Richard Maun – Eric Berne

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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

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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


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