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We are all OK, Transactional Analysis for negotiations

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

During the Mayfly retreats, a crucial component is our focus on one tool or habit or skill that can help individuals along their journey.

For example, one of our participants in Marrakech this month entered the markets with fear and trepidation. Uncertain how to navigate the market seller's consistent bantering, the constant bartering, playful stories and the increased pressure of not being able to look at anything for fear of the sales approach! She struggled to buy anything - and didn’t understand how negotiations could successfully work.

After some workshop discussions, reading “Never Split the Difference” and some self-understanding using the OK Corral, it enabled her to place herself within the “I’m OK, You’re OK” position in the discussions. She teamed up with another participant to guide the way and slowly learned to ease into it, get playful and eventually enjoy it.

What did this teach her?

Strength? Confidence? Not to take herself so seriously? Or merely to become more flexible and fluid in her conversations and interactions?

She appreciated the Moroccan way of conducting sales. She was able to apply this learning to the Mastermind session, able to determine what was the question on her mind and the core root of her indecision so she could then plan her next steps.


What is the foundation?

Building rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people concerned understand each other's feelings or ideas and communicate well. How can we build rapport?

Emotional intelligence is being aware of one’s emotions and the emotions of others and how one influences the other in interpersonal relationships.

Empathy is the ability to understand and respond to the feelings of another.


What is the OK Corral?

How you can use and understand the OK Corral to control your reactions and understanding.

This is the “I’m OK, you’re OK” position in the OK Corral. Eric Berne initiated the principle within Transactional Analysis that we are all born 'OK' -- good and worthy. Frank Ernst developed these into the OK matrix, also known as 'life positions’.

I am OK - You are OK

When I consider myself OK and also frame others as OK, then there is no position for me or you to be inferior or superior. This is, in many ways, the ideal position. Here, the person is comfortable with other people and with themself. They are confident and happy and get on with other people even when there are points of disagreement.

I am OK - You are not OK

People in this position feel superior to others, who are seen as inferior and not OK. As a result, they may be contemptuous and quick to anger. Their talk about others will be smug and supercilious, contrasting their own relative perfection with the limitation of others.

This position is a trap into which many managers, parents and others in authority fall, assuming that their given position makes them better and, by implication, others are not OK. These people may also have a strong 'Be Perfect' driver, and their personal strivings make others seem less perfect.

I am not OK - You are OK

When I think I'm not OK, but you are OK, I am putting myself in an inferior position with respect to you.

This position may come from being belittled as a child, perhaps from dominant parents or maybe careless teachers or bullying peers. People in this position have particularly low self-esteem and will put others before them. They may thus have a strong 'Please Others' driver.

I am not OK - You are not OK

This is a relatively rare position but perhaps occurs when people unsuccessfully try to project their bad objects onto others. As a result, they remain feeling bad whilst perceiving others as bad.

This position could also be a result of relationships with dominant others where the other people are viewed with a sense of betrayal and retribution. This may later get generalized from the bullies to all other people. By understanding and tempering our reactions, we can better navigate communications and effective negotiations.

The destiny of every human being is decided by what goes on inside his skull

when confronted by what goes on outside his skull. – Eric Berne


How can you use the OK Corral?

Start from the idea that each of us has worth, value, and dignity as human beings and deserves to be treated accordingly.

  1. Analyse your interaction with the other person. Which quadrant can you place yourself in? How are you reacting?

  2. Observe how your thoughts shift as you move to another quadrant of the OK Corral. Is it better or worse?

  3. Now remove yourself from the situation and consider how you can move to the I’m OK, You’re OK position.

Let’s see where your journey ends up.

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