You and your role in the [wolf pack]
Now that you are part of a group, it’s time to look at what you can do to establish yourself and increase your esteem. To understand dynamic team roles, we are going to look at more models, including Transactional Analysis.
But first, we’re going to drop the simplest possible model we could.
Are you a grumpy bear, or are you a happy squirrel?
The attitude model
There is absolutely nothing wrong with either. The best teams in the world have both, and need both. It is in fact my contention that the best teams have an equilibrium of grumps and dreamers.
You are a pessimist if you tend to see problems when someone tells you something. Pessimists are intensely useful. They prevent teams from going into the woods and getting lost. Their strength lies in a gentle but firm correction when needed. Their pitfall is to stifle progress by being overly cautious. Pessimists are better at converging than diverging. They make great choices.
You are an optimist if you tend to grasp solutions to tack on your own. Optimists are just as useful as pessimists. Without them teams would lack momentum. Their strength lies in ideas and solutions. Their pitfall is to miss key dangers and not listening to pessimists. Optimists are better at diverging than converging. They present great choices.
The attitude model is super useful in almost every intelligent interaction you can imagine. No one is 100% one or the other, but few people are neither. Meetings, discussions, arguments… Understanding your role and what you do and do not bring is key to being easy and welcoming to the people around you.
Try to analyse your next meeting or intelligent conversation using this model. Where are your conversationalists? Where are you? Is there a healthy balance, or is one of the attitudes dominant? Can you do something to restore balance? Here are three tips unbalanced groups can use to streamline their conversation:
Explicitly allot time to divergence and then convergence. No criticism during divergence, no new ideas during convergence.
Before talking, spend some time writing ideas on post-its. This is also great for groups with shy members.
Both 1. and 2. can be timeboxed and repeated, for example in blocks of 25 minutes.
TA is a tool with which we can analyse interaction or “transactions” between people. There is nothing that I could type here that would be better than this video series. Watch all three. Seriously, take the time and watch and have your mind blown.
No? Fine, let’s go over it real quick. But I highly suggest you get a grasp on this! The videos show change in interaction that is tough to show in this short text.
TA recognises people can be in three states, take on three different roles in two of those states, and categorizes many common interactions: the so-called games.
The adult state
When people are in the adult state they are relatively aware and unphased. They are not taking on a particular role. This is where you want to be.
The parent state
People who try to take the upper hand in interaction have moved into the parent state. They can come from a judging side or nurturing side. Both have some usefulness to them. But, because they come from reflex and emotion, they are not to be depended on. People in the parent state try to push others into the child state. In the parent state, we tend to behave as our parents did.
The child state
In the child state, we suffer the upper hand. We can come from a rebellious side or adapted side. People in the child state try to push others into the parent state. In the child state, we tend to behave as we did when we were children.
The accuser role
The accuser role is on the attack. For example, a judging accusing parent would firmly demand to know “Why didn’t you do your homework!?”, where a nurturing accusing parent would be asking “How come you didn’t do your homework?” in a much milder tone. Marxists are rebellious accuser children (until you single out and press them, then they become helpless) and an adapted accuser child would berate her parent: “How come you never help me with my homework?”
The helpless role
The helpless role is a trojan horse, trying to get people to help it, without any of the healthy aspects of humbly asking for help. A judging helpless parent mopes how “No one ever does anything around here.” A nurturing helpless parent laments how “No, no, I’ve got it, you go play honey,” while silently suffering. A rebellious helpless child is a nihilist or determinist to whom “nothing matters,” but who secretly wants nothing more than a nurturing parent. An adapted helpless child sighs and puffs and complains but does not listen or care for any real answers.
The helper role
Helpers want to help others, but really are just not comfortable with distress in others, as it creates distress in themselves. A judging helper parent takes your homework and does it for you. A nurturing helper parent does it with you, against your wishes. A rebellious helper child takes your mind off of the problem. An adapted helper child freezes in your discomfort.
Everyone is continuously fishing. You and I and everyone have several hooks coming out of us, that others can hook onto. Mostly accidently, sometimes not so much. Games happen when someone has a certain (unconscious) motivation or gimmick and you hook into each other (con).
One famous game I encounter a lot at work is “Why don’t you/Yes but”. Someone is stuck, and drops into a helpless role, sighing and puffing and asking for help in every way but actually asking. Another person comes along, feels discomfort and drops into helper. “Why don’t you do X?” “That won’t work because Y” “Ok, how about A?” “Oh we tried that, but then B.” This is called the response. The game is on.
“I know, why don’t you C?” “Look, we’ve tried that, you’re getting on my nerves!” Oh dear. This is called the switch. The helpless person turns accuser!
“Oh ex-cuse-me, I am just trying to help!” The one person one-ups the accuser. “If I wanted your goddamn help I would goddamn ask for it!” The game escalates until someone drops the accuser/parent and falls down to a child role. This is the cross-up.
“Well I’m never helping you again” The original helper turns a rebellious, helpless child. “Fine, I never wanted your ‘help’ anyway!” The original helpless throws a final accuser punch. Both parties exit the game “happy” with the outcome, the payoff. Their need to fill their historical roles has been fulfilled.
To summarize: a game is played when a person with a con finds a person with a gimmick. The con-person engages and if a response is found they engage some more until both are invested. The game gets switched and both persons escalate their role until one gives up: the cross-up. Finally, when both have had their fill, they take their payoff and leave.
If you don’t want to play games, you don’t respond. This does not mean you don’t respond at all, just not in the TA sense. You respond always from the adult state, not from a parent or child state. In the long term you can prevent playing games by getting to know about yourself and your gimmicks (or cons!).
For more on games: http://www.ericberne.com/games-people-play/
Growing your esteem
Our esteem in the group grows through mutually-beneficial interaction in healthy groups, and predatory interaction in unhealthy groups. Don’t join unhealthy groups. Unhealthy groups have lots of people who play games. You either play them too and become a worse person, or spend an insane amount of energy detecting and disarming them. Good people in healthy groups play games too, but not as often or intense, and they can talk about it afterwards. With the skills we learned in part 1 under “How to deal with tendencies,” we have all the tools we need to help good people in healthy groups deal with their tendencies and consequent games. So the golden tip on how to grow esteem connects all that we’ve talked about so far:
Curtail your gimmicks, your tendencies to play games, and provide honest value instead
Or, to put it differently:
If you want to become a K-alpha man or woman, then you must curtail your gimmicks and provide honest value.
This is no small feat. The better we understand our tendencies, games and honest value, the higher we can rise in groups. But either of these requires a lot of work or self-work, both theoretical and practical.
The reverse is, sadly, also true.
If you want to become an r-alpha man or woman, then you must unleash your gimmicks.
Stop playing games
Through a very different lens we have arrived at the same sad but important conclusion that we have arrived at in other articles: There is no room for r and K in the same group. This framework also helps us to better understand why r vs K is such a divisor in the FDR group, at the time that I am writing this. r Behaviour cannot be called out for what it is because it stops working. The moment we understand that a game is being played, we stop playing it, and it loses its power.
We need to experience belonging and esteem before we can truly self-actualize. We can fulfil our need to belong by joining groups. Not too few, because we develop unhealthy attachment to the group. Not too many, because then we cannot express our need for esteem. We can gain esteem by recognizing the needs of the group and providing value accordingly. We can use models such as The Attitude model and Transactional Analysis to recognize healthy groups and their needs. We can use models such as MBTI and Enneagram to recognize our own strengths. And finally: we can align our strengths with the needs of our groups to become more alpha and truly increase our sexual market value.
If you have any comments or questions then please let me know. Next time, we’ll talk about how I’ve learned all this and used it in my own life.