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Transactional Analysis

The term Transactional Analysis (TA) was first introduced by Eric Berne (1964). TA focuses on analysing the nature of people's verbal interactions with each other. TA is a technique for examining the nature of the interpersonal communication between two individuals and to analyze whether or not effective communication is taking place. Every piece of conversation is treated as a transaction. That is, when I talk to X, it is one transaction, and when X responds, its another transaction. As stated each transaction emanates from parent, adult or ego state of the individuals. The parent ego state is authoritarian, the adult ego state is rational, and the child state is impulsive; though all of us transact from all three ego states from time to time, each one of us generally tends to have a dominant ego state from which we transact most of the time. Communication is effective when the sender and receiver of the message operate from ego states that match, rather than conflict with each other. The basic tenet of TA is that each one of us operates from three ego states and there are compatible and incompatible messages that we send to each other from time to time. By analysing the messages, we will be able to engage in more fruitful and effective communication patterns. Ego States Each one of us operates from three ego-states - the Parent, the Adult, and the Child. The parent state reflects our feelings of superiority, authority, being judgemental, and-so on: these are feelings that we have picked up from our own parents as we were growing up. The adult state reflects maturity, objectivity, logic, and rational problem solving tendencies. The child state reacts our tendencies as a child dependent, impulsive, rebellious, and the like. Each one of us operates from all three ego states at different times and this is reflected in our communication with each other. Most of us, however, resort to one mode of interaction most of the time either from the parent or adult or child state. Observe how bosses differ in how they normally communicate with their subordinates!

Any verbal communication between one party and another can be treated as a transaction. If I ask my son, "How was your day? What have you been doing? "It is considered as one transaction, and if he replies, "Why are you asking me these kinds of probing questions?" it is another transaction. The conversation between any two persons can be analysed in terms of the ego state from which each of the transactions emanates. Transactions can be (l) complementary (2) crossed, or (3) ulterior. Complementary Transactions come from compatible ego states, for example, adult to adult, child to child, parent to child, etc., where expected responses naturally occur. Crossed transactions occur when a message from one ego state is responded to by a message coming from an incompatible ego state in the other person. An adult-child transaction would be an example of this as evidenced in the above-cited imaginary conversation with my son. Crossed transactions usually result in resentment, hurt, anger, and frustration for the parties concerned. An ulterior transaction takes place when two parties say things to each other which circumvent the main issue. For instance, if I went to ask my boss for a raise, and instead of directly asking him about it, I say things like, "I have been working very hard lately", and the boss, knowing very well what I have come to talk to him about, says, 'There is a lot of work to be done, I have seen Rath and Ram also putting in long hours", we are both engaging in ulterior transactions. I am trying to make the point that I deserve a pay raise by talking about my hard work without bringing in the issue directly, and my boss is indirectly communicating to me that there are others who work hard as well! By not being open about what I want, I have not accomplished my goal and I am giving my boss an opportunity to circumvent the issue. Complementary Transactions have good communication going between the parties. Whereas crossed transactions hinder communication processes. Complementary Transactions Fig. 1 depicts two types of

complementarytransactions. In (a), for instance, the boss might talk from his parent

(critical) state to the subordinate, and say," I don't understand why you have not been submitting the reports that you were supposed to!", to which the subordinate might respond from the child state and say "My God! I just hate writing those boring reports but since you seem to need them, I will start working on them right away!" Here, the boss spoke like a parent to a child (somewhat critical and talking down to the subordinate), and the latter responded like the child to the parent (mildly protesting but then complying). Here the communication was effective inasmuch as it accomplished what it was supposed to. In situation (b) in the figure, two individuals talk from the adult ego state to each other and carry on a rational conversation. For instance, the boss might say, "You have probably been verybusy, Patel, but I would appreciate it if you would try to turn in the reports as soon as possible", and Patel might respond, "Yes, I have been working on this new project which I just finished; I will get to work on the reports right away and make sure that they are on your desk by Monday." Here again, communication has taken place effectively. Crossed Transactions A crossed or non-complementary transaction takes place when people are talking to each other form 'incompatible ego states. For instance, if the boss says, "May be, you and I should sit down and discuss why you are not performing as efficiently as before", she is transacting from the adult (rational) state. If the subordinate then responds, "Yes, I would like to do that so I can really improve my performance":, she is also responding from the adult state, and as we know, they would be effectively communicating with each other. If, on the other hand, the subordinate happens to reply, "I don't know why you always pick on me. I seem to get blamed for everything that goes wrong in this department", then she has a childto-parent response rather than an adult-to-adult response. In other words, she enters the impulsive child state and responds to the boss as if the latter is the authoritarian parent. As shown in Figure c, the vectors cross. In such a case, the manager trying to deal with the subordinate on a rational basis will not be successful in accomplishing the desired results (improving the performance of the subordinate) until the latter has had time to reflect and is prepared to respond on an adult-adult

mode as shown in Figure b (a complementary transaction).





A a a C




Figure - 1Source: (organisational Behaviour, Sekaran,1989)

TA is a useful technique for understanding how people communicate with each other and helps us to identify ways of maximising adult-adult transactions in organisations. TA also helps to quickly identify and untangle crossed transactions. By understanding the extent to which ulterior transactions occur in organisations, efforts can be made, if necessary, to minimise them since avoiding authentic encounters adversely affects effectiveness in the long-run. Employees spend more time playing games than being helpful to each other in getting the job done. Since trust levels are low, the culture of the organisation also experiences a setback. TA training focuses both on the individuals and the processes (or the patterns that people use as their mode of transacting). The objective of the training is to make people understand 1. their own ego states, 2 their most resorted to mode of communicating with others, 3 the effectiveness of complementary transactions. Greater awareness of one's own tendencies and modes of operations increases the interpersonal competence of the trainees. TA training is particularly useful in improving dyadic relationships, say, between the superior and subordinate, or the

client and agent. It should, however, be noted that there is no hard empirically established evidence that training in TA does indeed result in the use of more complementary transactions (Burke, 1982).