Understanding Games Players
I’m going to make a whole course on this, but until it’s ready, here’s a quick guide to a fascinating area of human behaviour…
Games Players…. These people could definitely be classified as toxic, though to be honest we all play games a little bit, and most games players aren’t aware that they are doing it.
So I want to explain the underlying structure of games playing, give you some examples of games, and then later I’ll suggest some ways you can deal with games players.
In a way you don’t need to know exactly which game they are playing with you, you just need to identify that they are a gamey person and then you can plan how to deal with them. But understanding the structure and the types of games will help you spot games players.
So the structure of games is based on a thing called the Drama Triangle, which consists of the Persecutor, The Victim, and the Rescuer. Often there are only two people playing, and they move around the triangle.
So for example if I said “It’s alright for you, with your well-paying job and your perfect family, you don’t know what it’s like for ME” where would I be on the triangle? This is a game called Wooden Leg – they have pretty funny names these games – and it’s starting with Victim and then becoming a Persecutor on the grounds that “I’m a victim and you’re not”. So a game is a pattern of interaction that makes the player feel good at the expense of the other person.
Here’s another game, called Now I’ve Got You: the player says “Any problems, any time, just come and ask me for help”– which is clearly a rescuer position.
And then when you DO go to ask for help they say “What? You’ve done WHAT?? Huh, that’s REALLY stupid, I can’t believe you did THAT!!” – so they have now become a Persecutor and you are the Victim. Games often have a twist half way through.
My next door neighbour plays a game called “Only Trying To Help You” where he comes in as a Rescuer, saying “Oh I see you’ve got your new car, very nice. Although, do you find the two litre powerful enough, I’d have got the three litre myself…” So he’s putting a bit of Persecutor in there isn’t he?
But I can’t get annoyed because if I do he’ll just say “I was only trying to help” – and he can hide behind his claim to be a Rescuer, “giving me useful advice”. Not that it IS any use, after the event, but that’s what he would claim if I challenged him on it.
Of course, once I know what he’s doing then it’s not so annoying, because I know it’s an issue HE has, it’s nothing to do with me, he plays this game with everyone.
A very common game is Yes But, where someone comes to you as a Victim asking to be Rescued: “What do you think I should do about my difficult teenager?” and whatever you suggest they will come up with a reason why it won’t work: “Yes but it’s not that simple….” “Yes but that’s too risky” so you slowly move from a Rescuer to a Victim, especially when they say at the end “You’re no help!”.
There are just five more games I want to briefly mention, and these are Blemish, Let’s you and them fight, Harried, Kick Me, and Brown Stamp Collectors
Blemishis where someone criticizes someone else behind their back but hides the fact that they are a Persecutor by pretending to be a Rescuer “That Miles, he’s such a nice guy isn’t he, and really good at his job, if only he was a bit more organized though….” –
and if you agree then you are wide open to the next game, which is Let’s You and Them Fight: “Hey Miles, did you hear what Louise said about you? Louise thinks you’re too disorganized!”. I expect you can recognize this one from your work, it’s quite a common game.
Harriedis a Rescuer game where the player will say to you “Need any help with that Sally?” and if you accept their help they will tell everyone “Sorry I can’t help, I’m busy helping Sally with this project of hers” – it’s the perfect excuse to avoid other work.
And then they’ll start to persecute you with “That job’s turned out to be really hard Sally – I had to work all weekend on it, I even missed my daughter’s ballet show because of it”. So now you’re the victim.
The last two are Victim games: Kick Meis where the person says “Oh look what I’ve done now, I’m always doing that, I’m hopeless aren’t I?” and you pretty much HAVE to say “No no, it’s fine, that was a really difficult job, it wasn’t your fault”
…so they can keep on being as hopeless as they like and they keep getting nice positive strokes from you each time. If you say “Well maybe you should get some training, or be more careful” they’ll get upset and say “There’s no need to be like that, I’m doing the best I can!” and suddenly YOU’REthe Persecutor.
Finally there are Brown Stamp Collectors, who are the people who moan and complain – “NOW look what they’ve done to me, it’s so unfair”.
What they are doing is collecting bad things in a mental stamp collection, and when the book is full they can cash it in for maybe a tantrum or time off sick.
Often they don’t really know what they’ll cash it in for, it’s just good to HAVE it, and sometimes they never do cash it in, they just keep building it up in case one day they need to use it. So they delight in collecting bad things, even collecting OTHER people’s bad things: “Did you see what they did to Dave, I think that’s really disgraceful” – and I’ll have that for my collection….
So that’s Games Playing – we’ll come to answers in another post, but first, who do you know who plays games like these, and also, do YOU sometimes play them a little bit? What’s your pet game and could you imagine giving up playing it?