Transactional Analysis

“Quickly understanding interpersonal behavior and communication.”

Transactional analysis was developed in the 1960s by the American physician and therapist Eric Berne. It is based on his precise observations of human behavior and provides easily understandable practical models to understand why people react and communicate the way they do. The five main concepts of TA for coaching are: ego-states, Egogram, frames of reference, psychological games, scripts and drivers.

These concepts make it easier to understand interpersonal behavior and communication in a wide range of contexts, in order to then professionalize one’s own communication – be it in leadership, sales, consulting or coaching.

The Ego-states
Berne’s observations of human behavior led him to the idea that there are different states of the ‘I’. He called these ego states
The child ego state, in which one shows childlike behaviors, and which is subdivided into “free child”, “adapted child” and “rebellious child”,
the adult ego state, which serves to process and share information without being accompanied by positive or negative feelings,
the parent ego state in which one behaves as one’ s parents or other parent figures have done, and which is subdivided into “caring parent ego” and “controlling parent ego”.

Each of these three ego states is its own unity of thinking, acting and feeling. People display the ego states both in communication with the outside world and in dialog with themselves. “Internal control” also involves the three ego states. In both inner and outer dialog every person possesses all three ego states, but almost everyone has one or two preferred ego states. In order to be able to deal adequately with various life situations, one needs all ego states – there is no good or bad ego state! Ego states are descriptions – not valuations!

The Egogram
An Egogram is a tool that makes it possible to visualize the extent to which the ego states are present in the form of a bar chart. An ego state that is frequently present receives a high bar, one that is less often present gets a correspondingly lower one. In the Egogram, every ego state is represented by bar, because every ego state is more or less present in every human being, even if it is only minimally expressed. The Egogram makes it easier for the coach to understand many of the difficulties that are a topic in coaching, because extremely high and extremely low bars indicate problem areas.

The Frame of Reference
The frame of reference model is an essential concept when it comes to quickly understanding why and how someone is acting. The frame of reference enables people to understand their everyday experiences from the inside. It is also responsible for how people view their environment and their fellow human beings -it acts as a perception filter. This filter determines how people interpret the outside world. In this way, self-image and worldview converge, as do the experiences that have been made in the course of a lifetime, as well as the values that one has adopted from parents and other authority figures, and those that one has adopted for oneself. The frame of reference is the spectacles through which the human being looks at the world and is therefore directly involved in the ‘construction’ of problems. Many problems can be solved by changing the frame of reference.

The term script assumes that people in their childhood develop a combination of beliefs and behavioral patterns based on external influences and experiences. A combination which later leads to them to act in the same way over and over again, so that we can say that these behaviors run like a red thread through their life history. The ‘script’ is the script of a person’s life and that is where the term comes from. Similar to a film script that defines an actor’s role, so that they have no choice whether to be a villain or a romantic lover, the script defines certain recurring patterns of behavior – without the person being aware of it. People follow the prohibitions, the so-called ” injunctions “, which they have unconsciously internalized. Once you have understood a person’s script, you can predict with great certainty how they will react in stressful situations, because especially when under stress, we tend to behave along familiar patterns.

In TA, the drivers are the counterpart to the ‘injunctions’ from script theory. Whereas injunctions are prohibitions, the drivers are commandments. As with the injunctions, there are different degrees of drivers of intensity. Some hardly have an effect; others can be devastating. Unlike the original intention of the parents, drivers do not solve problems – they create problems. In order to activate a driver, certain triggering situations are needed. If a driver is strong, a small stimulus is sufficient; if the driver is weak, special conditions must be met before it is activated. Drivers are a major cause of internal stress because they put pressure on people who as a result are irritable or unfriendly, or make mistakes, which in turn leads to new difficulties. The more drivers that are involved, the higher the stress.

Psychological Games
Psychological games are an important concept in TA because they are ubiquitous and can therefore also be found throughout professional life. They are connected to the Egogram, because the Egogram shows clearly in which situations the client actively offers psychological games and when he/she is easily seduced into playing them. Psychological games, depending on their degree, cause slight to very serious disturbances in communication and their resulting emotional problems, because they always end with negative feelings. In addition, they lead to suffering on the relationship level. Psychological games can have devastating consequences for companies. For example, a company can be massively damaged and blocked if, for example, the games between two managers escalate to such an extent that one repeatedly overrides or violates the other’s orders.

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