We communicate with words, body movements – including facial movements, voice tones, and spatial positioning in relation to others.
Each of these has it’s own message. We might say one thing and do another. When we are experienced as being congruent both our behaviour and verbal expression tend to be in agreement. When this does not occur, we can give off signals that we are not at ease with ourselves and therefore not at ease with others.
Games, rackets and ulterior messages are all related to congruence and incongruence.
If we consider complementary and crossed transactions the psychological and social level vectors are congruent, or in agreement with each other.
Crossed transactions may seem incongruent, however each individual is congruent.
The incongruence is not in the message itself, but between each person’s method of processing and utilising incoming data.
We can distort incoming messages dependent upon our frame of reference (Stern C. 1978).
For example, I might ask: What time is it?
My body gestures, tone etc. sound expectant of a mindful answer.
However, person B receives the question within their frame of reference as an attack and responds: Don’t go on at me. I am not late!
They are congruently angry within their belief that they are being got at.
However, they are hearing the message based on script beliefs and decisions.
When someone says something but we intuitively experience that something is wrong we are picking up incongruent, unconscious messages (unless it is a distortion in our own process of matching it to our frame of reference).
Cognitive dissonance occurs when a person thinks different things.
The tension between these different thoughts can motivate us to find ways to harmonise these thoughts or to resolve the conflict.
We can change our behaviour to make it congruent with our belief of change our beliefs to be congruent with our behaviour.
This choice will be affected by the nature of the relationship between our intra-psychic Structural Parent and Child ego states.
I might be informed by a number of people that I am aggressive with clients, however, I rationalise this as the clients needing to know where the boundary is and that I am just being forceful.
In this way, I do not have to get in touch with my lack of confidence and perhaps scared feelings when relating to others and I would therefore not experience cognitive dissonance and can continue my behaviour.
This will be affected by where the “real self” is experienced. If the "real self" is in the Structural Parent ego state then some beliefs will be experienced as congruent, even though not factually correct. We would then be operating from contaminated thinking.
Our working style or driver behaviour can create a “noise in the system” (Gowell E. 1975), which keeps us from recognising energy flows. This can keep us in a state of stress. Our bodies can be saying: “I’ll show you”, or” You won’t get me”. If we release our muscle tension or body armour we are likely to become congruent and at ease with ourselves and others.
There are also sets of beliefs within organisations. Sets of philosophical premises develop within organisations that can then go unquestioned. If employees question and go against the opinion of a strong group they risk rejection.
Once a premise has been established then a whole set of behaviours and language develop around it. Any dissension is responded to by closing ranks. Therefore, some people are given worth whilst others are experienced as worthless, and a closed system results. This is the same for the rhetoric of the shop floor as for a board of directors.
In this way certain groups, departments, or organisations can be experienced as a way of life, with followers or disciples - who are non-believers to question such a thing? Language can be used in such organisations as a way of ensuring compliance. You either accept the truth or belong to the “great unwashed”, ignorant or politically crass. Language in this instance becomes the trap and is congruent with the organisation and aims to ensure congruence within the ranks.
Goal congruence is a must in organisations. This applies as well to consultants’ commissions. Very often expectations and aims are not clearly outlined and assumptions are made. This leads to a lack of goal congruence that very often becomes problematic as the commission progresses.
In terms of organisational congruence all aspects of the organisation need to be aligned with each other to ensure a cohesive approach.
These areas include, but are not limited to: identity, beliefs and values; skills and knowledge; the environment; and behaviour.
The Organisational Web Model © Anita Mountain
Top levels of management in the wider organisation need to support and reflect the values of those within their structures. Any negative processes will promote the development of a blame culture that is likely to be reflected at all levels of the structure. Congruence is required between all levels of the organisation.
Culture's Role in Congruence
Culture plays a part in congruence. Taking as his starting point the idea that our facial expressions conform to cultural display rule, psychologist, David Matsumoto (1990, 1991 in Remland M., 2000) used the dimensions of cultural variability, individualism, collectivism and power distance to develop a theory of how culture influences facial expression of emotions. Individualistic cultures promote the needs and interests of the individual, encouraging members to become unique and self-important.
In contrast, collectivistic cultures promote group harmony and favour group over individual needs. In individualistic cultures self-expression is encouraged.
In collectivisitic cultures, people learn to put the needs of the group ahead of their own needs. This pressures them to suppress negative emotions. However, there is little pressure to conceal negative emotions or to show positive emotions toward out-group people. This can be linked with three-dimensional 'okayness' (Davidson C. 1999).
Davidson C. (1999) I’m Polygonal OK, INTAND Newsletter, Vol. 7:1
Festinger L. (1957), A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, (Stanford University Press)
Gowell E., (1975), Transactional Analysis and the Body: Sensory Stimulation Techniques, TAJ 5:2
Lankton SR, Lankton CH, Brown M, (1981), Psychological Level Communication in Transactional Analysis, TAJ 11:4
Mountain A (2004) The Space Between Russell House Publishing
Mountain A and Davidson C (2011) Working Together: Organizational Transactional Analysis and Business Performance Gower Publishing
Remland M.S. (2000), Nonverbal Communication in Everyday Life, Houghton Mifflin Company
Stern C., (1978), Congruent and incongruent Transactions, TAJ 1978, 8:4