Transactional Analysis and crossed transactions

The theory of is a comprehensive and useful way of analyzing inter-personal transactions. theory asserts that every person possesses all the ego states and can move from state to state when interacting with others. One state is not considered to be better or more desirable than another. During a transaction, a message originates in one person’s ego state and is ‘sent” to a particular ego state of another-person.

One of the main goals of Transactional Analysis is to help the individual to discover and be aware of his parent and then to sort out what makes sense and what doesn’t in the here-and-now reality.

The functions of the parent are neither positive nor negative. How the parents or significant others use and communicate these functions to the child determines to a large extent how the child views the parents, authority and society. The adult state begins to take shape at around ten months of age. This age is significant because it marks the beginning of the child’s ability to move about independently. This is the first time that the child has been able to explore, discover and form opinions independently. For the first time, the child is not simply absorbing (parent state) or reacting (Child state) but analyzing.

Adult state is more rational, mature, nonjudgmental and logical. It is ‘thought’ behavior unlike ‘felt’ behavior of child and ‘taught’ behavior of parent. It is unemotional and rational ego-state. It operates free of strong-feelings. In this state a person collects information, weights alternatives, tests reality, suggests hypotheses and makes decisions. It exchanges information and ideas with others. Adult state brings balance between the unquestioned acceptance and emotional reactions of the parent and child.

The Adult is the part of you and figures out things by looking at them. It is the part that computes. Stores memories and use facts to make decisions. The Adult is unemotional and is concerned within “what fits” or what is most expedient and useful. Adult does not mean mature. Data gathering on the Parent, Adult and Child, e.g., how the child feels and what he wants; what the Parent says, feels or reacts to; what the memories stored for past decisions in the Adult have to say; and what the external situation in the here-and now supports.

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Sorting out the best alternatives from this data collection. The Adult computes, if a decision is needed, as to which data to use or decides that the data are insufficient for making a decision.

a) Results wanted

b) The best way to go after them

c) First step to get a result.

d) Action or alternatives if the desired result is not achieved.

e) Recycling process.

Each person’s Adult has its own way of functioning and may or may not go through this kind of process in making decisions.

It is desirable to have Adult functioning all the time to be aware of the Parent, child and the situation, so that the Adult can help with the decisions. The Adult can turn off the child or the Parent or both, so that you can have some control over your emotions. This is not the same as suppression or repression. It involves changing of ego states; Choice and decision are the keywords. It gives us freedom to be ‘ourselves’. You have all the three ego states and all of them are important. No ego state is better than any other. The situation and the Adult determine what is appropriate.

To choose how we will feel, think, behave in a given situation; to be aware of our choices and decisions we have made; and to be aware of many other options and alternatives, is a fulfilling lifestyle available to those who attain this freedom. Every person has got a preferred ego state which ‘comes in’ very frequently. Ego grams indicate the preferred modes of behavior. By knowing your ego-grams, adoption of preferred ego state to various situations, also getting along with people who prefer other ‘styles’ and balancing the three ego states to achieve better self images, can be practiced.


It can also be used to study prejudices (Influence of Adult by the Parent), freedom to change (capacity of the Adult to adapt the ego state to the situation), Guilt (The parents ability to punish the child for certain types of feelings or behaviors) and self image (The child state as the source of basic attitudes about one self). If the response comes from the expected ego state to which the message is sent it is a complementary transaction that is the response is appropriate and expected and follows the natural order of healthy human relationships.

Complementary transactions are possible between any two ego states. In case of crossed transactions, the response comes from an ego state other than the expected ego state to which the message is sent. Communication is broken off when a crossed transaction occurs.

A fundamental concept of Transactional Analysis is that the Adult state acts as a mediator. If a person’s ego states are kept appropriately separate from one another, the Adult can serve as a general monitor of experiences and reactions. An Adult can prevent us while products or dealing with customers from becoming angry about or hurt by minor provocations while enabling an appropriate amount of acknowledgement and experience of the child feelings involved.

Although there are times when the parent or child states are appropriate, we should strive to keep our transactions in the Adult state. Parent, child state can inhibit our relationships with the customers and cause psychological difficulties if not recognized and kept in check. Transactional Analysis theory suggests that we can influence the ego states of our customers in addition to controlling our own ego states. In order to do this, we must be aware of our own ego configuration, assess the ego configuration of the customer and adopt strategies to bring about the desired type of transactions. Transactional Analysis can be used as a method of fostering better interactions with the customers.

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The Transactional Analysis theory focuses on observable behavior during transactions. Therefore, the ability to label behavior as originating from “my parent” or “my child” facilitates effective communication with the customers leading to their satisfaction. It can also help uncover psychological and emotional blocks that keep growth possibilities locked in at individual, group and organizational-levels. It can also be used as a framework to get some clues about where we are hurting our customers, where we are creating satisfaction and delight, and where significant meaning or lack of meaning is occurring in our communications while dealing with our customers.

It can help us to become more aware of our possibilities and to explore and examine what we are doing to and with ourselves, with our awareness and outside of our awareness. This awareness will greatly help us in extending excellent customers service and become effective marketing professionals.

1. Berne, E

Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy

2. Harris, T

I am OK; you are OK

3. James, M; and Jongeward. D

Born to Win

4. Capers. H

Transactional Analysis ; A review of the literature

Pfeiffer Annual ’76

5. Thomas Woolyoung

Communication and Sales

Marketing M July 2003 Pages 34-56

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