TA has two basic underlying assumptions:
- All the events and feelings that we have ever experienced are stored within us and can be replayed, so we can re-experience the events and the feelings of all past years.
- Personality is made up of three ego states that are revealed in distinct ways of behaving. The ego states manifest themselves in gesture, tone of voice and action, almost as if they are different people within us and they converse with each other in transactions either overtly and covertly.
- Adult ego states- behavior that concern out thought processes and the processing of information. In this state we may be objective, rational, reasonable-seeking information and receiving facts.
- Parent ego state-behavior that concerns the attitudes, feelings and behavior incorporated from external sources, primarily our parents. This state refers to feelings about right and wrong and how to care for other people.
- Child ego state- behavior that demonstrates the feelings we remember as a child. This state may be associated with having fun, playing, impulsiveness, rebelliousness, spontaneous behavior and emotional response.
We all have a preferred ego state which may revert to: some individuals may continually advise and criticise others(the constant Parents); some may analyze , live only with facts and distrust feelings( the constant Adult); some operate with strong feelings all the time, consumed with anger or constantly clowning (the constant Child). Berne emphasized that the states should be judged as superior or inferior but as different. Analysis of ego states may reveal why communication breaks down or why individual may feel manipulated or used.
Berne insists that it is possible to identify the ego state from the word, voice, gestures, and attitude of the person communicating. For example, it would be possible to discuss to discern the ego state of the manager, if they said the following:
" Pass me the file on the latest sales figure"
" How do you think we could improve our safety record?
(Adult ego state)
" Let me help you with that-I can see you are struggling"
" Look , this is the way it should be done; how many more times do I have to tell you?
(Parent ego state)
" Great, it's Friday. Who's coming to the pub for a quick half?
" That's a terrific idea-let's go for it"
(Child ego state)
A dialogue can be analyzed in terms not only of the ego state but also whether the transaction produced a complementary reaction or a crossed reaction. Complementary means that the ego state was expected and preferred response. So for instance, if we look at the first statement, "Pass me the file on the latest figures, the subordinates could respond: "Certainly- I have it here' Adult ego state) or " Can't you look for it yourself? I only gave it to you an hour ago' (Parent ego state).
The first response was complementary whereas the second was a crossed transaction. Sometimes it ma be important to cross a transaction. Take the example "Let me help you with that- I can see you struggling' (Parent ego state) The manager may have a habit of always helping in a condescending way, making the subordinate resentful. If the subordinate meekly accepts the help with a thankful reply, this will reinforce the manager's perception and attitude, whereas if the subordinate were to respond with "I can manage perfectly well. Why did you think I was struggling ?, it might encourage the manager to respond from the Adult ego state and thus move their ego position.
Knowledge of TA can be of benefit to employees who are dealing with potentially difficult situations. In the majority of work situations the Adult-Adult transactions are likely to be norm. Where work colleagues perceive and respond by adopting the Adult ego state , such a transaction is more likely to encourage a rational, problem -solving approach and reduce the possibility of emotional conflict.
If only the world of work was always of the rational logical kind. Communications at work as elsewhere are sometimes unclear and confused, and can leave the individual with bad feelings and uncertainty. Berne describes a further dysfunctional transaction, which can occur when a message is sent to two ego states at the same time. For instance, an individual may say " I passed that article to you last week, have you read it? This appears to be an adult to adult transaction and yet the tone of voice or the facial expressions might imply a second ego state. is involved. The underlying message says, Haven't you even read that yet... you know how busy I am and yet I had time to read it! The critical Parent is addressing the Child ego state. In such " ulterior transactions" the social message is typically adult to adult and the ulterior , psychological message is directed either Parent-Child or Child- Parent.
Given the incidence of stress in the workplace, analysis of communications occurring within the workplace. TA can aid the understanding of human behavior. It can help to improve communication skills by assisting in interpreting a person's ego state and which form of state is likely to produce the most appropriate response. This should lead to an improvement in both customer relations and management -subordinate relations. Therefore TA can be seen as valuable tool to aid our understanding of social situations and the games that people play both in and outside work organization.