Understanding your psychology

Chit Chat

Back in November… I wrote about ‘negotiating’ and promised you a model of communication that might be useful. Indeed, it’s the most useful communications model I know, and I find it extremely helpful in everyday conversations/discussions and negotiation.

It comes from a therapeutic approach called Transactional Analysis. The bit I use from this approach is the basic model. If you are interested and want to read more about it, I recommend TA Today by Ian Stewart and Vann Joines (and no, they aren’t paying me for this plug!). The model can become very complex which is why I stick to the basic framework – this has served me well, I hope you find it interesting too.

The model begins with the premise that when we are talking to someone, it doesn’t matter who/what/why/when, we ‘take a position’; the other person also takes a position. The positions are like this:




P  stands for Parent and we talk about ‘authorative, harsh, cruel’ and ‘nurturing’.

A  stands for Adult and we talk about ‘rational, logical, little or no emotion’.

C  stands for Child and we talk about ‘playful, creative’ and ‘angry, sulky, submissive, fearful, shy’

We may take a regular position in our conversation with certain people while with others we may move around the positions within one conversation. If I’m talking to my bank manager about wanting a loan, I will take an Adult position and hopefully the bank manager will too, so it looks like this:

If I’m ill, I tend to communicate to my husband from ‘feeble Child’, I do this because I crave his ‘nurturing Parent’ when I’m feeling poorly.

When he’s ill, I try to communicate from ‘nurturing Parent’ but he often remains resolutely in Adult ‘It’s ok I’ve just got a cold’. I then move myself into Adult at this point ‘Ok!’. Remember, it’s not just the words, we have to consider ‘tone’ too.

Did you know that your behaviours are also a form of communication? Think about ending a row by stomping off and slamming the door. What are you communicating?  Which position is this?

When I’m talking to my children (who are in their 30s by the way) I’m generally positioned in nurturing Parent, sometimes to their annoyance! ‘How are you getting home?’ I ask, ‘Do you need help with that?’ and so on.

At other times, I don’t try to shunt them into Child but talk to them Adult to Adult. It depends on the situation, partly on how I’m feeling and partly whether I’ve worked out what they would prefer/need in that moment.

People often fear conflict. They will do anything, even sacrifice their strongest desires and wishes in order to ‘avoid confrontation’. Can you see how this model might help? Generally, people fear those who sound authorative, bossy, angry! They feel diminished, frightened, insecure. So they position themselves in Child and see the other communicating from ‘authorative/harsh Parent’.

If you know that you fear having a meeting with a person because that person tends to be confrontational, have a think about the position you probably adopt (fearful Child?). What would it take for you to move into Adult? It can be really helpful at these times to think about ‘what would the Adult say?’

Something I should say about authorative/harsh Parent, this communication tends to sound aggressive and there is a direct relationship between this position and ‘angry Child’. If the ‘other’ doesn’t respond to the authoritative Parent as they would wish, they are likely to move into angry Child. If the ‘other’ is in ‘angry Child’, then we have ‘angry Child’ to ‘angry Child’.

This is just like being in the playground, there are winners and losers and the communication is unhelpful and potentially aggressive.

If the ‘other’ moves in to ‘angry Child’ while you are positioned in Adult, it can be useful at this point to notice their transposition and move yourself to ‘nurturing Parent’ just like you would with an actual angry child. Sometimes it can be the quickest way to diffuse the situation.

Try to practice listening to conversations, friends, work colleagues, shop keepers, TV soaps (these are great and usually written child to child in my experience!). Start to consider how you communicate with those close to you, do you see patterns emerging?

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