Friday, 20 May 2011

Persuasive Speaking Part 2 - Transactional Analysis

In his book, Games People Play, Dr. Eric Berne described ego states as being “a system of feelings accompanied by a related set of behaviour patterns”. He tells us that ego states are categorised as exteropsychic, neopsychic or archaeopsychic. The first resemble ego states of parental figures; the second are autonomously directed towards the objective appraisal of reality and the third are ego states that remain from early childhood.

The expression of the three kinds of ego state may be referred to colloquially as the Parent, Adult and Child respectively.

Berne defines a transaction as a unit of social intercourse. Parents indulge in gossip. Adults solve problems together. Children or Parent and Child play together. These are known as Complementary Transactions. However a Crossed Transaction occurs when one party addresses the other as Adult-to-Adult and the other party responds as Child-to-Parent or Parent-to-Child.

What does any of this have to do with persuasive speaking? In Part 1 I talked about Aristotle’s three types of persuasion. Ethos (moral character of the speaker) is an appeal to the Parent, Logos (reasoned argument) is an appeal to the Adult and Pathos (an emotional appeal) is an appeal to the Child.

Berne points out that transactions involving the activity of two ego states simultaneously (Ulterior Transactions) are the basis of games (games are complex social behaviours with their own rules not necessarily games in the literal sense). He cites the following example:

Salesman: ‘This one is better, but you can’t afford it.’
Housewife: ‘That’s the one I’ll take.’

On a social level the transaction is Adult-Adult but on a psychological level the salesman’s Adult is addressing the Housewife’s Child. Notice that there are two sets of Complementary Transactions here. Berne states that “the first rule of communication is that communication will proceed smoothly as long as transactions are complementary; and its corollary is that as long as transactions are complementary, communication can, in principle, proceed indefinitely.”

Perhaps now you can see why the emotional appeal is particularly powerful. In Part 3 I’ll examine the use of language in persuasion and how we are easily persuaded using words with a positive connotation (charm words) or those with a negative connotation (hex words).