Dr. Eric Berne developed Transactional Analysis and added to our lexicon the phrase “I know where you’re coming from.” Beyond mentioning that his theory was based on each person having three ego states, child, adult and parent, I would refer the reader to other sources for an in depth discussion of Dr. Berne’s work. One such source is listed below
Reading “The Games People Play” (copyright 1964) was a transformative event for me. Through it I learned that many people who come seeking help or advice really want validation. They want to come away convinced that they were right all along, that there are no solutions or that none are needed.
The titles Berne gave to his games are quite colorful and self-descriptive. “If it weren’t for you.” “Look how hard I tried.” An all time favorite, “look what you made me do,” which excuses abusive behavior by blaming the victim.
Three personal favorites (as spectator sport) “Uproar” which is played in order to create space or avoid intimacy. The argument starts small and continues to escalate until one or the other of the players feels justified in storming off.
“Let’s you and him fight” which, as the name implies, has the goal of starting a conflict between two or more other people, the instigator of the game remaining safely on the sidelines.
And my personal pick for number one, “Why don’t you–Yes but.” Everyone has been drawn into this game at some point in life. Someone comes to you with a problem. You respond with a possible solution. They say, “I would try that but…” You offer an alternative solution with the same result. This continues until you run out of ideas or grow weary. At this point the person owning the problem feels validated and has tacit permission to continue the status quo. You vow to never again try to help them, until the next time.
Before offering any advice or solutions to a “Why don’t you–yes but” player make a declaration “what I am about to suggest is the very best that I have to offer. If it won’t work for you, I would not feel comfortable suggesting any alternative that I know to be inferior to it.”
I dive into Dr. Berne’s book every now and then and my takeaway has always been that we all have the power to stop most games with one simple question, “why are you telling me this?”
Try it, you’ll like it.