Lots of people feel like a child when they are dealing with authority figures. It holds them back and stops them from dealing with the world in an effective way, especially at work. Maybe this is you – if so, would you like it to be different?

Change your ego-state to change your world.

Sometimes we feel like a child in an adult world. This might be when we are with a senior manager, or maybe we have just got a new job, or have been promoted. In Transactional Analysis theory, we are always operating as Parent, Adult or Child.

The Child ego-state is where we feel like a child and respond to authority like we did when we were younger. We usually respond by being compliant or rebellious. When compliant, we do as we are told, however much we may be feeling resentful inside. When we are rebellious we argue with authority or get aggressive by door slamming or other acting out behaviours. We are often scared when we are in Child.

The Parent ego-state is when we quote all the rules ourselves, and say a lot about how things ought to be. It’s an old-fashioned way of seeing the world, because we learn it from our own parents! In the Parent ego-state we are either nurturing, or controlling. The first is when we fuss over people and take care of them; the second is when we feel it is OK to tell them off or to disapprove of them. Needless to say, much of the time anyone in the Parent state is very patronising.

We operate best in Adult ego-state – a rational, calculating state of mind where we see the world as it is. We communicate with others in an adult way, clearly and factually, naming any feelings rather than acting them out. In our Adult ego-state, we tend to get what we want, and to take responsibility for ourselves, our needs and our feelings.

Learn the three simple steps to manage your Ego-State

Step one – keep a notebook. Jot down times when you feel like a child, especially if you feel uncertain, scared or patronised. Make a note of any times that you feel disapproving, as if you know better than others, as if you were a parent. These times are the clues to when you are not in an Adult ego-state, and you will soon start to see the patterns.

Step 2 – looking at the situations you encountered in Step 1, decide on other alternatives for your behaviour – what else might you have said? It’s a good idea to say the unarguable truth, such as “I felt hurt when you criticised me in front of the team”, rather than “You made me feel bad”. Decide on alternative responses, especially in asking for what you want, such as: “I want you to make any criticism in private.” Look into some simple assertiveness techniques.

Step 3 – take action. Start to behave differently. Speak to the people concerned Adult to Adult. This will feel strange at first, but stick with it. You may feel a little uncomfortable, but you will be able to make changes, slowly but surely, and your interactions with others will start to feel easier.

Alan Chatting is a personal and business coach with a background in psychotherapy. He teaches aspiring professionals how to make the next step when they think they have reached their limits. Get in touch if you would like to set up a free discovery call.