Continuing my contribution to Fenman’s publication called Train the Trainer, here is what I wrote about stroking and also some answers I provided to questions that were being asked about TA at the time – and still are!
Human beings need contact with other humans. Children who lack positive recognition will often misbehave in an unwitting attempt to get attention - something that teachers then tend to provide in the form of punishment. These same naughty children may grow up to be the employees who are always being disciplined (and hence, paid attention to) by the manager.
Berne coined the term stroking for the process of giving human recognition. A stroke is a unit of recognition, which is anything we do that lets another person know that we recognise their existence. Strokes vary in intensity, from a simple glance through a conversation and up to physical contact. They may also be positive, or life and growth encouraging, and negative, which are life and growth discouraging. Many of us will settle for negatives if we cannot get enough positives, as if we know at some deep level that we must get a minimal amount to maintain human functioning.
The strokes associated with learning have a significant impact. Those of us who enjoy learning have usually been accustomed to a pattern of positive stroking at school. Teachers will have shown a genuine interest in us, will have encouraged us to see mistakes as opportunities for learning, and will have let us know how pleased they were when we learned. Unfortunately, many people were not so fortunate and will have come to associate school with a diet of negative strokes.
Don’t get trapped in regression
When we enter a training situation in the present, most of us regress to schooldays, albeit momentarily. If, as so often happens, the trainer has also regressed and is now behaving just like a teacher from their own past, the stage is set for potential problems. The best case scenario is of a confident student with a caring teacher . The worst case scenario is a belligerent student with a punitive teacher, so that the whole thing becomes a battle for control.
Trainers can avoid becoming trapped in regression by paying attention to their own stroking needs and their approach to training. They need a good pattern of positive strokes from other people, such as colleagues and friends, so they are not tempted to rely on students to meet their recognition needs.
Trainers also need a variety of role models, so they can select the most effective training styles to suit the student and the circumstances. They will then be able to offer appropriate strokes to students, across a range that encompasses and balances praise, encouragement, reassurance, challenge, constructive criticism and facilitation of self-directed learning. Trainers will tend to succeed at this to the extent that they are able to stay in the here-and-now and choose how to behave rather than automatically modelling themselves on their recollections of teachers past.
Check your own stroking pattern
Check the health of your personal stroking pattern by making a chart with a column for each of your colleagues, plus leave a spare column and add in whatever training group(s) you are currently working with. Add rows so you have space to respond to the following questions for each column:
Questions and Answers
Didn’t TA disappear back in the sixties?
When TA was first developed, it spread rapidly and an international association was set up that reached 14000 members around the world. However, it then became virtually a pop psychology for many years, whilst serious TA practitioners continued their work and the development of the theories in a low profile way. Over the years, a European association was set up – and became bigger than the international association. Between them, they have recently combined their examination processes and created the Transactional Analysis Certification and Training Council. There are now TA associations in over 60 countries.
Isn’t TA really about psychotherapy?
Originally developed by Dr Eric Berne as a psychotherapy, it is now also used extensively in organisational and educational settings – with suitable amendments to the theoretical models and the style of application. Most of these concepts are just as useful for developmental TA as they are for psychotherapeutic TA – they just need adjusting so the focus is development rather than cure. It has been possible for some time to obtain international accreditation in 4 different fields of application – psychotherapy, organisational, educational and counselling. There are an increasing number of practitioners and trainers in these developmental TA fields.
Can I teach TA without being qualified?
Anyone can teach TA - and the models are simple yet robust enough that people will often understand and benefit from them even if the trainer does not know TA that well. On the other hand, unqualified trainers may limit their own impact if they have not practised using TA to understand their own issues and the impact of these on their work. There are now several developmental TA trainers around the UK; options include introductory courses run to an international syllabus, skill building workshops, international accreditation and postgraduate certificate, diploma and MSc programmes.
Hay, Julie (2003) Transactional Analysis in the Classroom Train the Trainer, Issue 1
© 2018 Julie Hay
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