Once upon a time, when Transactional Analysis (TA) was all the rage, I went on a three-day residential programme run by an American psychologist well known in TA circles. TA attempts to explain complex human behaviour in terms of ego-states (Adult, Parent and Child) and the psychological games people play.  It rings remarkably true.

There were twelve of us sitting, as it were, at the feet of the American.  He was impressive; informative and amusing and his behaviour role modelled the merits of an Adult ego-state.  He was a leader, totally under control and calm whatever the circumstances.  It was impossible to imagine him getting flustered or being caught, say, in a compromising position.  Undoubtedly, we were safe his hands.

As the programme progressed, it became clear that one of our colleagues, a bespectacled middle aged man, had an irritating behaviour pattern; he frequently asked questions of clarification that we all considered superfluous to requirements.  They tended to be petty, enquiring into details that had been adequately covered by our American hero. This went on relentlessly for two days and each time the consultant  behaved impeccably, sometimes offering an illuminating answer straightaway and sometimes offering to do so after the session when those of us who didn’t require further clarification could escape to the bar.

On the last day, the unnecessary questions continued unabated.  Towards the end of the morning, when we were all looking forward to lunch, our colleague asked yet another silly question.  Instead of dealing with the question as usual, the American consultant calmly asked our colleague whether he would welcome some feedback. Somewhat bemused, he said yes.  The consultant went up close until noses were practically touching and, at point blank range, suddenly shouted, ‘You piss me off!’

We never knew whether this was a premeditated move (from the Adult ego-state) or whether the American had finally lost his cool.  Anyway, it did the trick; questions were no longer forthcoming.

What a pity the American hadn’t offered feedback on the first day.

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