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John Thompson

Greater Manchester Police

Leadership Trainer

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Transactional Analysis (TA)


I am currently developing a workshop around those difficult conversations in the workplace, I was thinking of using TA as an example of interaction between people has anyone out there done this before or could suggest an alternative?  I find it quite deep and I think I may confuse the delegates if I am not 100% sure of exactly what it all means, especially the conflicting responses.  Secondly if anyone could suggest a practical exercise or similar that would be very useful.

5 Responses

  1. can you define “difficult”…

    Hi John

    You mention those "difficult conversations in the workplace", can you define difficult?


  2. Difficult to define “difficult”

    Hi Rus,

    By "difficult" I mean the conversations which could be potentially confrontational with regard to inappropriate behaviour or dealing with poor performance.  This could be with staff, peers or line managers.  It is about giving staff having some tools and the confidence to have these conversations in a non-judgmental, non-emotional manner hoping to acheive win/win situations wherever possible

    I hope this clarifies the "difficulty".

  3. only take what you need

    TA is a complex subject but you probably only need a very little to get your message across; the fundamental issue is that if you treat people like children they will act like children….if you treat people like adults they will act like adults (notwithstanding the attempts to push you back into parent mode so that they can behave like children because they want to!)

    I have used TA and the rights/responsibility assertiveness model (which personally I prefer) for precisely this subject many times…..over the last year alone I have been told by one delegate that it saved her marriage and another that it explained why he had been in constant trouble with the police (as a teenager) and his bosses (for the past five years). Only last month a delegate rang me at home about three weeks after the workshop to say that she had used what she had learned to sort out a potentially serious problem with her boss that had, up til then, been going down the formal grievance route.

    If you have access to a Video Arts Video called "If Looks Could Kill" there are two alternative scenarios featuring Sister Cartilage; in the first she treats the patient in "parent mode" and gets a childish response and secondly she adopts an "adult approach" and gets an adult response.  The subject is customer service but the message is pretty much the same.

    I hope this helps


  4. TA in conversations

    When I’ve used TA as an example of a useful way of thinking in tricky personal situations at work, I’ve always emphasised that people should check (and keep on checking) "what mode am I in right now?". This checking usually helps them get into ‘adult’ mode, anyway,  and also to focus on desired outcomes rather than emotional or power-based reactions.

  5. Crucial Conversations

    Have you read the Vital Smarts books ‘Crucial Conversations & ‘Crucial Confrontations’? You will recognise elements of TA in these books but they are focussed very much on the practical application of theory in holding difficult conversations. You would need to be a certified trainer to deliver the course but if this isn’t for you, I’d recommend reading the books anyway – I’ve found them extremely useful.

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John Thompson

Leadership Trainer

Read more from John Thompson

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