Nobody enjoys getting into conflict situations at work; but unfortunately, sometimes they are unavoidable. If you feel that you’re often butting heads with someone in the office, psychology may have the answer in the form of Transactional Analysis.
What is transactional analysis?
Transactional analysis, or TA as it’s often referred to, is a therapeutic model developed by Eric Berne in the 1950s. As a theory it’s certainly not one of the modern ones, but it’s been used time and time again within businesses to help employers and employees alike.
Eric Berne believed that we can learn to communicate better by first acknowledging the way that we communicate - analysing, if you will, our social ‘transactions’. A transaction, to Eric Berne, was a conversation or a social interaction between two people.
So, how do we analyse how we communicate?
According to Transactional Analysis, there are three ego states; Parent, Adult and Child. We communicate best when we both communicate from our Adult ego state; we run into problems in the workplace when we communicate from our Parent or our Child.
So, to analyse how we communicate, first we need to figure out which ego state we often communicate from. The video below explains these ego states for us.
So, when we talk from our adult, we are respectful and aware of the situation, and of the people that we communicate with. In our adult ego states, we don’t feel inferior or more important than the person we’re interacting with - we see ourselves as equal. We’re able to take in information in a measured way, accept feedback and change our behaviour when we believe it needs to be changed.
Ok, but how can this be applied to the workplace?
If you’re struggling with communicating effectively in the workplace, examining what triggers your Parent and Child ego state might help. Is someone often talking over you, demanding you complete tasks that aren’t a part of your job? How do you respond? Do you often get angry, and move into a Critical Parent ego state? Or do you find yourself people pleasing, and trying to keep that person happy? That could be an Adaptive Child ego state.
Similarly, maybe you’ve noticed yourself always offering emotional support to a colleague who seems to need continual reassurance? That might be your Nurturing Parent ego state appearing.
Once you’ve figured out who, and what situations trigger your ego state, you’ve begun the process of changing them. Becoming aware of what ego states you slip into is a really important step, because once you’ve acknowledged them you can start to adapt. Accessing your Adult ego state might be easier in some situations, or easier with certain people - but if you can do it with one person, you have the skills to do it with everyone.
By recognising your own triggers, and how you respond to certain colleagues, you can learn to come back to your Adult ego state in conflict situations. At work, it doesn’t matter if your colleague is coming at you in Critical Parent, or Adaptive Child - by moving into your Adult ego state, either you’ll unconsciously encourage them to do the same, or they’ll go and find someone else who will respond to them in the way they want.
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