Sixty-five years ago Dr. Eric Berne, a noted and prominent psychiatrist, developed a model of human interaction that came to be widely known as Transactional Analysis (TA).
In this model Dr. Berne postulated that all of us, during each waking moment, are operating (behaving) from one of the three Ego States.
We are, according to Dr. Berne, always in a Parent Ego State, Adult Ego State or a Child Ego State.
Each of these states is remarkably different as they determine how we conduct ourselves and specifically how we respond in and to any given situation.
In the Parent State we think, feel and behave in a way that mimics how our parents (or other authoritative parental figures) acted, or how we interpreted our parent’s behaviors.
In the Adult State we conduct ourselves by evaluating available data (processing information and making predictions) without allowing emotions to affect out functioning. In this state we tend to focus on an objective appraisal of reality.
In the Child State we think, feel and behave much the way we did in childhood. We may pout, cry or show joy, as we did as kids
Over the years since Dr. Berne first put forward this model, Transactional Analysis has been widely taught and used as a powerful therapy tool that has also found its way into many business, sales training and other models.
The one thing highlighted by TA is that, particularly during times of conflict, parties involved need to be in the Adult Ego State in order to have any hope of reaching a satisfactory conclusion or resolution.
This model and its accuracy was brought home to me throughout this week in my dealings with people in my condo building.
My wife Gimalle and I live in a two-tower condo complex with an underground parkade that can accommodate close on 400 vehicles.
Use of these parking stalls is very clearly outlined in the bylaws of our property as well as in the lease agreement provided to each condominium owner at the time of their purchase.
Both the lease agreement and bylaws state clearly that parking stalls are for the exclusive use of residents of the property only and may not, under any circumstances, be made available, leased, or rented out to non-residents.
I have been a member of the condominium Board of Directors for the past eight years and each year we notice an increasing number of “Day Parkers” coming onto our property.
These are people who have either rented or made some other arrangement with residents to park their vehicles in our parkade while they go to work. At the end of the workday they retrieve their vehicles and leave our property.
I won’t bore you with the many reasons why allowing Day Parkers onto a condominium property is a bad idea. The reasons are many and valid.
Each year we go through the same exercise we began this week by placing a security guard at the entrance to the parkade each morning in order to record the arrival of cars and to return in the afternoon and record similar information from vehicles exiting our building.
This information is cross-referenced with the access cards used to enter and leave our parkade. It doesn’t take long to identify who the Day Parkers are and then both they and the owners of the suites whose parking stalls they are using, are informed that these vehicles can no longer park in our parkade.
We began this process this week and during the week I had occasion to inform several drivers and several suite owners they could no longer park on our property. I believe I was polite in my approach and in my explanation as to why this was happening.
Without exception, each explanation was met with an explosive response.
It is fascinating to observe how quickly people we assume to be adults, dive head first into either the Parent or Child Ego State.
It’s also really interesting to note as we enter the Adult or Child States we shrink the resources available to us in terms of how to best conduct ourselves.
At least five times this week I was told, “You will be hearing from my lawyer” which is the Child State equivalent of “I’m going to tell my daddy.”
And on a few other occasions, I observed people flying off into the Parent Ego State with words like “You have no right to tell me what I can do” or “I am the owner of this parking stall (they’re not) and I will do as I please.”
At least twice, I was informed that my job (as a volunteer board member) was at risk, “I will have you fired.”
Most of us are accustomed to seeing this in people whenever an expectation goes unmet. We see people fly off the handle with childlike tantrums or attempt to invoke some authority they do not have.
It certainly makes me appreciate being around adults and reminding myself to check my own state frequently, has helped me, on many occasions, to keep myself in check when the small voice in my head has cautioned me to not “let your parent out” reminds me to “put your child to bed.”
Dr. Berne truly left us with an invaluable tool in helping us not only assess our interaction with other people but also to help keep ourselves firmly in control.
A powerful lesson, and one from which we would all benefit, is to remind ourselves to keep asking “Am I being an Adult in this situation?”
There are many times when being a Parent or Child is both fun and appropriate just as there are times when being in the Adult state is an impediment to having fun.
In moments of seriousness though, only Adults will make good decisions and bring successful conclusion to difficult matters.
Remember to remind yourself that being an Adult is a crucial space to be in whenever we want positive and strong results.
I urge you to think of this during serious moments and if you don’t, I’m going to send you to your room and call my lawyer.
Till we read again.