How often have you realized that you are unable to understand why a person is acting or what he/she is talking about during a conversation? This may act as an obstacle when trying to communicate for working professionals, homemakers, students, entrepreneurs, and so on. A number of barriers to effective communication can be observed, such as being distracted, lack of interest, feeling tired, and even a rather unknown barrier which involves having non-complementary ego states.
What are these ego states, and how can they help us communicate effectively?
Eric Berne (1970s) gave the Transactional Analysis theory to improve an individual’s ability to effectively communicate, by making them understand the communication patterns of both self and others. This theory suggests that there are three following ego states that affect our ability to effectively communicate:
- Parent ego-state: This ego-state is rooted in the past and includes an individual to show nurturing parts of their parents, such as, where they show care, helping behavior, loving behavior and even controlling parts of a parent where they criticize or punish others.
- Adult ego-state: This ego-state is rooted in the present where the individual with this ego-state often responds to straightforward and rational things. It majorly includes an individual to look for solutions and keep the emotional side of the conversation a little away from themselves. People in professional settings often use this ego-state.
- Child ego-state: This ego-state is also rooted in the past as a person with a child-ego state responds as having thoughts, feelings or behaviors of themselves as a child. An adult person throwing tantrums over their favorite food is the best example of a child-ego state. This also includes tendencies such as trying to please others, feeling curious and excited about everything, feeling guilty and so on like a child.
Eric suggested that the effectiveness of one’s ability to communicate depends on how much the speaker’s ego-states complement or contradict those of the receiver’s. A complementary transaction is one where both speaker and receiver have similar ego-states, i.e., parent-parent, adult-adult, child-child ego state or when there is a parent-child ego state with one having a parent and the other a child ego state they end up having effective communication by taking care of each other’s needs.
A contradictory or crossed transaction occurs when the ego-states are different in most cases, such as parent-adult, adult-parent, child-adult, adult-child. For example, a person might say that “I noticed you are shopping a lot today?” showing their adult ego state of being rational and suggesting a present, but if the other person replied by “why are you noticing my expenses” showing their child ego state then they probably would not understand each other and would end up having poor communication.
Hence, to communicate effectively, it’s crucial to be aware of the ego-state for self and others and by complimenting our ego-state with theirs we can communicate more effectively than ever. For example, if a husband in a relationship is throwing tantrums and is a little demanding suddenly, then he is showing child ego-state and the wife is being rational and in the present moment then she is showing adult ego-state, so because of this contradiction in ego-state they won’t be able to effectively communicate. To deal with this, two solutions can be done, the first husband can change his ego-state from child to adult to compliment the wife’s current ego-state or the wife can enter the parent’s ego-state for a while to complement the husband’s ego-state, in either case, they will be able to better communicate and understand each other.
Challenge: Think about your last conversation and which ego-state or states you used during that conversation and which ego-state or states the other person used during that conversation.
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”
– Tony Robbins