“Why Don’t You?…..Yes,But…..” Game and How to Stop it

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I am sure we have all been in the situation where someone we know sucks us into a round of the “why don’t you…yes, but”  game. It goes something like this:

Friend A: I’m so fed up of staying in

Friend B: Why don’t you go out tonight?

Friend A: Yes, but… I have to get up early tomorrow

Friend B: Why don’t you come with me for dinner after work?

Friend A: Yes, but… I need to save money.

Friend B: Why don’t you come over to mine instead?

Friend A: Yes, but...you live too far

It will go on and on, never being resolved until you both give up! It’s a common game involving 2 or more people which can be played by partners, groups of friends, parents and children, colleagues and even therapist and client!

It was first identified by Eric Berne, a psychiatrist and founder of a model of psychotherapy called Transactional Analysis. In Transactional Analysis, social interactions are analysed as a way towards understanding behaviour. These interactions are also known as Games or Game theory.

So what exactly is going on during the game?

During the game both ‘players’ are unconsciously acting out very specific roles. In the game above the ‘Friend A’ is taking the role of the victim with an insurmountable problem while the other,  while ‘Friend B’ plays the role of the rescuer.

Just like in a real game, there is a prize or a pay off.

Friend A – Their prize is to prove they are right – their problem cannot be fixed and now they have proved it! They can now sit back and be content being stuck in their current situation having confirmed nothing can be done to change it. They now feel justified as to why they are in their situation. A secondary prize can be that they can make the ‘helper’ feel useless- again allowing them to feel better about themselves.

Friend B – Their prize is feeling they are a ‘good person’ by trying to help. They may be ‘rescuers’ and like to help others in order to make themselves feel good. They may have tried their best, however, may now feel frustrated they couldn’t succeed in helping the other person change.

As you can see no one really wins – Friend A is still stuck in the same situation, Friend B is left frustrated.

How to stop the game

The first step to stopping is knowing that you are playing it!

Once you realise you are caught up in a game, the only way to stop it is to change the way you respond. Here are a few different responses:

Using empathy 

Friend A: I’m so fed up of staying in

Friend B: Yeah, you sound really fed up

Validation

Friend A: I’m so fed up of staying in

Friend B: Well, it’s Ok to be fed up sometimes

Gently Challenge them

Friend A: I’m so fed up of staying in

Friend B: So, what are you going to do about it?

By using such responses you refuse to play the game and thus change the interaction. Friend A or the “Yes, but…”  game player is not prepared for this shift because they assumed you agreed to the premise that they must change their awful situation. You now have changed the game and thus the interaction.

Try It Out

So during the week if you find yourself getting caught up in a “why don’t you? yes, but…” game, try and change your response and see if it changes the discussion. Perhaps it encourages the other person to take responsibility for their own change or action and even improve the relationship between you.

Good Luck and I would love to hear how you get on!

Abi  Hendra

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