How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Games, Pastimes and Procedures
In our interactions with other people, we often fall into ritualistic patterns of social behavior. Beyond social ritual, Berne (1964) broke these down into three categories: Games, Pastimes and Procedures.
Social rituals are repeating patterns of behavior that we fall into with other people and with ourselves. They embody scripts and schemas and are, as such, familiar patterns from which we perhaps gain a sense of control and affirm our identity when we re-enact them.
Games are played by two or more people. The games are often complex and even harmful to the players, but they often continue to play because they gain obscure and often psychological benefits.
Games are different to Pastimes and Procedures in their complexity and durability. They may last days or even many years.
Pastimes are minor and generally harmless games played quite often literally to 'pass the time'. They appear in the basic patterns of chit-chat where people complain about the government, talk about cars and tut-tut about the irresponsibility of young people nowadays.
Procedures provide rules for specific situations, such as greetings, where people play out the standard procedure on each occasion, from brief exchanges such as 'Hiya-Cool' to longer patterns such as kissing and ritual asking about health and families.
Procedures are generally harmless and help us through minor interactions, navigating simple social rules and reassuring one another that all is well.
Understand the differences and spot these rituals being played out. Figure out what they represent and then either play along to develop trust or take the lead to steer thinking in your direction.
Eric Berne, (1964), Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships, Balantine Books
Thomas Harris (1996), I'm OK-You're OK, Avon books
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