book cover
“Everyone carries his parents around inside of him.”

Games People Play Book Review

Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Eric Berne, 1964


Do you know anyone who is irritating? Anyone who has annoying habits? Maybe someone who is childish or patronising or cannot relax in your company? Perhaps you’ve tried to find an explanation why it always seems to get to you? Good news! This book offers some explanations:

“Everyone carries his parents around inside of him.”

So What? 

This is the oldest book we have reviewed and possibly the most influential. Eric Berne is the originator of Transactional Analysis (TA) a way of interpreting the everyday scripts which shape human behaviours. TA is worth knowing about if you are in any sort of role which involves influencing or being influenced by others.

Berne describes three roles, or ego states, known as the Parent, the Adult, and the Child, each of which is shaped by how we learned from our parents. Many of the negative behaviours we experience in ourselves and others can be traced to switching or confusion of these roles. In Bernes model everyday behaviours become scripts which we lapse into. For example, a boss who talks to his staff as a controlling ‘parent’ will often get self-abased obedience, tantrums, or other childlike responses from his employees. Everyday ‘transactions’ are like games played by two people based on their life scripts.

Now What?

Success seems to follow from securing Adult to Adult relationships. We tend to shift from one state to another. The second half of the book catalogues a series of “mind games” in which people interact through a patterned and predictable series of “transactions.”

Success is also about being self-aware, as Berne says, “Awareness requires living in the here and now, and not in the elsewhere, the past or the future.” The biggest take away is that we are all affected by our pasts and some let it decide who they are, while others make it part of what they will do.

Once you’ve finished this book and for a really great insight into dealing with others especially in formal settings like meetings, there’s the ThreeWhats Meetings Playbook.

TIL: Transactional Analysis 101