Richard Maun – Adult Ego State

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Five Ways To Defuse An Argument

8 August 2010

Give the kids one of these each, to defuse any holiday arguments...

Give the kids one of these each, to defuse any holiday arguments...

Holiday time is here; the sound of the sea swooshing over pebbles, the joy of feeling sand between our toes and of course the irritation of sitting next to an argumentative family on the beach. How classic and unchanging is that scene?

Of course I never argue and my children are little models of perfect behaviour, and what follows probably doesn’t apply to you either. However, if you have a chum who could use the info then do please pass it on. They could be ‘the next family along’ on the beach…

Why Argue?

Well now, people like to argue for all sorts of reasons, but mostly it’s either because they’re too tired to engage their Adult Ego State to think clearly, or their Parent Ego State is asserting its authority, or their Child Ego State is being playful/critical/bratty/rebellious*

We argue to make ourselves heard, to get recognition and to flex our brain power and all of these things can be appropriate and useful. A little spat can be a great way to clear the air, but a monstrous bust-up can kill a marriage, so be careful of what your ‘friend’ is starting…it could lead to a nasty place.

(1) Do A Bit

I mention the scale of arguments because one way to defuse them is to have a small one to take the tension out of the air to avoid a big one later. A sort of shower to prevent a thunderstorm strategy. Allow yourself the chance to release a bit of energy and when you’ve made three statements hold up your hand say something like:

‘Ok, we’ve both made our point, let’s get a drink and talk it through.’

Changing the activity to one of opening wine and crisps moves people into a different space…and changing space is another way to defuse an argument.

(2) Move!

Instead of facing eachother, change the way you’re sitting or move chairs to be side-by-side with the other person. This allows you to look at the problem, rather that at them. This de-personalises things and gives you an new piece of space to play with.

(3) Use Adult Thinking

If an argument is Child-to-Child perhaps, with both people acting like big kids it can help to do something called ‘crossing the transaction’, which means breaking the cycle of communication by responding from a different Ego State. This interrupts the flow and can move people into a thinking place. To do this you can ask for the numbers, a key fact, or pose a simple question. For example;

‘Do we have time to do both things?’
‘If we get icecream now, do we have enough cash for fish and chips later?’
How long did you want to stay on the beach?

(4) Children Like Choice

A variation on the above examples is to give someone a choice. The options don’t have to be great, but the choosing of them invites the other person to take responsibility and empowers them. Kids (and grown ups too) often get less stroppy when they have to think through a dilemma.

(5) Go Large And Be Ok

If I was to argue (and I’m not saying that I do) it would probably be over small things. A lack of change for the car park, forgetting to pack rain coats, or arriving late at the hotel are classic examples. In each case people can extrapolate from the small thing and instantly develop a nasty little chain of logic that runs; we have no change, we can’t park… the day is ruined… we might as well go home…you’ve spoilt the holiday…my life is misery…

Take a breath, look around you. Nobody died. It’s part of the wrinkliness of life. Another coin of experience has dropped into the piggy bank of existence. Remind yourself and your family of this. Let it go and breathe out. You’re OK!

Reminding yourself that you’re OK is a good way to get a little perspective and if you want to defuse an argument sometimes the really smart thing is to defuse yourself first.

Our Task For This Week

Is to…choose one of the 5 ways to defuse an argument and to use it once.

A Book For The Beach Perhaps..?

Job Hunting 3.0 PR work is now taking shape and has generated loads of great feedback so far. If you know someone who is looking for work or who is interviewing people for a job, please lead them gently by the hand to Amazon where they can read a review and then buy a copy…

Pass It On

If you know someone who would be interested in this blog post please forward it to them, or ReTweet it, or let them know they can subscribe to regular emails via the box on the homepage.

Thank you for reading to the end…and…

I’m taking a break for the next three weeks, spending quality time in my hammock in the garden, thinking great thoughts. (Sometimes with my eyes closed, it has to be admitted). However, I have signed up a guest blogger, so look out for him next week…


*Delete as applicable when thinking about your ‘friend’…

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The Adult Ego State

1 August 2010

Do you think this cafe is in Norfolk? Would they have made the same mistake?

Here's a cafe in Mississippi. How would they have handled the order?

Here is a tricky problem to solve: Imagine you’re a shop assistant in a cafe, on a hot day, working hard to keep tourists refreshed and topped up with tea and scones. A new customer walks in and asks for a hot sausage roll and a scoop of maple and pecan icecream. How do you handle this testing order? Do you:

a) Serve the icecream first, then ask your colleague how the till works and fart about pushing buttons, then remember to heat the sausage roll and hand it to an increasingly agitated customer?

b) Stop and think about what would be a sensible order to process this request?

c) Heat the sausage roll, take the money whilst it’s in the oven and then serve the icecream last?

Well if you answered b) or c) then you’re right, whereas when this happened to me a couple of weeks ago the assistant plumped for a). Which was teeth grittingly irritating to be a part of. Fortunately the icecream hadn’t all turned into soup by the time I made it back to my office, so no lasting damage was done, but it did remind me about the Adult Ego State.

Here And Now Awareness

Put simply; when we’re grounded, rational, alert to our environment, fact finding, questioning and/or cycling through options to solve problems then it’s likely that we’re in our Adult Ego State. By contrast, if we’re using ‘gut instinct’ to solve a problem then we’re probably in our Child, and if we’re know what we ‘should do’ then our Parent is likely to be switched on.

It’s useful to know about the Adult, because when we have to solve problems it’s easy to discount (overlook, or twist) facts and that can be fatal. When we’re in Adult we act like a dogged sleuth and piece together the jigsaw of available information, check out assumptions and remain open to new ways of thinking.

Ask A Question

If we want to move ourselves or a colleague into their Adult (perhaps from a sulky Child place) the way to do it is to ask a question. Questions invite us to think, and thinking invites us to gather and process information. Sounds obvious perhaps, and knowing how to ‘move’ people is a useful skill to have as you can stop arguments and enable people to make better quality decisions.

A Myth

It used to be suggested that Adult was so good that you needed to stay in it all times, which is both almost impossible to achive and therefore nonsense. To be effective in work and life we need to value and use the good bits from all our Ego States. Over-use of Adult can make us sound like Metal Mickey (remember him?) and if you want to have fun then head for your Child energy and enjoy yourself. That’s not to say that Adult is a place devoid of emotion. Far from it. If you’re in a fire, for example, you’re going to be pretty stressed, just take a breath and think about what you need to do, rather than running about screaming uselessly.

Be A Detective

Eric Berne observed behaviour and identified the ‘here and now’ thoughts, feelings and actions we he characterised as the Adult Ego State. If we want to be successful in our lives, one way is to learn from him and to use the squidgy stuff between our ears to gather and process information in a grounded, rational and objective way. I think of this as ‘being a detective’ and we call don a trenchcoat and be Columbo from time to time. Or if you prefer; attach a little moustache and have fun recreating Monsiour Poirot.

We can all be detectives and we can all ask questions and check out the facts, in order to solve problems. Or, to put it another way, in the cafe of life we can use our Adult Ego State to serve the hot sausage roll of fate after the icecream of destiny….

Our Task For This Week

Is to…use Adult to gently challenge someone by asking about the facts supporting their call for action…

Amazon Review

Job Hunting 3.0 has had it’s second review now (thank you again) and if you have read the book please do add your comments to Amazon as they make a difference. Just click here – thank you!

Pass It On

If you know someone who would be interested in this blog post please forward it to them, or ReTweet it, or let them know they can subscribe to regular emails via the box on the homepage.

Thank you for reading to the end…

Next week is about five ways to defuse an argument; essential holiday reading!

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Click cover to view details on Amazon


Riding the Rocket

How to manage your Modern Career

Published 2013 Marshall Cavendish



Bouncing Back

How to get going again after a career setback

Published 2012 Marshall Cavendish



How to Keep Your Job

Brilliant ways to increase performance, stay employed and keep the money rolling in

Published 2011 Marshall Cavendish



Job Hunting 3.0

Secrets and skills to sell yourself effectively in the Modern Age

Published 2010 Marshall Cavendish



Leave the Bastards Behind

An insider's guide to working for yourself

Published 2007 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish



My Boss is a Bastard

Surviving turmoil at work

Published 2006 Cyan Books and Marshall Cavendish


© Richard Maun 2015 / Click here to contact