Home/Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Secret Exit Doors

Back to Basics Executive Coaching Series – Secret Exit Doors


My name is Sari van Poelje I’m the CEO of Intact Academy. We give training programs for coaches and consultants all over the world, from beginning coach to team coach to organizational consultants. There are team coaching training programs everywhere. You can find them on IntactAcademy.com. My other business is Team Agility. I am an Agile Business Innovation Designer: I help companies innovate their business more quickly than their products so that they’re always on time to market. 

In this series of videos we’re looking at transactional analysis or TA. We were talking about conflicts and psychological games and how to get into conflict. But now we’re also talking about how to get out of conflict. So we’ve talked about why people get into games and how you can diminish the need for games. We’ve talked about the drama triangle and how to switch into the winner’s triangle. Now we’re going to talk about the game formula and all the exit doors we have to get out of games. Even if you’re into conflict already, it requires some discipline, but it is possible. 

This work is based on the article by Stephen Karpman called Options, and also on my own experience of how to help people get out of conflict. In the game formula, Formula G, we’ve said one of the reasons people get into games is because they’re under stress. Now, when you’re under stress, everyone automatically goes back to their primary survival mode. So one really good way to stay out of games is to diminish your stress. 

How do you diminish stress and avoid conflict? 

Secret 1: With delete, dilute or diminish.

1.Delete means that you avoid your stress factor. All of us have specific things that really get us stressed. Certain triggers that remind us of our childhood might get us really stressed. One way, of course, to have less stress in your life is just to recognise what triggers you. I’m going to make sure in my life I’m not in that situation anymore.

For me, there’s a certain type of person who always gets me stressed. And these are people who Persecute from a Victim position. It’s my thing. And it’s something that reminds me of the past. When I meet these people, I have a trigger. So I tend to avoid these people.

2. Dilute means if you can’t avoid the trigger at least make sure you’ve got other people around. So, if you have to deal with people that trigger your stress, make sure you’re in a group of people who have different kinds of energies where you don’t have to deal with this alone.

3. Diminish the trigger for stress. Make sure you’ve got internal resources, your tank is full of recognition, you have done your personal work, that you have cleaned your house internally so that this doesn’t trigger so much. Also, up your support network so you will be less stressed and that therefore get less into conflict.

Secret 2: Name the Ulterior Motives

Any game or conflict starts with an exchange of ulterior transactions. So that means people say something, but they mean something else. This ulterior meaning, a psychological message, will always win. It’s often non-verbal, and non-verbal is the first language we learned. So these messages usually have more impact. Unfortunately, that’s the rule of communication. So if I say to you, “Where did you put my socks this time, darling?” Then the tone of what I say will be much more important than what I actually say. Which means you will react to my Persecution in the tone, and you will not hear the question, which is: “Where did you leave my socks?”. 

One of the ways to deal with the ulterior motive and to stay out of conflict is just to name it. You could say, “If I’m understanding you correctly, you want to know where your socks are?” or, “Am I understanding you correctly that you want to fight about your socks? Because in that case, let’s just put an alarm  clock to five minutes and have the fight.” Sometimes you just need to relieve the stress. 

You don’t want to do this in every situation. If someone is trying to seduce you and they go, “Would you like to have a drink with me afterwards?” Don’t say, “Am I understanding you correctly?” Because that would be a killer for your romantic situation. But if people are hooking you into games, into something negative, it’s a really handy trick to have up your sleeve. 

Secret 3: The Moment of Silence

The third step in the game formula is the switch, when you respond to the ulterior motive. You get into one of the roles and then you get a switch. There’s an escalation of ulteriors until you’re hooked. That’s the way conflicts work.

So you’re having this conversation about who puts out the trash and someone says, “If you really love me, you would have put out the trash.” And then you’re having a conversation about your relationship instead of the trash, and at the end of this conversation the trash is still in the house

In every conflict there’s a switch, like the centre of the storm. There’s a moment of silence where you realise that one of you switched ego states or switched roles in the game. So you’ve gone, for instance, from Rescuer to Victim in this case or from Persecutor to Victim. There’s a moment of silence because you can only continue the conversation when one of you changes ego states if the other changes ego state too. If you catch yourself in that moment and have the presence of mind to say:I think we’ve had this conversation before, I’m gonna make a cup of tea. I love you. I’m gonna come back in 10 minutes and let’s talk about this.” 

This moment of silence in any conflict is your door to something else.

Secret 4: You Can Choose Not To Go There

At the end of the game there is a moment of payoff where you get into your favourite rotten feeling and you confirm your belief about self, others, and the world. One person walks away saying, “I always have to do everything here. Nobody ever does anything for me. The world is a hard place.” 

In that moment, and it’s very difficult and takes a lot of discipline, you recognise that there is an opportunity for you to reconfirm your basic assumptions, but that you actually choose not to. This really requires discipline. You think, I could go there, but I’m choosing not to. 

Secret 5: Uncover the Unmet Need

The important thing to recognise is people get into conflict because there’s an unmet need. Now, I know this is difficult to hold on to during the moment you’re in the heat of conflict or in the heat of the psychological game. 

I’ve been doing this for a very long time, for 35 years, and even I get into games still. I suddenly realise, oh, no, I’m a trained professional, I’m a transactional analyst. I’m in a game now. I should get out. But I recognise that every time someone gets into a psychological game, including me, there’s an unmet need. One of the mega ways to get out of conflict or get out of games is to take a step back and think, what is my unmet, unspoken need? And what is the other person’s unmet, unspoken need? If you can get to that in some way, then that’s a sure way to get out of conflict. 

One of my clients every time he came in back from work, got into a fight with his wife. So he’d been on a business trip, came home, got into a fight with his wife. I had a talk with him and I heard him say, “You know, I deal with conflict every day. Why should I deal with the chaos when I come home?” I pointed out that the pattern is, “You come home, you have a fight and then you have an excuse to go to your study and be by yourself. So what would happen if instead of having a fight, you tell your wife, every time I come home from a business trip, I need a moment for myself before I can re-engage in the relationship.”

After that they had a much more peaceful time. It’s often in the transition times that people get into conflict. Recognise that there’s an unmet need. 

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Published On: April 10th, 2020By Categories: Leadership, Videos


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