Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Adult versus Parent

One idea that comes to us from the psychological approach of transactional analysis is that when people interact with each other, they tend to slip into pre-formed scripts based on how they have experienced authority when they were children. These scripts can frequently allow people to engage in escalating behaviors that create vicious cycles of conflict. Transactional analysis recognizes three primary styles of behavior in social interactions:

  • Child. A person’s need to escape responsibility can cause them to slip into child mode where they can act dismissive and rebellious. People operating in child mode often dismiss other people’s criticisms and maintain an attitude that they are going to do what they want regardless of how others feel.
  • Parent. When someone feels a need to assert control over a situation, often in a case in which they feel powerless, they may slip into parent mode. From the sound of it, you might think this is an example of where someone has adopted the voice of reason, but more often than not, it is the voice of authority and not a very reasonable authority at that. If you have ever experienced someone talking to you as if you were a child, that person was most likely operating in Parent mode.
  • Adult. The ideal mode to operate in is Adult mode. Those who operate from this mode are concerned with reality as it is rather than disregarding reality like someone might do who is operating in child mode or trying to control reality like someone operating in parent mode.Until next time ...


Sheryl Tuchman, SPHR, SHRM-SCP 

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