Home/Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – The Function of Ego States – How to communicate effectively
My name is Sari van Poelje and I’m an expert in business innovation. I’m the director of two businesses. One is called the Intact Academy where I train coaches and consultants from absolute beginners to supervisor level. The other business is Team Agility where I help businesses innovate their business more quickly than their products. Intact Academy uses many different perspectives, including group relations, systems theory, family constellations, voice dialogue, but mainly we use transactional analysis.
Today, I want to talk about how you use those drawers. So, the last time we talked about the structure of your personality, this time we’ll talk about the functionality.
Last time we said, you have Parent, Adult and Child ego states. Some of the patterns are inherited from your parents, some of it you develop in the here and now, some of them are learned in early childhood. “OK, so if I have this in my archive, how do I communicate?”
We can use the ego state model to describe various styles of communication. Within T.A., we recognize five styles of communication. Two from Parent, two (or three) from Child and one Adult style. We call this the functional analysis of those states. It’s the difference between analyzing the car (structural ego states) and driving (functional ego states).
Using Parent ego states, we have two ways of communicating on the whole. One is called Critical Parent or Structuring Parent used to give directives. If I tell you: “Make 20 copies” using command voice that could typically come from the Structuring Parent. In Nurturing Parent, we could ask: “What can I do for you?” A caring transaction, the empathic transaction.
From the Adult, we’ve got a more factual way of communicating. So, it might be: How many copies do you want? And you’d answer: “Twenty” in a neutral tone of voice.
From the Child ego state, we talk of two or three ways of transacting, depending on what school you follow. One way is transacting from Adaptive Child, so called because you are adapting to an external Parent or an internal Parent message. For instance, when someone says: “How do you do?” you perhaps automatically put out your hand because that’s what you’ve learned to do from your parents. Or when you cross a road, you look right, left, right, depending on what country you live in. So that’s Adapted Child behavior.
We’ve also got a Rebellious Child style where you act against the external or internal Parent. For instance: “Why should I make the 20 copies (for you)?” could be a typical Rebellious Child reaction.
Lastly, we have the Free Child, so called because it is free from parental influence. So that means that you’re free to react spontaneously and autonomously and authentically from this inner feeling of connection. Sometimes you can look across the room and catch someone’s eye and smile with the joy of this connection. That’s typical Free Child.
When we talk about communication within transactional analysis, we actually analyze: from what ego state are you transacting? Each ego state has a different effect.