This is part II of 9 Ways People Mindf**k with Others: Games People Play – Part I
Continuing our introduction to Transactional Analysis, let’s now talk about the “good games” people play. We usually think of mind games in a negative light. Usually there is a hidden element of exploitation in the game.
But, people also play “good games” – games in which the social good outweighs the selfish motivations. For psychologists, it is not easy to look for and to investigate good games in social transactions. Moreover, it is further complicated by the fact that in conversations with psychologists, people rarely cite the “good games” played by them or being played on them. Dr. Eric Berne in Transactional Analysis theory has done his bit of work on identifying and examining a few good games.
1. Happy to Help
Your company is organizing a charity run to raise money for a cause, say Haiti earthquake relief. You are excited to participate in it. Days in advance, you start preparing for the run. After all, it’s such a benevolent thing you and your company are doing. No doubt it is going to help the victims of the earthquake.
But, there is a game of self-interest being played. By donating money to the charity, the company is getting positive publicity, and building a good image and reputation in the community. In some cases, depending on the type of organization and the laws, there are also tax benefits to the company.
And, by running, you are getting a good workout and a new profile picture for your Facebook. If you donated any money, you might also deduct the contributions to lower your tax bill.
Everyone is benefiting from the game, and no one is getting hurt — so, it’s all good. The ulterior motive of self-interests is secondary to the primary motive of doing something good for a cause. Everyone is playing from Adult ego states and there are no crossed transactions.
Payoff: gratification that comes from doing something good; development and preservation of a good image.
You might have noticed that some older men flirt very skillfully. It appears that some of them have mastered the art of flattery with women. And it could be that all their young life, they were horrible with women.
However, this time around, the man doesn’t want to take the lady home. He also knows that it is the least likely outcome even if he wanted to. He is flirting with the women not to seduce her, but to exhibit his finesse in the art of flattery. He enjoys the satisfaction of pleasing a woman without his advances being rejected – it is a primordial desire of a man to please women and avoid their rejection.
The woman on the other hand doesn’t perceive the man as a “threat” and responds appreciatively to the man’s deeds. This gives a solid ego-boost to the man since he is getting appreciation from a woman, who in his mind is a qualified critic. The woman on the other hand feels good because she is receiving compliments on her attributes. The expectations are set from both sides, and both are playing from Adult ego states.
Payoff for the man: avoidance of rejection; acceptance of creativity and advances
Payoff for the woman: ego-boost though reassurance of attractiveness
3. They’ll be glad they knew me
It is the opposite of “I’ll show them” game in which a person waits for the moment when s/he could inflict damage to those who didn’t treat him or her right. For example, Jimmy is working long hours and doing everything he can so he could get promoted.
He wants to get promoted not because of his career ambitions, but only so that he can be in a position to boss around his co-workers who make fun of him.
“They’ll be glad they knew me” is the constructive counterpart of “I’ll show them” game. In this game, Jimmy is being treated with respect and dignity from his peers. He then works really hard to get promoted, not to get back at his former associates, but to assure them that they didn’t make any mistake by treating him well. His career ambitions and accomplishments are secondary to his primary motive of not letting them down, and of proving that their judgment was right.
In both games “I’ll show them,” and “They’ll be glad they knew me,” Jimmy is more interested in the effects of the success, than in the success itself. Everyone is playing from their Adult ego states.
As you might have guessed, there are fewer good games than bad games. You would have also noticed that good games are simple transactions where each party is playing the game form an ego state that complements the other. An awareness of these good and bad games informs us of human psychology and primes our brain to spot certain human behavior.
We are the most advanced and the most complicated creatures on the planet. We can speak, we can think, we can feel, we can build computers, yet, the games we play…