I wanted to learn a bit more about communication and decided to start with Vera Birkenbihl’s book Kommunikationstraining. After finishing the first part (the theory) I can recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about communication and who wants to work on their communication skills. To give an overview about the content, the biggest chapters are about a person’s sense of self-worth, needs, motivations, images (about the world and themselves) and defensive measures and what those have to do with successful or failed communication, communication levels and feedback techniques and an introduction to Transactional Analysis.
I had heard a bit about Transactional Analysis before and found it quite interesting but never got around to looking into it further. It is a form of analysis developed by Dr. Eric Berne to allow people to quickly understand emotional and intellectual aspects about themselves and their communication partners.
In order to do the actual Transactional Analysis, the analysis of transactions in communication, one needs to understand the structure behind it. Berne has identified three different aspects of a person’s personality (based on Freud’s psychoanalysis), or three ego states1:
The first aspect that is developed is the child (C) and it contains instincts, desires, talents, and things like want, spontaneity, creativity, curiosity and manipulation (because the child only know their own needs and not those of other people) and this is where our sense of self lies. The C is divided into the natural C and the adaptive C.
Our environment modifies the child’s behaviour and its conscience. This is done by the parents at first, so this part of a person’s personality is the P. The P contains commandments and prohibitions, morale and conscience, prejudices and learned behaviour. The P can be controlling and critical or nurturing and caring.
The third aspect is the A, the adult or analytical part of a person. It contains thinking and analysing, the ability to interpret, store and combine information. The A is the most objective part and should be the one that influences most of our decisions.
When we speak and act, one or more of these ego states are at work, both in the one who is sending a message and the person who is receiving this message and by analysing the transaction of words and emotions, people can better understand and adjust their communications to make them more successful and less stressful for both parties. But I will write more on this at a later date.
I am reading the book in German. There might be a lot of differences in wording between the original theory by Berne and what I am translating back into English from what I read in German. ↩