“I'm OK, You're OK” by Thomas A. Harris


As part of your diplomacy training, it is important for you to see how your past links with how you think in your day-to-day life so that you can make decisions that are not filtered by your past experiences. This can be critical to ensure that any prejudices you have are kept at bay when dealing with other culture and circumstances that do not fit your world view.

To help you get to grips with this psychological understanding of yourself, we recommend the book “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas A. Harris, in support of Chapter 3 - “Enhancing Emotional Intelligence” of the Diplomatic Planner. In this book, Harris guides us to understand how our past experiences and memories affect our life in the present. By understanding how our past shapes us, we can put ourselves in a position to craft our best selves right now. Examining our past can help us discover how we can control our emotions and break free from the past, particularly when events and circumstances have been damaging.

One of the main themes that the author explores is the concept of transactional analysis that helps you to understand how to gain control of yourself. Transaction analysis is an integrative approach to the theory of psychology and psychotherapy with humanist and cognitive approaches.

Let’s look into this a little further.

AUTHOR: Thomas A. Harris

AUTHOR: Thomas A. Harris

There is no doubt that for some, it can be unsettling to look into our inner child and face the facts. But our memories are powerful emotions that is better understood when analysed. Certain parts of the brain are responsible for our memories and the feelings we associate with them. Our own memories are often triggered by everyday occurrences and impressions like smells and sounds. We have a very interesting video case study of this in the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy. Once these impressions are triggered, these memories can cause us to relive past experiences. Although this process happens unconsciously, we can take the time to dig up our memories when we are ready to analyse them.

One of the examples that the author presents in the book is listening to a song that triggers certain memories. It’s an unconscious reaction and your start to experience thoughts and emotions that song is attached to.

The phrase I'm OK, You're OK is one of four "life positions" that each of us may take. The four positions are:

1.     I'm Not OK, You're OK

2.     I'm Not OK, You're Not OK

3.     I'm OK, You're Not OK

4.     I'm OK, You're OK

The most common position is I'm Not OK, You're OK. As children, we see adults as large, strong and competent and that we are little, weak and often make mistakes, so we conclude I'm Not OK, You're OK. Children who are abused may conclude I'm Not OK, You're Not OK or I'm OK, You're Not OK, but this is much less common.

Part of growing up is learning to recognise the emotions by others by looking at their facial expressions – a key learning that is emphasised consistently by Grassroot Diplomat and our Diplomatic Leadership Training. In a similar way, you learn to recognise you own inner child, adult and parent in various circumstances.

The emphasis of the book is helping people understand how their life position affects their communications (transactions) and relationships with practical examples.

I'm OK, You're OK continues by providing practical advice to begin decoding the physical and verbal clues required to analyze transactions. For example, Harris suggests signs that a person is in a Parent ego state can include the use of evaluative words that imply judgment based on an automatic, axiomatic and archaic value system: words like 'stupid, naughty, ridiculous, disgusting, should or ought' (though the latter can also be used in the Adult ego state).

We can all agree that at one point or another, we feel so overwhelmed that it feels difficult to think that everything is going to be OK. This is a common trend when working in international relations, but if we take a step back and look at things from a fresh perspective, we will start to see things from another angle. This book is loaded with fantastic examples of all the variations of the “I’m OK, You’re OK” relationship phase between people and I simply can’t do it justice in this short review. 

“I’m OK, You’re OK” is recommended for the purposes of the Diplomatic Planner. The Diplomatic Planner is a 12-month career development toolkit for diplomacy and internationals for professionals looking to explore or grow their expertise in the field. Both books are available for purchase via Amazon. For further recommendations, insights, case studies and practicable worksheets, please join the Grassroot Diplomat Online Academy via: www.grassrootdiplomat.org/register