Dr. Eric Berne’s theory of Transactional Analysis, set out in ‘Games People Play’. This theory claims that people have three levels of acting and reacting in their dealings with others. Which they choose will vary depending on their situation and who they are with.
- Parent - which deals with the shoulds and should nots of life.
The parent attitude is “I’m OK, you’re not OK -- I know better than you”.
It is aggressive behaviour
- Child - which deals with how everyone felt as children, dependent on others.
The child attitude is “I’m not OK, you’re OK -- You know better than me”. It is passive or passive-aggressive behaviour.
- Adult - the state in which people make decisions based on current information and past experience.
The adult attitude is “I’m OK, you’re OK -- We both have valid points of view”.
It is assertive behaviour.
The way you act prompts a complementary or parallel response in your listener. The parallel and complementary responses are illustrated below:
Controlling Parent _____________Nurturing Parent
(overbearing aggressive) (manipulating aggressive)
Adult ___________ \/ ___________ Adult
(assertive) /\ assertive)
Natural Child________Rebellious Child
(passive) (passive aggressive)
A parent comment, for example, is likely to get either a parent or a child response:
“Young people today ...” (parent)
“Yes, I don’t know what the world is coming to.” (parent)
“Look! Swings!” (child)
“Let's play! Bet I can go higher than you!”
“Dinner at Luigi's this Friday?” (adult)
“No, last time I went ther it was awful - let's try that new placeby the river.”
“Eat your greens.” (nurturing parent)
“Yes, Mum.” (natural child)
“Haven't you finished that report yet? I can't trust anyone round here to do anything!” (controlling parent)
“You're always on my case! Nothing I do is ever good enough!.” (rebellious child.)
If the response you receive does not match the comment you made, it tends to bring the conversation to a halt, as non-parallel, or crossed responses generally make people feel uncomfortable. Therefore, if you wish to shift a conflictual conversation to an adult, assertive basis, you need to respond with adult comments - after two or three, the other person is will almost certainly shift to meet you on the adult plane.
for instance, look at one of the examples above:
“Haven't you finished that report yet? I can't trust anyone round here to do anything!”
“I've finished what you asked me to do. I'm just making some final adjustments to take account of the latest market information that came in this morning.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah - you've always got plenty of excuses.” (controlling parent)
“If you need it now, there's a previous version on my desk that's complete up to the end of business yesterday. otherwise I'll have this one finished in an hour. ”
“It's really pretty urgent. I'll take the finished version. Thanks, Jill.”
, there's nothing wrong with indulging your [inner child[ - or inner parent - from time to time, but it's always useful to keep trak of where a conversation
is going, so tht you control it, rather than letting it control you.