Leadership: Parent, Adult, Child

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I am publishing this article to help everyone, but it is specifically for one young man who I have known for a short time.

You have a choice when addressing someone in person as to how you sound, what you say and your facial and body expressions.

Before we continue: if you come across as a parent to others, especially if they are (much) senior to you (in rank and/or age), you will only anger them. If you come across as a child- unless you are a child, you will probably do the same. Adult to adult interaction is best between adults, even young adults who are learning. Thank about how you are coming across to others, ask for feedback and learn.

With the Theory of Transactional Analysis (TA), Eric Berne attempts to explain the process of communication, how it can go well and how it can fail, by identifying the players in the process of communication (the transaction). When two people communicate, the transaction sender is called the Agent and the receiver is called the Respondent. The agent sends the Transaction Stimulus and the Respondent gives the Response. Each person is made up of three alter ego states, the Parent, Adult and Child.

The following information on TA comes from http://www.businessballs.com/trans

Original TA Theory

TA Bad CommunicationParent
This is our ingrained voice of authority, absorbed conditioning, learning and attitudes from when we were young. We were conditioned by our real parents, teachers, older people, next door neighbours, aunts and uncles, Father Christmas and Jack Frost. Our Parent is made up of a huge number of hidden and overt recorded playbacks. Typically embodied by phrases and attitudes starting with ‘how to’, ‘under no circumstances’, ‘always’ and ‘never forget’, ‘don’t lie, cheat, steal’, etc, etc. Our parent is formed by external events and influences upon us as we grow through early childhood. We can change it, but this is easier said than done.

Our internal reaction and feelings to external events form the ‘Child’. This is the seeing, hearing, feeling, and emotional body of data within each of us. When anger or despair dominates reason, the Child is in control. Like our Parent, we can change it, but it is no easier.

Our ‘Adult’ is our ability to think and determine an action for ourselves, based on received data. The adult in us begins to form at around ten months old and is the means by which we keep our Parent and Child under control. If we are to change our Parent or Child we must do so through our adult.

In other words:

  • Parent is our ‘Taught’ concept of life
  • Adult is our ‘Thought’ concept of life
  • Child is our ‘Felt’ concept of life

Modern TA Theory

PTA Good Communicationarent
Parent is now commonly represented as a circle with four quadrants:

  • Nurturing – Nurturing (positive) and Spoiling (negative).
  • Controlling – Structuring (positive) and Critical (negative).

Adult remains as a single entity, representing an ‘accounting’ function or mode, which can draw on the resources of both Parent and Child.

Child is now commonly represented as circle with four quadrants:

  • Adapted – Cooperative (positive) and Compliant/Resistant (negative).
  • Free – Spontaneous (positive) and Immature (negative).


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