Transactional Analysis sounds really complicated, and it can be.

Or it can be simple.

Simple is more useful.

Basically, each of us has three ways of interacting with everyone else.

As an Adult.

As a Parent.

As a Child.

The Adult is usually rational, and without emotion.

The Parent is usually questioning and suspicious.

The Child is usually irresponsible and emotional.

The interesting thing is that usually we let other people determine which one we slot into.

Obviously the best way to interact is Adult to Adult.

Calmly, rationally, reasonably.

But it’s difficult to maintain this if the person you’re talking to insists on acting like a Parent.

Suspicious and dominating.

This can force you into acting like a Child.

You don’t want to be dominated so you become petulant and emotional.

Now you have a Parent to Child interaction which usually ends up in an argument.

Both of you emotional, struggling for dominance.

It can be very hard to get it back on course to be Adult to Adult.

Take an interaction with a client.

The ideal interaction is Adult to Adult, calm and reasonable.

So the client might say, “Why did you shoot the ad this way?”

You reply, “To make the product more appetising.”

Client, “And what are these extra costs?’

You: “Those are the overtime charges we discussed before the shoot.”

Everything is reasonable, no one is emotional.

But how about if it goes like this.

Client: “Why did you shoot it this way?”

(You hear suspicion in his voice. He thinks you can’t do your job. Who the hell is he? You’ve done more good ads than he has.)

So you say: “It’s better than what’s been done in your sector, trust me, I’ve done lots of ads.”

(He hears arrogance and challenge. That’s his money you’re spending, not yours. He’s got his career riding on these ads and, like all creatives, you’re just trying to win an award.)

Now the client is interacting like a suspicious Parent, which makes you act like the petulant Child.

He then says, “What are these extra costs, you didn’t mention these?”

(You hear, he thinks I’m trying to rip him off when all I wanted was to get a better job.)

So you say, “Those are the extra charges, because the brief was changed after the PPM.”

(He hears that you knew you were going to do this when you quoted, but you’d say anything to get the job and load the extra charges on later.)

And everything deteriorates into a Parent-Child-Parent-Child interchange.

The client starts to hate the agency.

The agency starts to hate the client.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy based on mutual suspicion.

Triggered by insecurity.

And the agency will lose the account unless you can find two people who can interact Adult to Adult.

And that will be difficult, because this insecurity is triggered emotionally not rationally,

It’s usually not even what’s actually said that starts it.

It’s the way it’s said, the tone of voice.

Have you ever seen a child crying in the supermarket?

Often the mother is screaming at it, “CALM DOWN WILL YA?”

This is what we call semiotic dissonance.

The rational mind telling us one thing.

The emotions telling us another.

That’s what we remember from our childhood.

When we were too young to be rational.

When every trigger, and every reaction, was emotional.

And all that was buried inside our heads long before we learned to be rational.

Buried and just waiting to come out.

As soon as there’s an emotional trigger.

The struggle is always to disengage the emotional mind.

To stay rational.

To just deal with what’s in the real world.

Not in the world of interpretation.

For better or worse, the world of emotion is not the world of reason.

As Buddha said, “Act, don’t react.”