Clients often say they wish they wouldn’t be so reactive to people who seem to push their buttons. I sometimes draw from a social psychology theory called Transactional Analysis (TA) to help them recognize what’s going on.
TA was developed by Eric Berne, and made famous by his book, Games People Play. Berne’s theorizes that people relate to one another at one of three levels: parent, child or adult. Communications, or what Berne calls transactions, can be at the same level–for example, parent to parent–or at different levels –such as child to adult. Some examples of each transaction type:
“You never clean up after yourself.”
“Why do I always have to take care of things?”
“Don’t talk to me that way!”
“I don’t have to listen to you.”
“I’ll do what I want to!”
“This isn’t fair.”
“It upsets me when you talk to me that way.”
“I’d like to come up with a solution that’s agreeable to both of us.”
“Can we talk about this without shouting?”
I’ve shared just a sliver of what Transactional Analysis is all about but the basics are useful in quickly identifying what’s going on in communications that aren’t working. When one person is communicating at one level and the other at a different level, communications–or transactions–can break down. So, when someone talks to you at a “parent” level it can be difficult to not respond at a “child” level. If you’re able to recognize the different types of transactions or levels of communication you can make the choice to respond in a way that feels better to you.
With awareness and practice it is possible to change behaviors that aren’t working for you anymore.
Lynne Coon, LPC — counselor serving communities in the greater Portland metropolitan area including: Portland, Vancouver, Lake Oswego, Tigard, Tualatin, Beaverton, Milwaukie, Oregon City, Hillsboro, Forest Grove, King City, West Linn, Wilsonville, Gresham, Troutdale, Scappoose, St Helens, Camas, Brush Prairie, Battle Ground, and Multnomah County, Clackamas County, Washington County and Clark County