Management Development: Transactional Analysis – Part Two

In our last Power Idea we talked about the concept of Transactional Analysis (TA) and the power this science has in helping us to understand and manage transactions, or interactions between each other.  If you missed reading that article, click here and read it before reading this week’s message.  In this second half of the topic of TA, Founder and CEO, Jerry Houston, discusses the idea of Life Positions, crossed transactions, strokes (or recognitions) and how to manage TA in our everyday life and especially at work.  Enjoy this week’s Power Idea!

Have you ever experienced a response from another person that seemed to come from nowhere?  Have you been functioning in a rational and reasonable way, only to elicit a response that was either very parental and negative, or gained a response that seemed as if the other person is whining or complaining beyond reason?  What do you do? How can you get the conversation refocused?

There are many reasons for these unaligned reactions. Let’s start with a significant culprit:

Life Positions

Each of us develops a basic emotional position that is a result of the negative or positive feedback we have received in life which creates a basic opinion of self and others.  There are four possibilities:

I’m ok, you’re ok  – The first position.  People here are receiving all the positive feedback or strokes that they need.  This is a winner’s position.

I’m not ok, you’re ok – Common among many people.  Early in life people in this position have received very negative strokes and is usually passed along, generationally.  “A child who grows up with criticism will criticize.”  This person would take an inferior stance to others.

I’m ok, you’re not ok – A person in this position doesn’t believe positive strokes are possible.  As a leader, this person usually surrounds themselves with “yes men.”  Looks down on others and is likely a bully.

I’m not ok, you’re not ok – A person who got little to no strokes or recognition of any kind.  A person who is basically ignored.  This could be a person who is hopeless and doesn’t believe anything good is deserved or possible for them and is, therefore, negative toward self and others.

A benefit of understanding Transactional Analysis in communications is to understand where others are coming from and how to react.  Crossed transactions are commonplace and can create significant communication issues; for example, if someone is in the negative parent state, it can push another person to the negative child state.  If you remain in an adult state (especially in business) another person cannot forever stay in negative child or negative parent.  Eventually, they will need to use the rational side of their being and then you can have a conversation that connects.

Another important factor of changing perceptions and therefore life positions is by giving strokes.  Strokes can be positive, in terms of authentic compliments, for example, or constructive negative strokes, such as “we fell short of the goal, what have you learned that you will do differently next time?”  Remember that EVERYONE NEEDS STROKES.

Finally, if you want to be the most successful at remaining primarily in the adult state (best option for business situations) you do so by being aware that you have slipped into parent or child, and stop and reposition.  Also, if you create an atmosphere of I’m ok and you’re ok, it will make it safe for others to join you in the correct state, therefore improving communications and relationships.

We hope you have enjoyed this power idea.  If you want to know more about Transactional Analysis, don’t hesitate to contact us at and we will be happy to set a time to talk.

Have a Great Week!