannot take advantage of it. Hence why some people – not through choice – ‘wear their heart on their sleeve’

Have you ever written an email when you are angry or upset, and then put it in the Drafts box, returned to it later and then thought, “Did I really write that?”. Most people then ‘tone it down’ before sending it and thank or congratulate themselves on putting it in the Drafts box in the first place – internal discussions between the ego states.  This situation occurs when you have written the email in your Parent or Child ego-state, and when you have returned to it you have re-read it in your Adult ego-state.

What I have been working on with these individuals is enabling the two to occur simultaneously.  People who can identify the ‘Executive’ and the ‘Real Self’ develop a system which is a bit like gauze or a dam. They have the ability to alter the thickness or denier of the gauze to externalise to others more or less of the ‘Real Self’ dependent upon what is appropriate. Using the dam metaphor, they can open or close the dam to let as much or as little of their ‘Real Self’ into the outside world as they want. As it is practiced and mastered, the person can then achieve this in increasingly challenging and stressful situations.

How do you separate your ‘Executive’ from ‘Real Self’?

When have you used it to great effect?


How do you respond in difficult situations?

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I mentioned the ‘Responses to Dominance’ model in my last post about the Sky Sports sexism furore. I have always found this an interesting and helpful model for enabling us to understand how people may respond differently to ourselves in the same or similar situations.

The model (also sometimes referred to as the ‘Conflict Continuum’) has three named positions on a horizontal line (the continuum). At one end of the line there is the Withdrawal (Avoidance) position, and at the opposite end is the Resistance (Confrontation) position. And in the middle of the line the point labelled Acquiescence (Diffusion).

The model is labelled as a continuum because a person can take any of these positions – but can also change their position on the continuum at any point. People will often adopt different positions in different situations, however, usually a person will have a ‘preferred’ or default position when finding themselves in a position of conflict.

It is possible to develop the Sky Sports scenario further in order to illustrate the model. Let’s say, in our hypothetical situation, that there is a camerawoman who works for Sky Sports who has witnessed the now public sexist incidents (and possibly other similar situations) that have occurred within the Sky Sports studios and elsewhere where Sky Sports have been reporting from. ‘Camerawoman’ is a bit of a mouthful to keep repeating, so let’s call her Jill.

When Jill has witnessed one of these incidents and recognised the sexism, it may well be that she is a little concerned, wondering if whether it the sort of workplace she wants work in. It may be that it takes a few such incidents for her to be concerned. Whenever it occurs, she will probably think about her options. Jill could start looking for another job, or hand in her notice immediately. This latter course of action can sometimes be followed when the situation has a severe impact on the person and possibly brings about a deterioration in their health. Both of these responses would be examples of Withdrawal – as Jill is taking herself away from the situation.

Alternatively, it may well be that she decides that whilst she doesn’t like it, she’s going to tolerate it as she has a lot of friends at the company – and whilst she will tolerate it, she also doesn’t want to rock the boat. So Jill may witness such an incident and one of her male (or female) colleagues might say something like, “You’re okay with this banter, aren’t you – you know we’re not sexist?”. Whilst Jill is uncomfortable with this sort of workplace behaviour, she could replied, “Sexist? Don’t be daft, of course you’re not – it’s a good laugh”. Here Jill would be diffusing the situation, and therefore providing us with a good example of how someone Acquiesces.

Jill’s final possible position on our continuum is that of Resistance. People can resist, or confront, in two ways – through the use of either Negotiation or Power. If Jill chose to give feedback to those involved by explaining what they were doing and how it was impacting on her, she would be confronting the issue through Negotiation. To do this successfully she would be having an Adult (TA) conversation with the other individual(s). It has the potential to be a win-win situation – as the behaviour will cease, Jill will be happier, her colleagues will learn and they will probably be stronger as a team. If you want to build a mature team or organisation, this is the approach that needs to be used – hence why there is such a push for mediation to be used in the workplace.

Jill could also address the matter through the use of Power – either immediately, or perhaps if a Negotiated approach has been unsuccessful. Examples of the use of Power can be taking a person to an Employment Tribunal, or, perhaps specific to this type of workplace, releasing audio or audio visual recordings of the incidents to the wider media, knowing or believing that they would be picked up and broadcast more widely (Perhaps this is what happened in the actual scenario that led to Andy Gray and Richard Keys leaving Sky Sports?). How does this differ from the Negotiated approach? Well, Jill would probably be addressing this from her Parent ego state (TA) – particularly if she went straight for this course of action before trying to address it in any other way – and there is likely to be a win-lose result.

We have to remember – and this is very important – that all positions on the continuum can be appropriate. People need to use the method that is most useful for them at a particular time. If Jill had financial constraints, giving up her job might cause more stress than carrying on in an uncomfortable environment, so Acquiescence would be right for her at that time. And what might be right for the development of the organisation is not necessarily right for the individual.

In my next post, I’ll describe a model that really helps people address conflict successfully – in other words, a model to support the approach of Negotiation.


It’s OK to Allow yourself to – it really is!

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Ever wished you could react more effectively in certain pressure or uncomfortable situations? This post really could be the key to you achieving that.

Within my last post on indecision, I mentioned the Transactional Analysis (TA) concept of ‘Drivers’ – and in particular the “Be perfect” Driver.  This has generated a couple of emails and a discussion with a  colleague – which has prompted me to write a little more about these things called Drivers.

I am surprised that so little is spoken or written about these Drivers as they can have such an impact on a person’s life. Perhaps one or more is having an unhelpful impact on yours?

The theory was developed by Taibi Kahler in the 1970s and there are 5 accepted Drivers – (1) Please Others, (2) Be Perfect, (3) Be Strong, (4) Try Hard, and (5) Hurry Up. They are the same whatever your sex, culture or race.  There is possibly a sixth – Be Careful – although this is in dispute.  

As I explained in the previous post, we can be programmed with these Drivers in our early childhood, and then when we come to adult life they can be quite a hindrance.  It is not known exactly how we take them on, although it is accepted that it is in early childhood, as with many aspects of TA.  One of the suggestions or theories is that they are part of the ‘Script’ we write for ourselves in order to survive in our early months and years, and another is that they are the words we hear from our parents when toilet training.

Kahler detailed specific words, phrases, tones and body language that are associated with each of the Drivers.  It is a real skill to be able to identify when others are affected by one of the Drivers as they can occur for only a second or two – and not generally for longer than 20 seconds or so at a time. It is a little easier to identify your own Drivers through studying the behaviour associated with each and reflecting on how you have behaved in certain situations.

We use them to response to perceived threats where we probably feel threatened. And when we feel threatened – as you may well have experienced in all sorts of situations at work or away from work – we generally think, feel, react and behave in a particular way. This is because we know, somehow, that this series of thoughts, feelings and behaviours have assisted and protected us – and therefore enabled us to survive – on many previous occasions. Unfortunately, these previous occasions were a long, long time ago and since then we have developed a far greater understanding of the world and far more coping mechanisms which are probably of more use in the present day.  We can be trapped by our Drivers.

Does that make sense? Can you think of times recently when you may have used one or more of the Drivers? And if so, how useful were they?

But I have good news for you! For each of the Drivers there is an ‘Allower’.

Driver – Allower

  • Please Others  – It’s OK to consider, respect and please yourself
  • Be Perfect  – It’s okay to be yourself – you’re good enough as you are
  • Be Strong  – It’s OK to be open and express your wants or needs
  • Try Hard  – It’s OK to do it
  • Hurry Up  – It’s OK to take your time

Try an Allower for yourself – they are there for all of us to use. The next time you tell yourself to Hurry Up in a pressurised situation, tell yourself you can take your time. When you feel yourself telling yourself to Be Perfect, accept that you’re good enough and you don’t need to be perfect. It will possibly be uncomfortable – after all, you’ve been living with these Drivers for how many years? So take your time – give yourself time. Because you’re worth it!

If you want to read more about each of the Drivers (and the words, feelings, actions, etc., associated with each), Allowers, Scripts and other TA theories, I would recommend a great book by Ian Stewart and Vann Joines – TA Today.


Need help getting off the fence?

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Indecision has been the theme of this past weekend. It reminded me of the French proverb, “Between two stools one sits on the ground”. It also reminded me of the Turkish proverb, “He became an infidel hesitating between two mosques”. I couldn’t decide which one to use …

The effect of indecision on us and those we manage or interact with can be immense. This was powerfully expressed by William James when he wrote, “There is no more miserable human being than one in whom nothing is habitual” (The Principles of Psychology, 1892)

So, if you want to improve your decision making or think you have a tendancy to procrastinate (and if you can’t decide, then perhaps you have!), here are some tips that will help you:

1. Give yourself enough time to obtain and consider all the information. If you don’t give yourself enough time to do this you are more likely to make a poor quality decision, or miss the opportunity to make a decision. Train or bus, bus or train … – spend too much time thinking about it too close to the time, and you’ll probably miss them both.

2. Don’t think that there is a right and a wrong option (or options).  By thinking in terms of ‘right and wrong’ we can put pressure on ourselves – unnecessarily. Usually there are pros and cons to each option, and one may be better than the other or others, but they are not generally right and wrong. If something is that obvious that one really is right and the others are wrong, it’s usually fairly obvious to us.

3. Take time out to consider what you need to achieve. When we are managing projects or teams, it is easy to get involved in day to day matters and not take time out to think more long term. By considering your vision, your aims, your objectives you have then got something to consider decisions against – and it makes them a whole lot easier to take.

4. Don’t worry about the decision. If you have considered all the information available and made a rational decision, you have done your best. And if it turns out not to be the best decision due to additional information becoming available, it was still the best decision when you made it. And you may well be able to implement an amended decision – most decisions are not final.

5. Avoid perfectionism. Easier said than done! Often in early life we have been programmed by our parents and carers to be perfect – they do it with the best of intentions but it can become unhelpful for us later in life. In Transactional Analysis (TA) the theory suggests that we have 5 possible behaviour drivers – one of these is “Be perfect”. You don’t have to be perfect or make perfect decisions. If this is a particular issue for you, tell yourself that you are good enough as you are – this is the antidote to “Being Perfect”. And if you use these tips, your decisions will be good enough.

6. Communicate clearly with yourself. You have thoughts and feelings. When considering all the information and options, you need to be objective and rational. And when we are considering which way to turn, we have internal discussions.  Those internal conversations need to be clear and not clouded by fear of making the wrong decision, or other negative emotions. Writing down your thought processes can help to ensure you have the most productive internal discussions possible.     

7. Follow your intuition. Be in contact with and use your feelings – this is sometimes referred to as being Emotionally Intelligent (EI). Those of us who do not use our Emotional Intelligence will generally make less effective decisions than those of us who do.  Our brains are wired to make us emotional beings, and the experts suggest we experience more than 450 emotions each day – how much notice do you currently take of that information? If it feels right, it probably will be right.

8. Cut your teeth on small decisions. Try out these techniques on small decisions. This will help you work out what works for you and what may not work – and what might need more practice. By using the process in less important scenarios, it will be easier to use the process in more potentially difficult situations.

Have a go. See what works for you. Or do you have any other tips that have worked for you?


Complementary, Crossed and Hooked

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

In my last two posts, I have started to explain Eric Berne’s theory of Transactional Analysis (TA). In this post, I will outline how it can be used in conversation management. Berne calls a conversation between two or more people “a transaction”, hence the name for his theory.

An example of a transaction between two people where both are in the Adult ego-state would be Jo: “What time is it, Sam?” Sam: “Eleven o’clock”. They are in the Adult ego-state because Jo is asking an objective question and she receives an objective answer.

It is possible to depict this theory as a model. Use the ‘dice’ picture on the left. Write ‘Jo’ above the three circles on the left, and Sam above the three on the right. Then label the top two circles as ‘Parent’, the middle two as ‘Adult and the bottom two as ‘Child’.

Complementary Transactions 

The first example I gave, about asking the time, is an example of a ‘Complementary transaction’ where each party gets the type of reaction that they are expecting. Jo’s Adult ego-state was seeking to engage Sam’s Adult ego-state, which they did. So, if you drew this theory as a model, you could have an arrow from Jo’s Adult (left middle circle) to Sam’s Adult (right middle circle), and an arrow in the opposite direction for Sam’s response. The two arrows would be parallel with each other, hence why this is called a ‘Complementary Transaction’ (and sometimes a ‘Parallel Transaction’).   

Crossed Transactions

Later in the day they have a further conversation, after Jo has received feedback on a report saying that it is not to the standard they require. Jo: “I’d like you to explain what you want me to do differently”. Sam responds curtly: “I haven’t got time, go away”.

So, Jo’s Adult ego-state is seeking to engage Sam’s Adult – but this doesn’t happen. Sam responds from her Critical Parent ego-state (because what she says is from her values, not an objective explanation as to why there is insufficient time, and due to the tone of delivery). The use of the Critical Parent ego-state in this manner is attempting to engage with Jo’s Adapted Child – because Sam doesn’t want Jo to continue the interaction. Jo is supposed to feel negative, and therefore less likely to respond.

If you were to draw this on our diagram, you would have the same arrow for Jo’s transaction, however, for Sam you would have an arrow from the top right circle down to the bottom left circle. The lines cross – hence we have a “Crossed Transaction”. Such transactions lead to ineffective communication and often to conflict.


The skill in using this theory in managing conversations is to ‘hook’ the other person into their required ego state.

If Jo continued this second conversation, Jo might well respond by saying, “I don’t want to be a pest, and I don’t want to waste your time, but how specifically does the report need amending?”

By responding in this way, the first two parts of the sentence are from the Adapted Child ego-state (‘feeding’ Sam’s Parent ego-state), and the last part (asking for specific information as to how to amend the report) is from the Adult ego state – thus attempting to ‘hook’ Sam’s Adult.  

Hooking is a very powerful skill and one which many people use to great effect – both in the workplace and in their leisure time.


How to tell an ego-state

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

My last blog post introduced Transactional Analysis (TA). Here is a little more detail on the ego states themselves.

The Parent ego-state:

This contains patterns of behaviour from significant authority figures (primarily parents or carers) including morals and values, their idea of right and wrong, good and bad.

The Parent state has two sides to it:

1. The Critical Parent (CP) – typified by statements such as, “You shouldn’t”, “How dare you”.

2. The Nurturing Parent (NP) – with “I’ll take care of you”, or “You did really well”, being statements that could be driven by a person being in the NP ego-state.

A typical tone of voice could be stern, condescending (CP) or caring, sympathetic (NP). Gestures might include frowning, crossed arms, finger pointing/wagging (CP) or supportiveness by arm on shoulder or pat on back (NP).

Often these characteristics are the same as or similar to the influential people from a person’s early life.

The Adult ego-state:

This is the clear thinking, rational, analytical way of dealing with the reality of the present.

In the Adult ego state (A) the individual is commonly problem solving or dealing with information in some logical way.

Characteristics are typically the calm and even tone of voice, asking open questions, seeking and evaluating options and proposing alternative courses of action.

The Child ego-state:

This does not mean behaving childishly but is concerned with behaviour and feelings as they were experienced in childhood.

The Child state has two sides to it:

1. The Free Child (FC) is spontaneous, fun loving, uninhibited.

 2. The Adapted Child (AC) – Typical characteristics of the Adapted Child are, “please”, “sorry”, “I’ll try harder”; whining voice or mumbling, perhaps taunting or manipulative; polite; spiteful; looking away or down.

 As the constraints of dealing with others (particularly authority figures, either through their positions or their behavioural characteristics) take effect, the Adapted Child (AC) emerges.

 Summary of drivers

 Put very simply, the ego-states are driven by the following drivers:

  • Parent driver = beliefs
  •  Adult driver = thoughts
  • Child driver = feelings

None of the ego-states is intrinsically better than any of the others, but each is appropriate in different situations and will have a different effect on those with whom we communicate.

And I’ll explain more about its use in managing communication and conversations in my next post.


Theory or Model?

Sunday, November 14th, 2010

During an event I was running last week I was asked what the difference is between a Model and a Theory. The short answer is that a Model ‘represents’ and a Theory ‘explains’.

A Theory usually starts with a number of assumptions, which are then tested. The assumptions generally relate to a logical chain of objective reasoning. The testing leads to conclusions and possible further testing. And a Theory is born. The theme for the testing of any effective Theory is that of validity.

A Model, in the learning and development  environment, is generally accepted to be a symbolic or graphic representation of a theory, system or intricate process. It will often show the inter-relationship between the differing aspects of the theory.  It is intended to explain and as such is often a simplification and does not contain all the detail. The theme for the testing of and effective Model is that of utility.

Incidentally, this reminds me of a quote I once read somewhere – and successfully remembered for some reason. It was explaining what a Model was and it stated, “A Model is a theoretical reflection, an approximation of reality, but like a map it helps us see the ground a little more clearly”. I do wish I could forget some of these things I have learned in the past and remember things that are of more use.

Anyway, a week before being asked the Model and Theory question – during a management development programme – I was asked what was the best Theory that I knew. I found (and find) this a very difficult question to answer. It’s a little like asking me what my favourite piece of music is – it will depend on the situation and circumstances. Having said that, whilst it will depend on the setting, I would probably have to go for Transactional Analysis (TA). I would choose TA for a number of reasons:

  • It is perhaps the most versatile Theory I know in that it is applicable to so many situations.
  • It is fundamental to so many situations as it improves communications and assists in building rapport.
  • It is relatively easy to understand.
  • I have witnessed more personal and professional development by individuals and teams through the application of this Theory than any other.

This Theory was developed by Dr Eric Berne in the 1960s and has since been popularised in books such as his own, “Games People Play” and Harris’ “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”.

Berne developed the theory that at various times individuals behave in different ways which are identifiable through different types of behaviour. These different types of behaviour he called “ego-states” and he labelled named them as “Parent”, “Adult” and “Child”. 

According to Berne (and no one has really threatened this theory in the intervening years) people are always operating in one of these three ego-states.

The ego-states are so named because they reflect behaviour typically exhibited by parents, adults and children. It should be understood from the outset, however, that the states have nothing to do with actual ages. For example, a 5 year old person can be in the Adult or Parent ego-state, and a childless person can be in the parent ego-state.

Earlier this year, having delivered a session on TA on a Leadership Programme, I found that one of the delegates had found the input so impactive, he had resigned from his job and returned to his native France to find an ex-girlfriend as it had enabled him to understand why the relationship had initially failed. I say initially failed as they are now back together again.

Whilst this level of impact is an extreme example, it is testament to the powerful understanding this theory can deliver when applied to personal or professional situations.

In my next blog, I will explain more about TA.