Richard Maun – games

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Yes And… And If…

27 June 2010

Is your language taking you up the stairs, or are you stuck at the bottom?

Is your language moving you up the stairs, or are you stuck at the bottom?

There is a game we all play at one time or another with people, which limits our horizons and is used to keep ourselves in a stuck place. A game that is a psychological version of ‘talk to the hand’. The game is called: Yes, but…

For example, I was working with someone who wanted to start their own business and to date, they had made no real progress. Part of the conversation went like this:

Me: So, you could borrow some money as start up capital…

Client: Yes I could, but the bank will never lend it to me.

Me: Or you could increase your mortgage and use the cash to get you started…

Client: That’s a good idea, but my partner will never agree to it.

Me: Have you asked her yet?

Client: No, not yet. I suppose I could ask her, but she would just say no.

Can you see what’s happening here? Can you feel my rising frustration?

Games Tend To Repeat

A game can be defined as a ‘series of transactions that lead to a predictable negative payoff’. Or to put it another way, you sense that you’re getting nowhere and an argument develops. Many people get cross about the same situation, on a repeating basis, and can have a strong feeling of ‘here we go again’. People do this partly because it’s out of awareness and partly because of the all the intense strokes that are generated. (We will talk more about games in the coming weeks as it’s a central part of Transactional Analysis and a good way to spot and change organisational culture and team dynamics). In the story above, the client was appearing to agree to each suggestion and in reality they were not; they were exhibiting mildly passive-aggressive behaviour and were staying stuck because they were putting their energy into finding fault and seeing the negatives. Why people do this is a subject in its own right, so for now we can concentrate on the words used to get round it.

If we sense that someone is playing Yes,but… with us then we have a couple of choices:

1. Stop doing their thinking for them.

2. Change our words.

1) Stop Our Thinking

In the example about setting up in business I was doing the thinking for the other person, which makes it possible for them to rubbish my idea. This can be an easy trap to fall into and if a client is doing this I will stop the conversation and say something like:

‘Look, I feel that I’m doing the thinking here for you. What ideas do you have to raise the money you need?’

This gets the client to think for themself and then they are less likely to dismiss their own ideas out of hand. I also keep silent, so that they have to break the silence with their thoughts, which is a powerful way to really put people on the spot and get their brain working.

2) Change Our Words

A great way to get people moving is to change the words from Yes, but… to either Yes, and… or And, if…

You want to start writing a blog and you don’t know how? Well, yes you can do it and you could talk to someone who already blogs, and if you did that it might increase your knowledge, and if that happened you would feel more confident, and if you feel more confident you’re more likely to make a great start…(and so on). Instantly the use of a couple of key words changes the conversation from a dull plodding one, into a hopeful, soaring, creative and inspiring one.

Have  look at the sample conversation from earlier and ask yourself how I could have used ‘And, if…’ to set the conversation off on a different direction?

Small Tools

Increasingly I’m finding that the some of the best bits of technique are the tiny tools. The odd words, or phrases, that we use repeatedly and which make a large difference. I think of these as the communications equivalent of the plastic screwdriver sets you sometimes get in a Christmas cracker (only 167 shopping days to go) …they look flimsy and yet they work a treat and are handy little things to have around.

The next time you get sucked into a Yes, but… game, stop and change the words you’re using. It could change your life, or at least just give you a happier day!

Our Task For This Week

Listen out for Yes, but… conversations that we might be having with other people. When do we need to stop being passive and to start using And, if… to help ourselves make progress?

FREESample Book…had lots of great feedback so far!

Do you know someone who is looking for work and needs a hand? Marshall Cavendish have put together a sample ebook of Job Hunting 3.0 which features the whole of the first section called ‘Getting Started’ and the whole of the final section called ‘Checklists’ containing (no surprises here) useful checklists full of interview questions, process tips and essential information for success. If you would like an exclusive copy; email me, subscribe to the blog, or use the contact box and I will zap a copy right back to you.

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+++NEWS we’re still collecting CVs and places are filling up so please apply quickly+++ At Cranfield University we’re running an Enhanced Personal Development Programme, starting 3rd September and lasting for 4 weeks. If you know someone who is unemployed (or about to be made redundant) and who would like to learn about job hunting skills, management skills and have fun on a real consultancy project then contact me now. Places are limited and an opportunity to spend 4 weeks full-time at one of the best universities in the world is not to be missed. I’m the Programme Director and one of the lecturers, so I can vouch for the excellence of it!

Thank you for reading to the end and enjoy spotting those Yes, but… games!

Next week is a story about poor customer service and icecream. 99 with a flake, anyone?

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