“The OK Boss” is one of Muriel James’ many reader-friendly guides on how to apply TA to everyday life situations. As she states in the introduction, “ At one time or another, almost everyone is a boss: Parents, spouses, teachers, and employers”. Here, she shows you how you can become an OK boss using TA techniques, using stories and familiar workplace scenarios that so many can relate to. The objective is for the reader to recognize the bossing styles of others and of themselves, to understand their behaviors, and their OK and not OK attitudes at work and at home.
The Critic—from (not OK) Critical Dictator to (OK) Informed Critic
The Coach—from (not OK) Benevolent Dictator to (OK) Supportive Coach
The Shadow–from (not OK) Loner to (OK) Liberator
The Analyst—from (not OK) Computer to (OK) Communicator
The Pacifier—from (not OK) Milquetoast to (OK) Negotiator
The Fighter—from (not OK) Punk to (OK) Partner
The Inventor—from (not OK) Scatterbrain to (OK) Innovator
With each bossing style, Muriel James covers the personalities (ego states), how each type gives strokes, transaction patterns, games bosses play, life positions/scripts bosses act, appropriate contracts and time structuring. At the end of each chapter, there are 3 areas touched upon. Self Discovery: Analyzing yourself and your behaviors. What to do: How to change, with the underlying message of ‘you have the power to make different choices for different outcomes’. Guidelines for effective and efficient bossing: Characteristics of the OK boss in relation to the area discussed.
“The OK Boss” is an older text, but certainly a gem. A little of the wording may show as a bit dated, however the material is easily applied to today’s workplaces. It’s a book not only for the bosses in the world, but also for those who have a ‘boss’ in their lives.
My favorite part was seeing the many illustrations sprinkled throughout each section. I loved how the structural diagrams were made to look like side profiles of faces, and the expressions and thought bubbles really brought the concepts to life.
I first heard of Claude as the author of the Warm Fuzzy Tale, and of Games Alcoholics Play, but when I read my first article in Issues in Radical Therapy, the publication of the Radical Psychiatry movement, I was completely won over. I was already attuned to the issues of American imperialism and feminism from a personal and political point of view. To read his explanation of the difference between native power and position power was to grasp how my work with clients could be connected with the kinds of social change in which I fervently believed. Between Claude’s work on relationships, including No Power Plays and No Secrets, and his partner Hogie wyckoff’s work on true equality, I found inspiration for linking personal and social change to which I adhere to this day. Claude’s brilliant understanding of how the whole system maintains artificial scarcities of power, strokes, etc. to control people, is something I wish we could transmit to every child growing up anywhere in the world.
As I got to know people in ITAA and became a friend as well as follower, I valued Claude’s advice. When I considered my run for President of ITAA in the mid-eighties, I consulted Claude to see what he thought. I wasn’t sure that ITAA was a good vehicle for my leadership. He pointed out that it was the vehicle that was available to me, and encouraged me to run.
I often observe the irony that people teach what they need to learn, from Eric Berne on down. In Claude’s case, I noticed his ability to show people the stroke economy, to encourage Permission for giving and receiving strokes, while he tended not to take strokes in for himself. On at least one occasion, I made it a personal mission to insist that he take in the strokes that people had for him. I took great pleasure in holding him to his principles, and watching him receive even a small portion of his due.
While he could appear crusty, and would willingly argue over key points of TA, Claude was truly loving and caring, and made the effort to travel and teach where he was invited. I know he loved his ranch in Northern California, and that he joined with others in social experiments both on the land and in his Bay Area office. He continued to write and develop ideas that challenged the status quo throughout his life. Claude contributed to the liberation of the human spirit, and I hope that in his passing, he felt the satisfaction of a life well lived and a legacy that will continue to ripple outward.
“There are two TA’s: the one we care trained to think in and use in understanding our clients, which is not simple, and the direct language we use in speaking to clients, which is simple.” – William Cornell
How can I teach TA to new clients?? That is a challenge. Even though TA is simple and effective, there are so many definitions and diagrams that clients (and new therapists) can get confused or overwhelmed.
When I was an organizational trainer, I learned three elements were necessary to convey new information in an effective way. 1. Good visuals 2. Simple definition/diagrams 3. A good story. These 3 elements help clients and students absorb the new data, and gives them a system and structure for continued learning, and relates the information to their lives.
1. Good Visuals
“A picture is worth a 1000 words.” When I drive to a new location, I need a road map. I need to see how I am getting to my destination. I need to see the journey as a whole, ‘the big picture’. Unless I get the big picture, I don’t grasp simple concepts.
But since principles for personal growth are abstract and conceptual, how can I put those concepts in visual form? I came up with a visual tool that includes seven basic TA principles—belief systems and behaviors—that contribute to an authentic life. I put it in an electronic book, called “The Seven Principles for Creating an Authentic Life.” I use the picture (and metaphor) of a flourishing tree to represent an authentic life.
Most people can understand the principles of nature. They know a healthy tree needs two things-a good root system, and strong branches. The root system requires good, rich, nourishing soil ( in order for the roots to grow deep into the soil). A good root system provides stability and strength. As a result, the tree emerges with strong, healthy, flourishing branches.
A flourishing tree is a metaphor for a flourishing life. This diagram shows two TA belief systems and five behaviors that contribute to an authentic, flourishing life. The Seven Principles helps clients see how belief systems (root system) and behaviors (branches) come together to create an authentic life.
2. Simple Definitions and Diagrams
I teach my clients and students seven basic TA concepts using short, concise phrases. So Principle 3 “Understanding Self and Others” represents a BIG, complex subject, but it is summarized in simple, easy-to-remember terms. I explain that each principle has a corresponding TA diagram that we use to understand our belief systems and behaviors.
And as in nature, I gently remind them that change and growth takes time.Changing ones’ belief systems or learning new behaviors requires persistence and patience. The TA Tree is a simple reminder of the tools they can employ to work on these area of their life.
3. A Good Story
This is the story I tell my clients/students about using The Seven Principles with an actual client.
A few years back, a physician came to see me. She was recently divorced, depressed, and desperate. She also was impatient, and wanted good results now.
I said “When you see a new patient, how do you proceed on the first visit?” She said, “I take a history. I rule out what does not apply to the patient. Then I come up with a treatment plan”. I told her we would do the same process.
After explaining the Seven Principles, I asked her to identify areas she was already doing well, and areas she needed work. She said “My childhood was fine. I think I have good foundational beliefs about life. But I have been told I talk down to people. And I work too much.” Together, we identified 2 areas for work— good communication (principle 4) and Time Structuring (principle 5). We made a contract to address these 2 behaviors and skills (treatment plan).
As we continued our work, other principles came into play. But she was very clear on what she wanted, and how she could get there.
The Seven Principles Tree helps clients can see the ‘big picture’. They can choose the areas on which they want to work, and ‘rule out’ areas they are already doing well. In my experience, most clients want to focus on 2-3 areas. This clear direction for the counseling process gives a client confidence and hope. Throughout the process, they can refer back to the flourishing tree, and remind themselves what it takes to have a authentic life.
For TA teachers, The Seven Principles Tree and The TA Tree gives them a visual tool to teach TA belief systems and behaviors. They can post a copy next to the dry erase board, and refer to it during sessions. It makes their task to teaching TA easier, and can be taught to individuals, couples, families, businesses, and groups. It serves as an introduction to TA. It is my hope that is it is a springboard for more TA exploration.
The Seven Principles for Creating an Authentic Life is available through iBookstore. For more information about the TA Tree, or other tools, contact Catherine M. O’Brien at theTAteacher@gmail.com
Practitioners of Transactional Analysis were interviewed on their use of and appreciation for TA during the 2013 USATAA conference. USATAA proudly re-posts this wonderful video that features highlights from several of those interviews.