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Common Communication Games that Families Play


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As adult children we often play a kind of ‘game’ with our parents and our siblings – the origins of these ‘games’ are often patterns we began in our childhood that we extend into our adulthood.

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Common Communication Games that Families Play

  1. 1. Games Families Play Communication
  2. 2. Why do we play games? • Our family is the source of much of who we become as adults. • Much of what we learn in our families is good and wholesome and creates an important foundation for how we will form lasting relationships with other people in our lives. • Unfortunately our families may also be the genesis of patterns that may not be productive or helpful in our later lives. • As adult children we often play a kind of ‘game’ with our parents and our siblings – the origins of these ‘games’ are often patterns we began in our childhood that we extend into our adulthood.
  3. 3. Common Family Games Try as we might it is easy to get 'caught up' in habitual and non-constructive communication patterns in our families. Four very common family games are listed below and explained in the next slides. As you go through them, think to yourselves whether these are happening in your family. Stereotyping Scapegoating Triangulation Drama Triangle
  4. 4. We will explain each ‘game’ We will show you an illustration of each ‘game’ We will give you an example of each ‘game’ Here we go
  5. 5. Stereotyping Stereotyping has a lot to do with the ‘roles’ we played in our families when we were growing up. Examples of these roles might include • Good Girl/Bad Girl, Good Boy/Bad Boy • Screw-up • Perfect Child • Spoiled Brat • Crybaby Often these ‘roles’ will ‘stick’ so that when events occur when we are adults we are perceived through the ‘lens’ of this stereotype by our family.
  6. 6. Stereotyping Illustration
  7. 7. Stereotyping Example [John, the eldest sibling] Stacy, I can't even talk to you sometimes. You are such a crybaby. [Stacy, the youngest sibling] I don't know what you mean... When was the last time you saw me cry?
  8. 8. Triangulation Triangulation happens when two people experience a conflict with one another, but instead of speaking directly to one another about this conflict, they include another party (or parties) in their communication, to avoid communicating directly with one another – therefore creating a ‘triangle’ of their communication.
  9. 9. Triangulation Illustration
  10. 10. Triangulation Example [Dad/Jim] Joan, this business decision is none of your business. I appreciate your interest but leave the business to me. [Mom/Joan] I think we should collaborate more on decisions that could impact the family Jim. [Dad] I don't have time for this -- I am going to work. [Dad] David, can you believe your Mother? [Son/David] What are you talking about? [Dad] She thinks that you and I can't run the company and wants to try and do things her way. She thinks she could do a better job. [Son] Yeah, she’s always been a control freak. She just needs to keep to her own affairs. Meanwhile…Mom calls her daughter on her way to the office [Mom] Hi Susie, I am just so upset. You should have heard your Father and David at breakfast this morning. The way they talked to me. I just don’t know how much more of this I can take!
  11. 11. Scapegoating Scapegoating often begins as stereotyping but it goes a step further in that we find ourselves blaming someone over and over again for circumstances that may or may not have been caused or even related to them, because of how they were once viewed in the family.
  12. 12. Scapegoating Illustration
  13. 13. Scapegoating Example [Debbie] If only John knew how to behave, how to stop screwing everything up, the family would be alright [Stacy] Exactly, anytime we have game night and he shows up, things go downhill fast
  14. 14. Drama Triangle Rather than speaking directly or conflicting directly with another person, a game ensues where a third party is invited into a conversation real-time, that probably should have stayed a direct conversation between two people. When that happens people often assume the roles of ‘rescuer’, ‘persecutor’ and ‘victim’.
  15. 15. Drama Triangle Illustration
  16. 16. Role Explanation Triangle Roles Rescuers - See themselves as helping or caretakers but may often come from a viewpoint of pity and disrespect Persecutors - Love the idea of controlling people, are often blaming others for failing and may have disproportionate reactions Victims - Are easily manipulated, but can also actively manipulate others by taking on a ‘needy’ position Interestingly, when you look closely ALL of the roles within the triangle are taking a victim stance because they are refusing to take responsibility and are instead persecuting, rescuing or being a victim….
  17. 17. Drama Triangle Example [Boss] Every time I come into your office, you never have your projects ready (Persecutor) [John] You always come before the deadline (Victim). Doesn't he, Susan? (Positions Susan to become a rescuer) [Susan] You are rather hard on him (Rescuer) [Boss] Am I now? Where is your presentation (Persecutor) [Susan] You came in here to talk to John. He is the problem! (Persecutor) [Boss] I know, I know, this isn't about you guys it's about this merger. I just wish I had some help (Victim)
  18. 18. How to not play ‘games’?  Realize that you are not your past, and your family members are not their past  Stay in your adult self i.e. resist being a Persecutor, Victim or Rescuer  Be neutrally curious – wonder why someone is behaving a certain way instead of judging them or reacting to what they are doing or saying  Directly address wounds or conflicts – it may seem scary but it is the best way to make progress  Do not involve other people in your issues with another person and try not to involve yourself in other people’s issues
  19. 19. For more information on communication tips, or ineffective communications to avoid ……. take a look around our site … Resources
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