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The OK-Not OK Matrix

 

Explanations > Behaviors > The OK-Not OK Matrix

  Not OK-OK | OK-Not OK | OK-OK | Not OK-Not OK | So what?

 

Eric Berne initiated the principle within Transactional Analysis that we are all born 'OK' -- in other words good and worthy. Frank Ernst developed these into the OK matrix, (also known as the 'OK Corral' after the famous 1881 Tombstone shootout between the Earps and the Clantons). These are also known as 'life positions'.

 

 

You
You're OK You're not OK

I'm OK
I'm not OK

Get on with others
 

Get rid of them
 

Get away from them
 

Get nowhere
 

 

I'm not OK - You're OK

When I think I'm not OK but you are OK, then 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 a particularly low self-esteem and will put others before them. They may thus has a strong 'Please Others' driver.

I'm OK - You're not OK

People in this position feel themselves superior in some way 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 makes others seem less perfect.

I'm OK - You're 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, happy and get on with other people even when there are points of disagreement.

I'm not OK - You're not OK

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

So what?

Understand how you frame yourself and others as being OK and note how you respond to this. Then think about the other person and how they are framing it.

Note how some combinations work together, for example where one person has the position of 'I'm OK/You're not OK' and the other person has 'I'm not OK/You're OK'. In such matching positions the relationship may well be stable and both will gain some comfort of confirmation from this.

When positions do not fit, particularly when both people are 'I'm OK/You're not OK', then this is a recipe for conflict or confusion.

See also

Care-Behavior Matrix, Beliefs about people, Stereotypes, Values

Harris, T. (1976). I'm OK-You're OK, Avon Books

 

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