how i used transactional analysis to catch an airplane

How I Used Transactional Analysis to Catch an Airplane

The other day I missed the booking for my flight and I was told abruptly that I was out of luck.

It wasn’t my fault.

Actually, it was. I had plenty of time and was just checking my email in the airport terminal before I went to go get my ticket, but now the threat of missing my flight was real.

To make matters even more extreme was that I had a flight to catch right after I landed on this voyage. I not only had to think quickly, I had to think effectively.

I went back to the woman at the ticket counter after she had told me to go away at first. I said to her, “Can you please help me. I got to make this flight.”

In the greatest sign that could have happened, she gruffly exclaimed to me, “Why you so late?! What time is it?” Her anger was a sign of a game that I could win and I knew it.

Emotions of anger symbolize hurt, passion, or caring. 

If she had no care that I was going to miss my flight then she would not react this passionately and with this much emotion. The fact that she was angry meant that there was actually something that mattered to her here and something that she could get out of this conversational transaction.

Most people don’t see these little communications that are under the surface. I knew that there was movement here. So I waited there and tried my first approach.

In transactional analysis, there are three places that a person comes from at any moment in a conversation. They call these ego states and a person can come from a parent, adult, or a child ego state.

The ticket taker came to me from a parent state. Yelling at me and asking me why I am so late is the sign of an aggressive parent. My first attempt would be to bring her to an adult state with me. So, I tried reasoning and having a conversation where we could come to an understanding. I might have even tried to bribe her (head to palm).

It didn’t work.

This woman other concerns more important absorbing her. It could have been something that happened to her from her past that made her want to feel like a mother or maybe she just wanted to feel control and power in her life. I wasn’t sure, but she had a need that I could help her attain and I had one that I had to fulfill.

The good news was that I’ve learned to adjust my communication so many times in the past and that I have many ways of doing so.

I went to the child ego state.

In the child state, I acted just like a child would, pleading with her and begging her to help me out. I got really low in body position, as low as I could with a countertop in between us, and I looked at her with longing eyes. Just as a parent would she responded without a word.

She picked up the phone and called someone. I felt a glimmer of hope, but I knew it wasn’t quite over yet.

While on the phone she scolded me and told me that I was late. I told her, “Yes, I know. I am sorry.” Just as a remorseful child would. She then took my information and made sure that I was prepared for the flight.

She told me where to go and instructed me on everything that I would need, including my return flight proof to my next location (something she didn’t have to do). With an abrasive lovingness in her voice, she told me not to be late again.

I left with a thank you and then made the running journey through the busy airport to the gate of my flight. After all this, I thought back to my training on ego states and I realized how useful knowing these conversational structures were to me.

However, the irony of the whole morning set in as I rushed out to find that my flight had just been delayed anyway.

Such is travel.

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The founder of Alter Shift, inspired thinker, and enthusiastic change specialist.