Nowadays, we often hear/read/talk about communication. There are oodles of blog posts, articles, discussions, books and documentaries about communication. We communicate through instant messaging, phone calls, indirect or direct. Communication seems to be everywhere, but often we miss the main goal:

Understandable exchange of information between persons.

Misunderstanding, frustration and arguments are some of the possible consequences. Only because we have no consciousness about the effect of our way to communicate.

I wasn’t very conscious about the way I communicate, too. I had no idea, which factors influence my communication behavior and why. And I couldn’t imagine, that I can change the way people understand me and I understand them. Until I read a specific book last year.

Here is the story:
Last year in September, after I had missed a seminar at my university, I had to write a paper about communication. I had the choice between 3 books regarding different aspects of communication. I decided to take

I’m OK – You’re OK” by Thomas A. Harris.

It is hard to find words, what this book has changed in my life. This book didn’t trigger only a huge shift in the way I communicate with other people. It also fired up my interest in Self-Development.

I believe that you can change a lot by taking an honest look on the inside!

It has not only refined the way I observe communication between people. It even changed the way I see books about self-improvement, consciousness and all the other fancy words.

In my opinion, everyone can profit from reading books about such topics. Often, you get introduced into aspects you never thought about before. By thinking about these aspects you become more conscious about yourself and your environment. This will change a lot in your life to the better!

Reading books (especially ones regarding Self-Development) lead to an overall increased consciousness in life.

Because of the huge impact this book had on my life, I want to introduce you too, in the so-called transactional analysis.
The transactional analysis describes a deeper look on the way people communicate with each other. It is based on the opinion that every interpersonal action is a transaction. Such a transaction contains a lot of information. Not only about the involved persons and their relationship. But also about their type of communication.

There is even more: The transactional analysis follows the thesis that experiences are saved forever in our brains without an ability to delete them. The only way we can overcome negative experiences is by gaining new experiences and knowledge. Without overwriting and questioning them, these experiences form following two inner beings:

  • The parent

Built in the first years of your life the inner parent is strongly influenced by your caregivers. Especially, rules, advices & prohibitions, but also their personal view on the world, are the influencing factors of your inner parent. Because of the inability to decide whether something is true or false, as a young child, everything is remembered as true.

You accept what your caregiver told you.

Based on everything what you learned from your caregivers, you learn to see reality. Without questioning this view, you repeat the behavior and way of acting from your caregivers. Especially, in stressful situations, in which you experience a strong negative emotion.

People with a strong inner parent also tend to express their opinions. They would probably say the same, as their caregivers. In a conversation, persons with a strong inner parent express, the later explained, “You’re not O.K.”

  • The child

Another part of yourself, which exists from the beginning of your life, is the inner child. All intrinsic influences of your childhood are saved here. It also represents the fight between the curiosity of a young child and the desire for appreciation from the caregivers.

The result of this inner fight is the later explained “I’m not O.K.”-attitude. The inner child is also your imagined version of reality. In your early childhood you can’t understand how the world works and therefore you imagine to “understand.” In a specific situation, which causes anxiety or another strong negative emotion, it is possible that someone fall back into this “childish behavior.”

These two inner beings are the result of everybody’s childhood. Depending, on how much do you question these “given laws” you develop the third inner state:

  • The adult

In comparison to the other inner beings, it isn’t there from your early childhood. It develops over the course of time by handling incoming stimuli, experiences and other impressions.

It represents your own version of reality and the ability to think independently.

The inner adult is under steady influence of the other two beings and therefore needs special consciousness for further development. You can imagine it as computer, considering the influences of your inner child/parent. If it is used right, it calculates the probability something from your inner/child is relevant in the current situation.

In addition to your inner beings, there are 4 different attitudes. Every attitude defines and describes a different way to communicate. Each of these attitudes can influence your life. They represent the relationships between you and yourself and you and others.

  • I’m not O.K. – you’re O.K.

This is the initial state. “You’re O.K.” comes from the kind treatment someone gets from his caregievers in his early days. “I’m not O.K.” is created by the helplessness as little human and the fear of doing things wrong. If he keeps this state throughout his life he probably will live either

by thinking “I’m not O.K.” and try to avoid people with a “I’m O.K.”- Attitude, to avoid feeling bad. Another possible way is, that such a person provoke other people to keep the feeling of “I’m not O.K.” or
by trying to fix this the inner “I’m not O.K.”-attitude with meeting a special requirement. These people are often considered as eager and try to please everyone. Workaholics and persons who always look for a round of applause from other people. They also want to surround their selves with persons with a strong inner parent.

  • I’m not O.K. – you’re not O.K.

After about one year of a child’s life, often there is a transition from “You’re O.K.” to “You’re not O.K.” Because the little child can slowly start to walk it won’t get the care it was used to. In case someone keeps this inner state throughout his life, he can’t accept praise and can barely show affection to other people. Autistic often have this kind of thinking.

  • I’m O.K. – you’re not O.K.

In most cases persons with this attitude experienced a horrid childhood with abuse or almost none appreciation. Because they didn’t get appreciation from the outside, they looked for in in the inside. They can’t show their weaknesses and try to reciprocate their experienced cruelty with their own cruelty. This is the reason why persons with this state are more likely to become criminals.  Based on their experience, they think other people are not “O.K.”, too. Often, psychotherapists don’t have any influence on this kind of person.

  • I’m O.K. – you’re O.K.

This inner state is the only one you can consciously choose. In comparison to the other inner states, which base on emotions, this one bases on believe and consciousness. To achieve this inner state someone needs consciousness about his childhood and the influence of his parents. Additionally, this process requires patience and trust. When a person has reached this state, he is able to mute any experiences that threat his current point of view. He also can effectively use his inner adult to control his feelings and compulsive behavior.

According to authour Thomas A. Harris these above-mentioned states and inner beings are the main influences on our way to communicate. In my opinion with describing these influencing factors, he introduced a whole new view on communication.

I know, that this information seems to be overwhelming.

But, remember that Self-Development is a process, not a state.

Therefore, you need to get your foot in the door. Now, you can question yourself, which kind of inner attitude you have. Question yourself, which inner being is the strongest. Build consciousness for the inner being you are in. Use this consciousness to switch to your inner adult, while considering the influences. In conversations, try to breathe in slowly, before saying something you may regret.

I believe that everyone has the power to change to the better, if we take the time to look inside.

You can change, too! Start to overcome your inner parent/child and the status of feeling “not O.K.” Switch to a generous attitude of feeling “O.K.” with yourself and the environment. All you need are advice and practice. Advice is what I want to offer you in my blog posts about Self-Development. Practice is what you need to do.

What do you observe during conversations or if you take an honest look inside?