Hollins Martin, C.J. (2011). Transactional Analysis (TA): a method of analysing
communication. British Journal of Midwifery. 19(9): 587-593.
Caroline J. Hollins Martin PhD MPhil BSc PGCE ADM RM RGN 1
1. Senior Lecturer, Division of Community, Women and Children's Health, School of
Health, Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
Address for correspondence: Dr Caroline Hollins Martin, Room K409, Buchanan House,
Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK, G4 OBA
Transactional Analysis (TA): a method of analysing communication
Midwives are required to develop effective and constructive communication skills for use
within the workplace. When a student is on placement, the NMC essential skills clusters for
care, compassion and communication are the first the student is required to demonstrate to
their mentor. Communication is an idiom that both students and staff sometimes find difficult
to assimilate, with problems herein recapitulated in the vaguest of terms. Accordingly,
methods of clearly defining and assessing attainment are commonly requested of midwifery
lecturers. To facilitate students, midwives, managers and lecturers with an instrument to
assess good communication, the technique Transactional Analysis (TA) is proposed.
Keywords: communication, Transactional Analysis (TA), assessment, midwifery skills
clusters, midwifery management, organisation
(1) TA is a powerful, penetrating and effective tool for assessing, analysing and resolving
communication difficulties at an individual and organisational level.
(2) Organisations may be analysed using TA, thus alerting managers to review the rules,
procedures and structures in place, with an aim to provide the most appropriate climate in
which people can effectively operate.
(3) The majority can understand TA as a method of analysing communication, regardless of
education, position in hierarchy or profession.
(4) TA may be used by midwifery preceptors to assess student midwives on the NMC skills
cluster that relates to communication.
Transactional Analysis (TA): a method of analysing communication
Berne (1964, 2001) purported that Transactional Analysis (TA) is a powerful
psychoanalytical tool that anyone can use to analyse communication transactions between
individuals. Berne developed TA by watching people interact. He observed that sometimes
the same individual will act like a Child (C), an Adult (A) or Parent (P). He also noticed that
occasionally people play games, with ulterior motives underpinning their message. Voice
tone and physical gestures are a sizeable part of the message, at times more so than the
spoken word (Harris, 2004). Berne observed life scripts that people write, which enduringly
underpin their communication transactions with others. He observed that some replay
winning scripts, whilst others do not. The foremost benefit of TA is that it is uncluttered by
technical jargon. The majority can comprehend the method regardless of education, position
in hierarchy or profession. TA may be used to:
(1) Analyse communication between individuals at an inter-personal, group or
(2) Improve awareness of communication scripts of self and others.
(3) Resolve communication difficulties that are persistently replayed.
(4) Break down dysfunctional hierarchical relationships (e.g., the authoritarian who
continually dominates subordinates, the rebel who consistently reacts against
authority, or dependants who excessively seek guidance).
(5) Improve managerial philosophies and leadership styles.
An overview of TA
TA stems from the work of a psychiatrist called Eric Berne, who agreed with established
psycho-analytical practices, but felt that the language utilised was too sophisticated for lay
people to understand. Processes of TA involve a person understanding structural analysis
and the development of ego-states. An explanation follows:
Structural Analysis is concerned with the theory of personality development and has much in
common with Freud’s philosophy of psycho-analysis (Clarkson, 2000). Human’s are multiple
in nature, with the same person behaving in a variety of ways in response to different stimuli.
For example, in the role of mentor a midwife may communicate with a student by being
calm, interested, sympathetic, warm, encouraging OR critical, angry, moralistic, and
judgemental. To varying extents, each and every one of us utilize a combination of these.
Structural analysis can be used to make sense of such diverse behaviours.
To elucidate, the human brain retains past experiences stored as memories. These
reminiscences are stored adjacent to feelings associated with a specific communication
event. When presented with a similar stimulus whilst in consultation with another, that
person may involuntarily “relive” a past experience in terms of “feelings”, without necessarily
being able to consciously remember the event attached to the emotions. For instance, a
person suffering from a phobia may “relive” an emotional reaction when exposed to a
particular stimulus, e.g., a perceived threat (i.e., spider or blood) is presented and the
individual reactivates fear aroused during a prior exposure.
Psychoanalysis is concerned with probing these early experiences to uncover the
memories that underpin the event of interest. The retrieval process is more often conducted
with the client in a state of hypnosis (Clarkson, 2000). If the initial event was unhappy or
painful, the brain may attempt to block the memory out. The “probing” and “reliving” of
spontaneous involuntary feelings associated with the specific event gives rise to
“remembering”. The therapist then attempts to undo the harm that was caused through
reconstructing the event and instigating resolve. This involves conscious voluntary thinking
about specific past events, which are relived and worked through. Of course, the past event
could have been a happy one. For instance, hearing a particular piece of music may
stimulate recall of warm and happy emotions associated with the episode, e.g., a birthday
party, wedding or romantic liaison. The fact is most of what we “relive” cannot be
remembered. Hence, when an analogous stimulus is presented, in its place the person
recalls the historical and sometimes disproportionate feeling state, e.g., excessive anger or
Development of ego-states
Ego states are formed before the age of 5 and are in essence the early recordings of
feelings produced from communication episodes with others. Post de facto, when a
comparable stimuli is presented, the earlier recording of feelings are recalled and
accordingly reinforced. Berne captured the Parent (P), Adult (A) and Child (C) aspect of
personality in a “structural analysis” model (see Figures 1 & 2).
Fig. 1: First order structural diagram of ego states
Fig. 2: Second order functional diagram
The Parent (P) is that part of us which reflects messages we received from our parents. That
is, from what they said and how they interacted with us in early communication episodes.
One component of Parent (P) is the Critical or Controlling Parent (CP) and the other is
Nurturing Parent (NP). The Critical Parent (CP) sets limits and makes judgements about self
and others. Besides being patronising and condescending, the CP may be arrogant and/or
obnoxious. The CP is restrictive, expresses negative emotions and lays down rules of “do”,
“do not”, “can not”, “should”, “should not”, “always”, “never” and ”must”. Our prejudices,
beliefs and values stem from CP and are passed down from one generation to another. The
CP perceives mistakes as “blunders” and an opportunity to “nail” someone. These factors
are significant when attempting to explain irrational behaviour. In contrast, the Nurturing
Parent (NP) expresses “unconditional positive regard”, which involves acceptance of the
other person without qualification. The NP offers advice, protects and nurtures, is concerned
with growth and development and sees mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
The Child ego state is the core of our primeval “emotions”. The Free Child (FC) reflects
natural, loving, carefree, adventurous and trusting behaviours and is oblivious to the rules.
The Adapted Child (AC) develops in early years whilst a youngster is being socialised into
the norms and rules of the cultural environment. Without socialisation, communication
episodes would be chaotic and unstructured. The AC learns expected behaviours of the
culture, such as “please”, “thank you”, and “sorry”. When messages from CP become
excessive the AC becomes submissive.
The Adult (A) is the part of us that deals with the “here and now”. In contrast, Parent (P) and
Child (C) are archaic. Adult (A) is the unemotional part of our personality that is thinking,
calculating, rational and analytical. When analysing communication using TA, attempts are
made to construct reality by questioning values and behaviour of the individual’s Parent (CP
& NP) and Child (FC & AC) ego-states. Adult (A) is concerned with identifying problems,
analysing them and generating rational solutions. An important concept in TA is viewing the
Adult (A) within us as the manager who reviews the situation and provides a rationale
response to a communication. Adult (A) considers the most productive response and makes
considered decisions before responding to the communicator.
Recognition of ego-states
There are 4 ways in which the ego states (Parent – CP/NP); Child (AC/ FC) and Adult (A)
can be recognised. That is, through (1) behavioural, (2) social, (3) historical and (4)
phenomenological messages from each of the ego-states. Lets explain:
(1) Behavioural messages
Behaviour contains spoken words, voice tones, facial expressions, bodily postures and
attitudes. To view examples of these in relation to the different ego-states (see Table 1).
Table 1: Examples of typical words, voice tones, behaviours and attitudes expressed by the
differing ego-states during communication.
Ego state Typical words/phrases Typical voice tone Typical behaviour Typical attitudes
That is disgraceful. Angry Furrowed brow
Pounding on table
I will sort it out for you. Sympathetic Consoling touch Caring
Adult (A) When? Calm
Attentive and aware
Level eye contact
I will try hard.
Placating Downcast eyes
Vigorous head nodding
That is great. Expressive Clear demonstration of
(2) Social messages
The social context provides the stimulus to a particular recurring ego state in the same
individual. For example, a bossy ward sister who repeatedly shouts and finds fault
(CP - Critical Parent) when dealing with problems within the clinical environment. Such
stimuli may in turn provoke a subordinate’s Adapted Child (AC) submissive response.
(3) Historical messages
The ego state an individual adopts is an echo of learned behaviour from the past. When a
person acts like their parents would in a particular situation, they are operating from the
Parent (P) ego state (CP or NP). Similarly, when a person becomes over-excited about a
purchase, as they did when they acquired a new toy in childhood, they are operating from
the Child (C) ego state Free Child (FC).
(4) Phenomenological messages
A phenomenological ego-state occurs when a person reflects on their feelings, thoughts and
behaviour and attempts to determine whether they operated from Adult (A), Parent (CP/NP)
or Child (AC/FC) during a communication transaction. That is, they purposely examine
where an episode of communication went well or amiss. Such analysis occurs in a
therapeutic situation with a TA counsellor (Lapworth & Sills, 1993). The aim is for the analyst
to identify and resolve recurring errors within an individual’s communication scripts, to
facilitate more constructive future collaboration with others. The aspiration is to de-construct
negative and dysfunctional scripts replayed in the person’s communication style.
Positive and negative aspects of ego-states
An ego state is neither good or bad, since both Parent (P) and Child (C) positions can have
outcomes that are positive or negative, dependent upon the situation (see Table 2).
Table 2: Positive/negative communications from the different ego states
1. Positive (NP) Cares for another person when they need or want it.
2. Negative (NP) Does things for others when not needed or requested. Such
interference may de-skill or repress the other person.
3. Positive (CP) Stands up for their rights in an assertive manner without putting
others down. Constructively criticises.
4. Negative (CP) Disapproving in a style that affects the self-worth of another.
5. Positive (AC) Behaves in line with social expectations. Saying “please”, “thank
6. Negative (AC) Self-destructive behaviour that is out of line with social
expectations. Persistent lateness, over confidence or rebellion.
7. Positive (FC) Expresses thoughts, enjoys the moment in a way that does not
harm others. Is endearing, demonstrative and spontaneous.
8. Negative (FC) Expresses thoughts that may harm others. Is self-centred and
Ego-grams which typify communication styles of others
An ego-gram is a graphic illustration of the extent to which a person presents in the different
ego states. The bigger the circle, the greater the individual’s dependence on that particular
ego state (see Figure 3).
Fig. 3: Graphic illustration of how a person may present in the different ego-states
Individual differences in personality
Everyone has a Parent (P), Adult (A) and Child (C) ego-state. Similarities exist within
cultures exposed to an analogous environment, with proverbial stimuli determining national
characteristics. Simultaneously, each person is unique as a result of their differing individual
experiences. Hence the “content” of each person’s ego-gram differs.
Contamination of ego states
Contamination is intrusion of the Parent (P) or Child (C) into the Adult (A) (see Figures 4 &
Fig. 4: Graphic illustration of an ideal ego-gram
Fig. 5: Graphic illustration of a contaminated ego-gram
Parent (P) contamination results in prejudice and tenacious opinions that are not
corrected by exposure to accurate corrective input from outside. Prejudice stems from
acceptance of Parent (P) values in early life. Contamination reduces the Adult’s (A)
effectiveness at computing data in a rational and logical fashion (Widdowson, 2010). For
example, the individual surrounds their prejudice with irrational arguments that stand in
support of their position. The only way to remove prejudice is to give facts and separate the
Parent from the Adult so that the Adult can function more effectively (Stewart, 2007).
In contrast, child contamination of the Adult results in delusions grounded in fear. For
example, a subordinate who feels they are not capable of taking on a new job or accepting
promotion. Both types of contamination result in the Adult treating inaccurate information as
fact. TA counselling is aimed at separating the ego states in attempts to improve
communication. In essence, TA is an analytical tool to aid understanding and improve a
person’s communication skills by analysing their transactions with other people (Sills &
Process of stroke balancing
The concept of stroking is the act of recognising another person’s presence. For example,
saying “hello” or a non-verbal recognition such as “waving”, “nodding”, “smiling, or “frowning”
(Harris, 2004). TA involves giving and receiving of psychological strokes (Harris & Harris,
1995). There is a fundamental assumption that negative strokes are better than no strokes at
all. That is, people seek negative strokes in preference to being ignored. For example, a
positive stroke is praise for a job well done, encouragement for making a special effort,
bonus payment for exceeding targets etc. In comparison, negative strokes involve being told
off for poor quality work, being downgraded or moved to a less desirable job. The healthiest
strokes are positive strokes, which serve to increase an individual’s performance efforts
(Tilney, 1998). The stroke classification is not discreet, since such comments may combine
elements of both types of stroke. For example, “you are capable of much better work than
this”. The classification of strokes depends on what the receiver “hears”, as opposed to the
intention of the sender of the strokes.
Stroke balance and stroke reservoir
In early life a person may experience predominantly positive or negative strokes. That is
stroke patterns to which they become accustomed and feel comfortable and familiar with
(Steiner, 1990). An assumption made in TA, is that people seek to recreate the balance
experienced in early life during their adulthood. This explains why some individuals set
themselves up for difficulties by inviting negative strokes (Berne, 1996). A stroke reservoir is
a credit balance, which when depleted causes discomfort and ignites a need to readdress
the old familiar stroke balance (Berne, 2001).
The unit of social intercourse is a transaction. Each transaction consists of a stimulus and a
response. The stimulus and response patterns may be verbal or non-verbal and progress in
chains. Transactions in communication can be classified as complementary, crossed or
ulterior (Berne, 1996).
A complementary transaction is Adult-to-Adult and occurs when the agent receives the
response they expect (James & Jongeward, 1996) (see Figure 6)
Midwife asks for syntometrine Student places it in her hand
Fig 6: Graphic illustration of a complementary transaction
Communications proceed smoothly as long as transactions are complementary.
Difficulties in communication arise when vectors cross out of Adult-to-Adult to Parent-to-
Child or Child-to-Parent (Widdowson, 2010).
A crossed transaction is parent-to-child and occurs when the agent or respondent does not
produce expected stimuli. As a result communication problems arise. Vectors cross and
adult communication ceases until vectors are re-aligned between adult-to-adult (see Fig. 7).
Agent (sister) Respondent (midwife)
Do you know where the duty rota is? Are you blaming me for loosing it?
Fig. 7: Graphic illustration of a parent-to-child crossed transaction
Another crossed transaction may be a parent response to an adult stimulus (see Figure 8):
Agent (midwife) Respondent (sister)
Do you know where the duty rota is? How irresponsible. Have you lost it?
Figure 8: Graphic illustration of a parent response to adult stimulus crossed transaction
Ulterior transactions consist of an on-the-surface message with ulterior meaning (see
Agent (sister) Respondent (midwife)
Are you up to the job? I am well able to do it.
Fig. 9: Graphic illustration of an ulterior transaction
At both levels the transaction is complementary, since the midwife’s reply is accepted
at face value as an Adult (A) transaction. In general, transactions follow 3 rules (Berne,
(1) As long as the transactions are complementary (Adult-to-Adult), communication
may continue indefinitely.
(2) If there is a change to a crossed transaction (Parent-to-Child / Child-to-Parent), a
break in the flow of conversation will occur.
(3) The outcome of ulterior transactions are determined at a psychological rather
than social level.
Procedures, rituals and scripts
Transactions proceed in sequenced steps and are programmed from either Parent (P),
Adult (A) or Child (C). A procedure is a series of complementary Adult (A) transactions that
are evaluated in terms of “efficiency” and “effectiveness” in relation to outcome. If the Adult
(A) is contaminated by Parent (P) or Child (C), the efficiency and effectiveness of the
communication will be reduced. That is, poor quality communication will result (Lapworth &
A ritual is a stereotypical pre-programmed series of complementary transactions. The
form of the ritual is determined by convention. A ritual like the following is not intended to
This ritual is a trading of “strokes” (Harris, 2004). For example, on the first meet of
the day, each person owes one another a set of strokes (in the above scenario 4 each). In
the event that these individuals’ paths cross again during the same day, acknowledgement
may consist of merely a nod of recognition (1 stroke each). At the initial meet of the day, if B
does not reciprocate to A’s greeting of “Hi”, B is likely to reflect on whether or not there is a
problem with the relationship. Procedures and rituals follow characteristic patterns, which
upon initiation follow a chain of predictable transactions that lead to a predetermined
A script is a person’s individual programming. Each personal script dictates
repetitions in action, speech and behaviour of that character when presented with analogous
circumstances and stimuli (James & Jongeward, 1996). Each person is their own playwright,
director, producer and central character in communication scripts. An individual may write
catastrophic, humorous or dramatic scripts (Steiner, 1990). Scripts are formulated during
childhood from parental messages, e.g., “do not” messages, such as “do not be emotional”
or “do not be demonstrative”. Such messages influence a person’s self-concept (Harris &
Example of a ritual
A2 “How are you?”
B2 “Fine thanks, and you?”
A3 “Great, busy, busy”
A4 “See you later”
B4 “Yeah, bye for now”
“Stroke economy” follows 5 basic rules:
(1) Do not give positive strokes, even though they are free to give.
(2) Do not ask for positive strokes, even if you need them.
(3) Do not accept positive strokes (compliments).
(4) Do not reject strokes you do not want to hear (e.g., offensive remarks).
(5) Do not give yourself strokes, which involves sharing good things about
yourself with others.
The underpinning message is that positive strokes are restricted and negative
strokes plentiful (Berne, 1996) The reality is that strokes are unlimited and you can receive
or give as many as you want (Harris & Harris, 1995). People carry these 5 rules around with
them (adapted from Parent (P), with most incapable of being liberated in the stroke
exchange. In order to improve communication with others, these 5 principles need reversed:
(1) Give positive strokes because they cost nothing.
(2) Ask for positive strokes when you need them.
(3) Accept positive strokes (compliments).
(4) Reject strokes you do not want to hear (e.g., offensive remarks).
(5) Give yourself strokes, which involves sharing good things about yourself with
A stroke profile is an illustrative way of demonstrating stroke patterns between individuals in
specific communication episodes. Completing a personal stroke profile and discussing
results in training situations facilitate insight into a person’s successes and failures in
communicating with others (Harris, 2004).
A person’s life position expresses how that individual relates to others. There are 4 basic life
positions, which are known as the OK Coral (Harris, 2004):
(1) I am OK / You are OK
This position indicates acceptance of our own value and the worth of another. A person in
this life position is at peace with themself. In general they are co-operative whilst in
communication with others. This is the only life position that permits personal growth and
development. The following 3 positions are locked and debilitating to relationships with
(2) I am OK / You are not OK
This life position indicates value of self but not others. That is, my ideas and values are OK,
whilst yours are not. This individual is striving to have their own needs met, which is often at
the expense of others.
(3) I am not OK / You are OK
This life position indicates an acceptance of others, but not of self. A person in this life
position lacks self-confidence. They are vulnerable and present as a target to be taken
advantage of by others.
(4) I am not OK / You are not OK
This life position indicates non-acceptance of others and self. A person in this life position is
often uncooperative in communication with others.
People do not spend all their time in one life position, although some can
predominately operate from one particular domain. The ideal position is: (1) I am OK / You
are OK. A person can move their dominant life position by writing down their profiles and
scripts and analysing them to identify reiterated communication successes and failures. By
doing this the person can attempt to shift their scripts into the ideal position (1) I am OK /
You are OK and attempt to eradicate their less favourable life positions. Like the famous
expression: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the
light bulb has to really want to change. The point is, people can enhance their
communication skills, but effort is required to reflect and self improve (Hargaden & Sills,
TASK: To aid self analysis, over a week complete the stroke profile illustrated in Table 3.
Table 3: Weekly stroke profile
Name__________________________________ Week beginning (date) _____________
Positive strokes Negative strokes
Tick (√) for each
Refused Given Received Asked
(1) People repeat patterns of behaviour whilst communicating with others. When we know an
individual, we can predict fairly accurately how they are likely to behave in a given
(2) People are comfortable with familiar conditions, in which the behaviour of self and others
is predictable. That is, they know the currency of strokes awarded and collected in
(3) Individuals choose and follow their own scripts.
(4) Rituals are useful because they enable healthy functioning within a social environment.
The games people play
Games are an ongoing series of complementary ulterior transactions (see Figure 9). Game
playing starts early in life and the nature of the game is determined by the script and life
positions of the players (Harris, 2004). The same players habitually repeat the same games,
by adopting the repeating roles, often devoid of awareness of what they are doing (Harris &
Harris, 1995). Personal insight and willingness to change are key requirements if
communication is to improve (Stewart & Joines, 1987). The essential nature of TA games
may be appreciated by considering examples (Berne, 1996):
Now I Have Got You (NIHGY) game
In a NIHGY game, the senior midwife appears to be acting from Adult (A), but in fact is
setting up a situation in which she can issue the junior midwife with a negative stroke from
Critical Parent (CP). When the junior midwife exits the communication encounter with a
feeling of déjà vu, that is a familiar sense of receiving the same bad feelings, the likelihood is
that she regularly becomes involved in the NIHGY game. Games inhibit people from
developing satisfying relationships with colleagues, family and friends. They are destructive
and the consequences are a less effective working environment (Berne, 1996).
The game of NIHGY
Senior midwife “Have you got the completed audit form”?
Junior midwife “Yes”
Senior midwife “Great, it is important and I knew I could trust you with the task”.
Junior midwife Looks in desk drawer and cannot find the report. Says “I am sorry but I
do not seem to be able to find it”.
Senior midwife “I am not surprised, it was sent to the manager”.
“She found it amongst some papers you sent her by mistake. We need to
address this at your next annual appraisal”!
Those who have an “I am not OK” life position are likely to play victim games (Harris, 2004),
(1) Poor me -The whole world is against me.
(2) Stupid - I am so thick, I do not understand.
(3) Wooden leg - I could do that if I did not have so much to do.
(4) Harried - I have to work so hard and am always in a rush.
The victim may arrange a situation in which they attract negative strokes. Victims
seek out people who play “prosecutor” or “rescuer” games and have the life position “I am
OK / You are not OK” (Berne, 1996; Harris, 2004).
The game of stupid
New Midwife “Can you tell me how this birth registration system works again
“What you need to do is…………”
New Midwife “Oh dear, I am still a bit uncertain. Do you mean that……..?”
“No. It is a question of ……..”
New Midwife “Oh dear, I am thick am I not?”
“Well, it was designed to be a simple system and nobody has had
problems understanding it before”
Prosecutor games include:
NIHGY - Now I am really going to put you down.
BLEMISH - I can always find a mistake in whatever you do.
Rescuer games include:
I AM ONLY TRYING TO HELP YOU - How could you be so ungrateful.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITHOUT ME - You are incapable.
Both prosecutors and rescuers seek out victims. Whereas, true helping should
facilitate a person to develop independence and procure self-responsibility (Widdowson,
2010). The game of rescuer results in a dependant relationship, whilst the game of
prosecutor results in negative feelings in the communication receiver. This is a lose-lose
situation for both parties.
Using TA in the maternity unit
In a senior/junior midwife relationship, there is a constant dynamic transactional process
developing. At commencement of the relationship, the risks are that the senior midwife
develops a parental stimulus directed at a child (Parent-to-Child), which incites a child
reaction from a colleague. In most circumstances this will lead to a crossed transaction and
potentially negative conversation (see Fig. 7). Senior midwives know that junior midwives
are independent adults, and therefore transactions as such should always be Adult-to-Adult.
A simple example
An example might involve an order from a mentor to a student midwife to put their pen down
when they want to communicate over an unrelated issue. The senior midwife has essentially
“ordered” the junior to carry out a task and is expecting “child-like” instantaneous
compliance. In this circumstance, the senior midwife has instigated a Parent-to-Child
interaction, in which the Adult response feels out of place. An Adult-to-Adult stimulus
assures greater chance of developing a positive interaction with this colleague.
A more Adult-to-Adult initiation of conversation, would be a comment such as; “I
would like you to focus on the processes of medicine administration. When you have
reached a convenient point at which to stop writing, please can we speak about what is
required for this woman (followed by a minute's take up time). It is inevitable that this
approach will lead to less confrontation and ultimately an improved long-term relationship.
The “frequently late game” is another example. There are often genuine reasons for
“being late”, and for all those except persistent offenders, an Adult-to-Adult transaction is
likely to bring a long term positive outcome. However, there are the few who are repeatedly
late and know that citing an excuse will incur a positive response. In this way they gain their
payoff. Understanding the game dynamic should allow communicators to develop a
response system that halts the game. A straightforward way to arrest the game, is for clear
rules concerning being late to be instigated at commencement of the relationship. Staff might
be told that one event of being late per month is acceptable, as long as a good reason is
presented. Beyond this a sanction will be imposed. By making reference to the contract, the
potential game can be avoided and the Adult-to-Adult transaction assured. Midwives can
help colleagues rewrite their scripts, by fostering more mature and positive relationships that
operate from Adult-to-Adult. As such, TA is an exceptionally useful tool that can be used to
aid understanding of relationship successes and failures at work.
Using TA in education
So how can a midwifery lecturer apply TA to intervene and facilitate resolution in a negative
communication relationship between mentor and student? Since TA routinely involves
dialogue between two people, a third party can only exert influence during conversation by
taking an Adult approach and attempting to switch the dialogue between mentor and student
back to Adult-to-Adult. Outside this, the aim of the lecturer is to facilitate awareness of
unhealthy communication patterns and switch maladaptive life positions from “I’m Ok, you’re
not Ok” to “I’m Ok, you’re Ok”. This may be facilitated using a Contractual Method that
requires that both mentor and student are explicit as to the nature of the professional
relationship and adhere to the principle that both parties have clear functioning Adult
thinking. To alert attention, mentors may be encouraged to sign an agreement to “Above All
Do No Harm” to a student in their care. In so doing, the mentor is obliged to maintain this
principle and confront their discourteous behaviour. Such observances are central to
developing trust that student midwives place in their mentors. In endeavours to improve
communication patterns, TA courses may be offered as part of mentor training and in
communication components of midwifery programs. Where a communication from mentor to
student is interpreted as bullying, an Adult-to-Adult relationship may be persuaded by
referring the mentor to the bullying and harassment protocol (Hollins Martin & Martin, 2010).
(1) People often subconsciously play habitual games. When the game results in a
lose-lose situation, both parties “are not OK”.
(2) An awareness of the games people play should enable one to review and take steps
(3) People should always try to operate from Adult (A) rather than Parent (P) or Child (C).
This strategy should help avoid involvement in games initiated by others.
When studying communication, understanding and appreciation of TA theory provides
penetrating insight into individual differences in personality and behaviour. TA is a vital tool
that can be used to resolve communication difficulties at an individual and organisational
level. TA serves as a reminder to individuals that they can be proactive in attempts to
improve their communication skills. That is, how they initiate as well as react within given
situations. Organisations may be analysed in terms of TA, thus alerting managers to review
the rules, procedures and structures in place, with an aim to provide the most appropriate
climate in which people can effectively operate. Organisational analysis gives rise to
questions such as:
(1) Is the organisation too nurturing and protective?
(2) Is the organisation too critical?
(3) Is the organisation too restrictive?
(4) Is there scope for creativity, new ideas and innovations?
(5) Are people encouraged to take responsibility?
(6) Are people expected to behave submissively?
Ego states of individuals and the organisation should be borne in mind when considering
absenteeism, staff turnover, productivity levels and morale. In essence, TA is a powerful,
penetrating and effective tool for analysing communication difficulties at an individual and
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