Transactional Analysis

by Len Horridge


The adult ego is not a reflection of maturity and can be seen in children of all ages. It is a less emotional, more rational state than the other two, concerned with results, what works and how it works, often without a feeling for other people.

The adult state is ‘thought’ and in the ‘here and now’; it has often been described as the time when ‘our brain gets into gear’.

The adult sorts out the best plan – the way forward – gathering data from the outside world and planning what to do with that data, given all the other options.

It is mostly positive (unlike the other ego states, it only has the one side), but it can be seen as a little cold and unemotional.

As there is only one adult state, it can appear somewhat one dimensional. However, it is often thought to be the best state to be in when dealing with people in business, as it is objective, related to facts and non-emotional.

Naturally, this depends on your role. Some roles demand a parental approach; some demand a child approach. However, Berne’s research and follow-up studies suggest that most people respond best to the adult transaction and even the most sensitive of roles (counsellors, as an example) use the adult state for the majority of the time.

While the adult state is good for most circumstances, to remain in the adult state the entire time would make us very one-dimensional and we would miss out on recognising people and motivating them (mostly a parental state) or enjoying ourselves (child like).

Also, recall that adult does not mean mature; children are often very adult and pragmatic but may lack the emotional depth to understand the impact of their behaviours on others. So, the answer the adult comes up with may appear to be the right one, but it may have a detrimental impact on others.

The adult state, however, is the only ego state in which we can make a logical decision about what to say, how to react and what state would be best to adopt for that given situation.

So, how do we know when we are in an adult ego state?


Words and expressions such as how, when, at what time, give me more detail, check it out, let’s look for the causes and the meeting is at two o’clock indicate that the speaker is in the adult state.

Body language

The body language of the adult is thoughtful, level, interested, alert and confident, with eye contact maintained at all times.


The tone is clear, open, honest, level, unemotional, objective and bright.

Take this with the normal pinch of questionnaire salt, but if you scored more than ten, you may have a strong adult ego state.