The Open University since 2006
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Shakespeare Speaks: A fool's paradiseFriday, 6th May 2016 12:30 -Is Robert Harley really going to put a ring on Janet Bassett's finger? Or is Janet living in a fool's... Read more: Shakespeare Speaks: A fool's paradise
Thinking Allowed 2016: Migrant WomenAvailable for over a yearWhat have the generations of immigrant women living in Britain got to say about their experiences? Read more: Thinking Allowed 2016: Migrant Women
All in the Mind - Summer 2016: All in the Mind Awards and psychology in filmsAvailable for over a year
Thinking Allowed 2016: The Flaneur - Walking in the CityAvailable for over a year
Shakespeare Speaks: A pound of fleshAvailable for over a year
Sir David Attenborough - Earth in VisionSir David Attenborough discusses his inspiration, regrets, CGI, digital archive and the future of... Watch now: Sir David Attenborough - Earth in Vision
Hitler's rise and fall: TimelineTrack the key events in Hitler's life, from his childhood in Austria to his suicide in the bunker... Read more: Hitler's rise and fall: Timeline
Artists and authorship: the case of RaphaelIndividual artists have been the traditional focus of art history, but how do we evaluate the... Try: Artists and authorship: the case of Raphael now
Organisations and management accountingThis free course, Organisations and management accounting, examines the nature of organisations,... Try: Organisations and management accounting now
To succeed in management you need good interpersonal skills, you need to understand how to deal with other people. This free course, The importance of interpersonal skills, will help you gain an awareness of your own skills and understand that an awareness of the interpersonal skills of others can help us enormously in dealing with the work tasks we are responsible for.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- recognise the importance of interpersonal skills
- describe how good communication with other can influence our working relationships
- outline the roles we play in our work groups and teams.
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
In reality, a message like the one just referred to above is just one of many which forms part of the ongoing relationships we have with the people we work with. How we get on with each other can have a huge impact on the interpretation of a given message, and the subsequent effects that might have on their motivation or morale.
The next idea we will introduce is a framework for assessing how relationships are established and evolve, based on the states of mind of those involved in it. It is rooted in the work of psychologist, Eric Berne (Figure 2), from an idea proposed in the mid- 1960s. Berne (1966) argued that everyone goes through shifting states of mind – or ‘ego states’ as he called them –based on the circumstances they find themselves in and the responses they have developed over time to these circumstances. There are three basic ego states: parent, adult and child.
Parent state, as the name suggests, is associated with the typical behaviour of a parent towards their children. This could be authoritarian, prescribing or admonishing as in ‘Don't do that’, ‘Do it this way’ or ‘That's wrong’ – which might be described as a critical parent state. Alternatively, it could be sympathetic, protective or cosseting, which might be described as a nurturing parent state.
Adult state is associated with calm, rational, objective behaviour where the individual focuses on gaining better factual understanding of a situation. Someone in this state of mind will tend to ask questions and check their understanding with the other people they are communicating with. They will come across as thoughtful, enquiring and balanced.
Child state, again as the name suggests, is associated with a variety of behaviours which might be thought to be childlike. This time there are three possible types of child state: free child state, which is associated with creativity, spontaneity and fun; rebellious child state, which is associated with hostility, defiance and argument; and adapted child state, which tends to involve displays of compliance, but can also lead to a more instrumental approach to getting a reward.
It may be easy to jump to the conclusion that some of these states of mind are right and others are wrong, but this was not Berne's intention. The main messages of his work are that:
At any given time each of us is in one or other of the states of mind outlined. Sometimes the shift from one state to another can be very rapid.
One person will tend to respond to another's state of mind. For example, if a manager approaches a member of staff in a critical parent mode, the staff member will tend to adopt a child state of mind, becoming perhaps defensive, dependent or argumentative.
Awareness of both our state of mind and the other person's can help to achieve more effective communication and to develop more positive relationships.
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Leadership and Management courses or view the range of currently available OU Leadership and Management courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Friday, 18th March 2016
Last updated on: Friday, 18th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.
All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
- Word (533 KB)
- PDF (1 MB)
- ePub 3.0 (391 KB)
- ePub 2.0 (392 KB)
- Kindle (279 KB)
- RSS (66 KB)
- HTML (712 KB)
- SCORM (712 KB)
- OUXML Package (12 KB)
- OUXML File (30 KB)
- IMS Common cartridge
- Moodle backup (273 KB)
*Please note you will need an ePub and Mobi reader for these formats.