The power of strokes in building positive connections

Transactional Analysis (TA), crafted by Eric Berne in the mid-20th century, is a psychological framework delving into human behaviour, communication, and personal development. At its core lies the concept of "strokes," representing units of recognition or acknowledgement exchanged in human interactions.


Why it works

Recent theories about strokes in the field of psychology highlight the dynamic interplay between Transactional Analysis (TA) and neurobiology. Emerging research suggests that the exchange of psychological "strokes" aligns with neural processes, influencing emotional well-being. Contemporary perspectives explore how the quality and quantity of interpersonal strokes may impact neurological pathways, shedding light on the intricate connection between social interactions and brain function. 

Understanding strokes in Transactional Analysis

In TA, strokes serve as metaphorical units, akin to the physical touch that a stroke implies. Berne posited that individuals possess a fundamental psychological need for strokes, paralleling the necessity for physical touch. These strokes play a pivotal role in influencing emotional well-being and shaping one's self-esteem.

The ego states: Parent, adult and child

Delving into the concept of strokes involves exploring TA's three ego states: parent, adult, and child. The parent ego state encompasses learned behaviours from authority figures, the adult ego state involves rational thinking, and the child ego state encompasses emotional responses.

Transactions and the exchange of strokes

In daily life, individuals engage in transactions where strokes are exchanged. These strokes, whether positive or negative, significantly impact an individual's emotional state and overall sense of self-worth. Positive strokes contribute to well-being, fostering a sense of connection, while negative strokes can lead to feelings of rejection or inadequacy.

The genesis of strokes in personal development

Berne's creation of the strokes concept within TA aimed to provide a comprehensive understanding of human interactions and relationships. He proposed that the quality and quantity of strokes received during formative years play a pivotal role in personality development. Positive strokes contribute to healthy self-esteem, while a lack of positive strokes can lead to emotional challenges.

Practical application of strokes in daily life

Applying the strokes concept in daily life involves mindful communication and an awareness of the impact of words and actions on others. Building rapport through positive strokes entails offering genuine compliments, expressing appreciation, and actively listening. Simple gestures, such as a warm smile or a kind word, can foster positive interactions and strengthen relationships.

Tailoring strokes to ego states

Recognising the ego states at play in a conversation enhances our ability to provide appropriate strokes. Acknowledging achievements (parent), engaging in logical discussions (adult), or appreciating creativity (child) allows tailoring strokes to different aspects of an individual's personality.

The art of positive interaction

The concept of strokes in TA offers a valuable framework for understanding and improving daily interactions. Incorporating positive strokes into communication and being mindful of their impact contributes to a supportive and enriching environment. Ultimately, awareness of strokes fosters healthy relationships and positive emotional well-being in our lives.

Building a healthy connection thrives on mutual affirmation, appreciation, and supportive interactions. When one consistently receives more negative strokes than positive ones, it can create an imbalance that jeopardises emotional well-being. In such cases, it may be prudent to reevaluate the relationship, as an excess of negative strokes can contribute to feelings of inadequacy and detrimentally impact one's self-esteem.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9
Written by Natasha Kelly, BA (Hons) MBACP
Twickenham TW1 & Richmond TW9

Natasha is a counsellor based in London and online. Her passion lies in helping individuals build meaningful connections and foster strong rapport. With a deep understanding of human emotions and interpersonal dynamics, she has worked as a primary school teacher and as a freelance writer on mental health.

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