Streit im Job? Das Transaktionsmodell nach Berne könnte helfen…


Quarrel on the job? The Berne transactional model could help...

Basically, the communication model distinguishes three "I" states:

  • the "parent" egoCritical: instructing, intervening and correcting basic attitudeCaring: communication that offers protection and care.
  • the "adult" egoObjective: neutral, fact-based
  • the "child" egoFree: curious-questioning, creativeEmotional: sulking, justifying, offended

During an exchange, each interlocutor is in one of the three "I" states.

An example from everyday project work:

Supervisor: "Why hasn't anything happened here yet?"

Employee: "Excuse me?? I've been sitting on this day and night what's this question about?"


This is a "classic" example of complementary "I" states in communication.

While the superior person is in the "critical parent ego", the busy person is in an "emotional child ego" state. Simply reflecting on this conversational state is the first insight gained. The second is the reaction and acceptance of a different "ego state."

With this, a de-escalative conversational approach might look like this:

Supervisor: "Why hasn't anything happened yet?"

Employee, now in "factual adult ego": "What do you mean exactly?" or "What information do you need?"

Alternatively, a "curious child" self may respond, "A lot has happened here. May I introduce it to you?"

Complementary, i.e., opposing "ego states," cause conflicts to arise – However, if we understand the states and tendencies that our counterpart occupies, we can adjust our own "ego state." Thus, conflicts can be avoided and a goal-oriented result of the communication can be achieved.

In parallel, everyone knows the "harmonious" communication situations:

Employee: "I have an idea what projects we could tackle in the future and I've been thinking about what fields we could develop into!"

Supervisor: "Okay let's see. I'm curious about your ideas!"

This communication situation is harmonious, and both are in a "free child ego" state. In this situation, the employee experiences curiosity about the thoughts being expressed; the conversation is initially positive. With this type of conversation, appreciation and mutual trust is expressed.

During a conversation, we constantly change states, entering and leaving them according to the situation and topic. Sometimes, however, we find that our counterpart remains in one position – in the worst case – in a complementary one.

The goal of this communication theory is to better understand our counterpart and his communicated "I-state". From this we can derive measures to return to a cooperative communication situation, because we understand what our counterpart is actually telling us.

In our everyday consulting work we often experience colleagues who are under pressure or responsibility and have to deliver results. We try to use these soft skills to better understand our interlocutors, their conditions and needs.

Arguing doesn't help anyone – especially when you have to work together.


Author: Christian Grabner