We’re continuing this month on learning about the Transactional Analysis model of human behavior developed by Dr. Eric Berne. Why? Because understanding the framework behind our reactions can help us make changes that result in a different outcome.
Emotional responses… think of a recent one that didn’t serve you well! I’ll share one of mine. Many years ago, when our kids were in diapers my husband and I were on a trip with extended family in Florida. When kids are little traveling is so much work! You have everything you need to take with you like the diaper bag, snacks, and extra clothes. Then there’s the challenge of keeping them entertained and out of “meltdown” mode. The family had plans for all of us to meet up at Cracker Barrel for a late breakfast – a family tradition followed on each trip. We arrived at the set time with assorted Aunts and Uncles and requested a table for 15. Thankfully Cracker Barrel seated us right away and our kids who were two and four at the time started playing with that triangle game they leave on the table, which provided a few minutes of distraction.
Only six family members were there, and we were waiting on six more. My stomach was rumbling, and I knew the kids were hungry. When the waiter stopped by, I wanted to go ahead and order, but my aunt wanted to wait for her daughter and crew – so we did. As the minutes ticked by waiting for them my anger and frustration at the situation started to simmer. Have you ever been in a situation where you just start to get angry? Someone’s making you wait again and with two young kids in tow! Here’s how that breakfast worked out, after waiting 45 minutes my cousin and her young kids never showed up, and we eventually ordered. The waitress was frustrated because we’d taken up a table for so long and I had had it with my family. Unwisely I expressed my frustration to my aunt accusing my cousin of being insensitive and disregarding us all. There was tension at the beach house for the rest of the trip.
From a framework standpoint what happened here? Emotional responses are imprinted at a young age. As a first-born child, I was taught to be respectful of others’ time and I would get angry if others didn’t treat me the same way. Was my irritated, angry response understandable? Yes, you may have a similar story. The next question is the tough one. Was my response productive and did it contribute positively or negatively to the family vacation? The big question is what impression did it leave on my children about handling difficult situations? That’s an ouch. You’re probably thinking right now I failed on all those counts.
So how can the framework of Transactional Analysis help me out here? First, you must remember that any emotional response comes from the child ego state. So, when I first felt that anger welling up in me, I could have taken a step back and asked myself, where is this emotion coming from? Talking to myself honestly, I would have said I’m reaching emotionally to disrespectful behavior that inconveniences me. Knowing the power of Transactional Analysis, I’d then have to ask myself, are you choosing to respond from your child ego state or are you willing to step out of your child ego state and look at the situation objectively from your adult ego state?
Here’s where I could have responded better, objectively and non-emotionally. I found out later my cousin had been up with a colicky baby all night and they slept in. Instead of causing tension the rest of the week with my frustration and anger I could have been understanding about what happened and offer to communicate more proactively next time – and I could have ordered them take out as I’m sure they were hungry!
Could understanding the ego state you’re operating from help you change how you respond to challenging situations? My email’s below, let me know what you think.
Sizemore lives in Hoover, Ala. and is a Consultant, Coach, Trainer and Speaker focused on the subconscious psychology of Human Interaction and Motivation. Her firm specializes in Sales, Management and Leadership Development for Proactive Business Growth.