In a related article to last week’s Power Idea, Senior Strategic Partner, Charles Parnell, discusses the idea of life positions as a foundation of how we “feel” about each other and how that impacts our communications with each other. Relate this back to our discussion about the Parent, Child and Adult Ego States that Charles discussed last week, and you will begin to get a picture of what else is at work when we interact or have “transactions” with each other.

In Part 1 of Transactional Analysis, a foundational description of the transactional theory and model was provided. A broader discussion and analysis is now provided. Peoples’ lives are happy and productive, or not, because of their life positions. A life position is the way you feel about yourself and others. An understanding of life positions is the basic to understanding why we, as people, behave the way we do. This is particularly evident as we interact with others in the organizational environment.

There are four life positions that a person can hold, and holding a particular psychological position has profound implications for how an individual operationalizes his or her life. The positions are:

  1. I’m Okay and you are Okay. This is the healthiest position about life and it means that I feel good about myself and that I feel good about others and their competence. This person is a pleasure to everyone concerned.
  2. I’m Okay and you are not Okay. In this position, I feel good about myself, but I see others as damaged or less than and is usually not healthy. This is a position of self- defense. This person believes it is not possible to get positive strokes from others and survives by switching so that self-stroking can occur. This person tends to feel superior to others and finds it difficult to integrate others into the work team.
  3. I’m not Okay and you are Okay. In this position, the person sees him/herself as the weak partner in relationships as the others in life are definitely better than self. The person who holds this position will unconsciously accept abuse as Okay. This person feels inadequate, and unlikely to attain real happiness even if some degree of happiness is achieved.
  4. I’m not Okay and you are not Okay. This is the worst position to be in as it means that I am in a terrible state and the rest of the world is as bad. Consequently, there is no hope for any ultimate supports. This is a position of futility with withdrawal behavior. From a management point of view, it is extremely difficult to cope with, because it is so negative toward others. The employee who holds it may distrust everyone. It will take patience and understanding to overcome this distrust and build confidence.

Central to the discussion of Transactional Analysis is – Transaction. People communicate with each other not only to exchange information, but to reinforce their feelings about themselves and each other. It’s at this “feeling” level of communication that we make “transactions” with each other. At least two ego states are involved: your own and that of the other person. The kind of transaction that occurs when two people meet depends upon the combination of the particular ego states they are coming from.

Transactional Analysis is a very effective management tool. It will help you understand the complexities of human beings as you interact with them in an organizational setting. As we discussed, they have: values, principles, morals, realistic limitations, emotions, logic and the capacity to think and reason. As you seek to build high performance teams, this tool will provide tangible results.