Transactional Analysis (TA) is part of social psychology and was developed by the Canadian psychiatrist Eric Berne in 1958.
Transactional analysts see people as basically “OK” and thus capable of change, growth, and healthy interactions.
“I’m OK – You’re OK” is probably the best-known expression of the purpose of transactional analysis: to establish and reinforce the position that recognizes the value and worth of every person.
Eric Berne (2010) suggested that the way we see ourselves and those we come into contact shapes our attitudes and emotional states and how we then communicate.
Frank Ernst then developed this idea into the OK matrix (also called the OK Corral model after the famous 1881 Tombstone shootout between the Earps and the Clantons).
He represented these life positions in a simple matrix depicting the level of value of others (I’m okay with you) and self-value (I’m okay with me). Although having a preferred position we revert to, people will move around the grid depending on influences and experiences from situations that life throws along the way.
I’m not OK with me – I’m not OK with you
This is the hopeless situation of getting nowhere and can occur where people unsuccessfully interact characterised by frustration and accusations of blame on both sides.
I’m OK with me – I’m not OK with you
People in this position feel themselves superior in some way to others, who are seen as inferior and not OK. As a result, they may be contemptuous and quick to anger. This position is a trap into which many in authority fall, assuming that their given position makes them better and, by implication, others are not OK.
I’m not OK with me – I’m OK with you
This is the helpless or get away from situation where people put themselves in an inferior position with respect to someone else. This may come from being belittled or bullied. People in this position have low self-esteem.
I’m OK – You’re OK
This is harmonious and there is no inferior or superior frame of reference. This is characterised by constructive and cooperative relationships where people are happy to get along with others even if there are points of disagreement.
So, it’s worth remembering when we are dealing with others, at any moment we are taking one of four positions in relation to our self and another person.