Transactional analysis as the key to better communication

Reading time 12 minutes
Transactional analysis as the key to better communication

Interpersonal communication offers a lot of potential for conflict. Every person brings their very own traumas with them, which are usually unconsciously reflected in the way they communicate. For this reason, it can quickly happen that verbal or non-verbal signals are misinterpreted by the other person.

Since this is a very exciting and almost inexhaustible topic, psychology has developed several models that help to fathom the human personality structure and behavior. One of the most proven concepts is the so-called transactional analysis. We would like to introduce this to you in the following.

History of Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis was developed by the American psychologist Eric Berne developed in the mid-1950s. His assumptions were based on findings from behavioural psychology, humanistic psychology and depth psychology, which he combined with each other.

The goal of transactional analysis to this day is to help people reflect on their own behavior and change it when necessary. Transactional analysis is based on the idea that every person is valuable and okay. Especially in the field of psychological suffering, this belief was considered very progressive in the 1950s.

Although transactional analysis was developed a long time ago, today it is more current than ever. Transactional analysis is constantly being developed and supplemented with new insights. It is possible to focus on different areas depending on the client's concerns.

Transactional Analysis Definition

In a nutshell, transactional analysis is a psychological theory of human personality structure. The focus is on interpersonal interaction. In detail, however, transactional analysis is very complex because it is based on several concepts.

In contrast to other models in psychology, transactional analysis makes it clearer than ever that human personalities cannot be pigeonholed. Therefore, a wide variety of life conditions and situations are included:

Ego States

The ego states form the basis of transactional analysis. Here we have to distinguish between the parent ego, the child ego and the adult ego. We will go into this in more detail later.

Inner Drivers

Transactional analysis distinguishes between five different inner drivers:

  • Be perfect! (requirement: accuracy and avoidance of errors)
  • Be pleasing to others! (claim: friendliness and adaptation)
  • Make an effort! (requirement: determination and perseverance)
  • Be strong! (Claim: courage, strength and independence)
  • Hurry up! (Claim: Exploitation of unique opportunities)

As you can see, the inner drivers are basically positive. However, it is hardly possible to fulfill all these demands at the same time. If the influence of the inner drivers becomes too great, this can lead to conflicts. Usually one or two drivers dominate, so that other potentials can no longer be exploited. This costs you an enormous amount of mental strength.

Psychological games

Psychological games are another concept of transactional analysis. This refers to a pattern of communication that triggers oppressive feelings in at least one of the participants. Psychological games can be of different nature. Often they are based on behavioural patterns from childhood. With the help of psychological games, people intend to get attention, even if it is negative.

Another goal of psychological games can be the avoidance of responsibility and unpleasant situations. Psychological games are based on ambiguity. The player deliberately chooses gestures and words that manipulate his opponent in the desired direction. If this does not succeed, it arouses anger. But even if the Manipulation succeeds, often both parties feel bad.

Passivity concept

The passivity concept is another building block of transactional analysis. The name already suggests what is meant by it. Life is characterized by ever new challenges and problems that need to be solved. If, however, someone does nothing to change the undesirable state despite the pressure of suffering, we speak of the passivity concept.

What may sound illogical at first conceals a deeper psychological meaning. Sometimes you don't want to leave an unpleasant situation for fear of even worse consequences. This can negative beliefs contribute, such as: "I can't manage to change anything anyway."

Or the person is simply afraid of losing their Leave comfort zone. Another reason could be emotional dependence. One is, for example, in his Relationship deeply unhappybut still believes that he is not viable without his partner.

Meshes and feelings

In transactional analysis, an emotional pattern is a deeply rooted behavioral pattern that is unconsciously replayed again and again in similar situations. For example, some people are always angry when they have a mishap. Others, on the other hand, feel fundamentally sad or guilty in the same situation.

However, stuck feelings are not always appropriate, let alone productive. It is a substitute emotion that covers up other possible emotions. You can find the origin of your emotional pattern in childhood. Most of the time there were caregivers to whom you oriented yourself in this respect.

Life script

According to transactional analysis, the life script describes your unconsciously preconceived life plan. This is formed in your childhood and can be both positive and negative. If you find yourself in similar situations again and again, this could be related to your life script.

The latter is basically akin to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you're assuming it's going to end badly with you, you might be right about that. The same is true in reverse. The good news is that you can always rewrite your life script!

The concepts of transactional analysis as a compass

The individual concepts of transactional analysis can be understood as a kind of compass. Depending on the interpersonal situation you are in, you can use this compass to correctly classify your own behavior and that of your counterpart. In this way, conflicts can be avoided or solved more easily.


On what principles is transactional analysis based?

It has already been mentioned briefly - at this point, however, we would like to take a closer look at the most concise starting points of transactional analysis. At first glance, these sound quite simple:

  • I'm okay.
  • You're okay.

What does not sound very spectacular at first was a revolution in psychoanalysis of the last century. Eric Berne assumed that every human being is born with healthy potential. Whereas mentally ill people were considered inferior for a long time in history, transactional analysis states that even mentally ill people are full and valuable personalities.

Furthermore, transactional analysis assumes that while every human being with healthy Potential is born, but he must exploit this himself. The prerequisites for the latter are not always given. This can be caused, for example, by unfavorable life circumstances. Nevertheless, with the help of transactional analysis, everyone can learn to see through and change harmful behavioral patterns.

But of course there are many more steps to be taken to communicate successfully and achieve goals.

For more information on how you can learn a positive communication strategy, click here:

The three ego states

Eric Berne understood interpersonal communication as a doorway to the psyche. The way we communicate is a mirror of our character, emotions and experiences. Basically, Berne divided the schemas to be observed into three ego states.

Important to know: Each of us has all three ego states, but they can be dominant in different ways.

The Parent Ego

For a child, parents are the first role models. What they pass on to us shapes the rest of our lives. This is especially true of the guiding principles and beliefs that parents pass on to their children in the first six years of life. Children under the age of six are not yet in a position to critically question rules and instructions.

Those who act in the parent ego patronize, mother or reprimand their interlocutor as if they had a small child in front of them. Often convictions are represented that one has internalized oneself in the first six years of life.

However, the parent ego also expresses itself on a non-verbal level. If someone shakes their head indulgently, frowns or sighs regretfully in conversation with you, you will know in the future that the person you are talking to has taken on the "parental role". Self-explanatorily, this can lead to conflict. After all, what adult wants to be treated like a child?

The adult ego

Acting in the adult ego is the most desirable form of communication. If you consider your interlocutor to be an equal, or if you are treated by your interlocutor as a fully-fledged adult, the potential for conflict decreases significantly.

Someone who communicates in the adult ego can assess their scope of action. While you experience situations passively in the parent ego or child ego, you can actively influence events from the position of the adult. The decisions made are based on verified facts from all three ego states.

In interpersonal communication, the adult ego is characterized by attentiveness as well as self- and other-reflection. Disinterest or derogatory gestures are not part of the conversation.

The child ego

The child ego orients itself to the rules of the parent ego. In this ego state, one often experiences intense and sometimes overwhelming emotions. Since the child ego is based on the emotional world of a small child under the age of six, according to Berne, the experienced helplessness is a major issue.

Most children experience various traumas in their first years of life, which give them a negative self-image. Those who act in the child ego often appear less self-confident and are hardly able to reflect on their behavior. Typical for the child ego are defiant or silly behaviors.

Yet the child ego is by no means all negative. In fact, you should treat your inner child lovingly and be aware of its positive characteristics make use of it. When you operate in the child ego, you are more creative and imaginative than in the other two ego states. There are various concepts for understanding and healing your inner child. Training as a Greator C can help to explore trigger points from childhood and also help other people.

Father and son

What is transactional analysis used for?

Transactional analysis is mainly used in the context of psychotherapy or psychological counselling. Transactional analysis is also used outside the psychological practice. For example, it is an important component in adult education and in organizational areas.

A transaction occurs whenever two or more people exchange information with each other. The analysis of transactions can help to improve cooperation. For this reason, more and more companies and corporations are taking up the concept and offering appropriate seminars and training courses. With the help of transactional analysis, a pleasant working atmosphere can be created and maintained.

In psychological practice, people who have difficulties in the interpersonal sphere benefit most from transactional analysis. The approach of transactional analysis therefore makes a difference in patients with social phobias, anxiety disorders and Inferiority complexes Sense.

Examples of transactional analysis

Basically, every exchange of words, no matter how fleeting, can be subjected to a transactional analysis. There is often a certain discrepancy between the wording and the non-verbal signals. This means that a factual core statement (adult ego) can appear patronising (parent ego) or submissive (child ego) through the tone of voice or gestures.

Transactional analysis: examples in private life

Situation: person A asks person B, "Can you please take out the trash?"

Parent ego: Person A asks this question in a very demanding way. She is convinced that person B cannot see the necessity by himself. Therefore, Person A feels that she must teach Person B that a trash can must be emptied regularly. This is expressed through a reproachful, stern undertone as well as disapproving gestures. The unspoken message is: "I don't trust you to recognize tasks. So I'm telling you clearly what to do."

Child-I: Person A hardly dares to ask person B for the favor. The request to take out the trash is delivered haltingly and nervously. The low Self-confidence is made clear by a soft voice and avoidance of eye contact. Person A is afraid of being reprimanded or rebuked when he expresses his wish. Person A does not want to upset person B under any circumstances. However, it is also conceivable that person A reacts with childlike defiance because she feels disturbed by the full trash can.

Adult ego: Person A neutrally reminds person B of a task that needs to be done. It is neither a reproach nor a judgment as to why the trash can is still in the apartment. The tone of voice is calm, direct eye contact is sought. Person A perceives person B as an equal and communicates with them at eye level. Person A does not feel the need to be overly emphatic about the request, nor does he or she present it in a particularly timid manner.

What do we learn from this? Short conclusion and solution approach

Ego states can change all the time. You can change from your adult ego to your parent ego or child ego within a few minutes. Sometimes all it takes is a small external stimulus, such as a trigger point that your conversation partner doesn't know about. How the transaction goes, of course, also depends on the reaction of person B.

Most of the time, a destructive communication approach provokes the unconscious resistance of the other person. This means that your interlocutor almost automatically assumes the opposite ego state. If you act in the parent ego, you will probably awaken a submissive or defiant child ego in your counterpart. If you yourself create a childlike, submissive impression, your conversation partner will almost unconsciously fall into his parent ego.

Have you noticed anything? The greatest potential for conflict exists when the two conversation partners assume the parent-child constellation. If you are aware of the meaning of transactional analysis and are able to interpret your own ego states, you can willingly shift into your adult ego. Here's what happens: If you take an adult position and convey equivalence to your interlocutor, he will do the same to you!

Transactional analysis: examples in professional life

Even more precarious than in private life is destructive communication in professional life. With the help of transactional analysis, you can succeed in achieving your professional goals more easily.

Situation: person A asks person B, "Do you feel prepared for the meeting?"

Parent ego: Person A asks this question with clearly audible doubt in her voice. She may frown or make some other worried gesture. Person A conveys to Person B that she does not trust her to have prepared adequately for the meeting. Person A may still want to give Person B tips to keep the whole thing from ending in disaster. Person A thinks he or she is much more competent than person B and expresses this in words, facial expressions and gestures.

Child-I: Person A has the worst fears about the meeting. In order to calm herself down a little, she timidly asks person B if she has prepared herself sufficiently. Since Person A would never trust herself with this task, she wants to check with someone else. Similar to a child who seeks support from his parents.

Adult ego: Person A asks person B attentively and with interest whether the latter has prepared well for the meeting. There is no apprehension or judgement in the question, person A asks out of honest interest. The tone of voice is calm, the body posture is turned towards person B. There are no hidden undertones in the question.

How can you use transactional analysis specifically for yourself?

As you can see from the examples just given, communications from the perspective of the adult ego are much more pleasant for all parties. Therefore, it is desirable to mobilize your adult self in important situations. In order for you to succeed in this, you must first be aware of when you have unintentionally placed yourself in one of the other two ego states. The above examples are representative of numerous similar situations that occur every day.

Basically, you will notice quite quickly if you have unintentionally entered into your parent ego or child ego. Successful communication requires mutual respect. So if you sense that you are not taking the person you are talking to seriously, shout "Stop!" inwardly and leave your parent ego. Keep reminding yourself that you are treating the person you are talking to with the same respect. Appreciation that you wish for yourself. An interlocutor who does not feel taken seriously will never be able to communicate with you. successful cooperate.

If you are in your child ego, you will feel insecure and uncomfortable within the communication. There is only one thing that can help here: Consciously and consistently go against your Uncertainty and show the person you are talking to that they are talking to an adult. Get over yourself to express your views and avoid showing frustration if something doesn't go your way.

In summary, this means: You need to develop a sense of your ego states, which is usually quite easy to do. If you catch yourself in an unwanted ego state, it is a matter of immediately adopting the perspective of your adult ego with the power of your mind. If you still do not succeed on your own, the training for the Greator Life Coach There you will not only learn to recognize which "I" you are in and to step into your adult self, but also to support other people in this process.

What other ways are there to learn transactional analysis?

Surely you are familiar with the fact that you emotionally overreact to some statements or behaviors of your fellow men. These are often trigger points that have their origin in your childhood. If someone presses these trigger points, it feels absolutely unbearable for you. The result is unreflective outbursts of tears or anger from your hurt inner child. In interpersonal communication, especially in professional life, such emotional outbursts are extremely counterproductive.

This is where we at Greator apply our lying 8 method. In the Greator Life Coach Training we deal with the present in detail and ask ourselves as calmly as possible the question: "What is going on with me right now?" Through focused inner-child meditation and reflection, the nagging trigger points can be gradually dissolved. This not only has a healing effect on your soul life, but also improves your Communication skills.

Furthermore, we give you in your Greator Life Coach training the necessary tools in your hand to freely shape your life (again) according to your wishes. It is your life, you create your present and future. Through the conscious perception of your emotions and needs, you can develop positively and also master difficult conversation situations.

Free personality test

Only 3 minutes!
Scientifically proven
Take the free test now
Reviewed by Dr. med. Stefan Frädrich

Like this article? Don't forget to share!

Recommended by Greator

Greator SloganGreator Awards
Data privacy
Cookie settings
© copyright by Greator 2024