What do you say after you say hello? by Eric Berne

What do you say after you say hello? by Eric Berne was a good read. Berne is a psychologist with a good grasp of style and a sense of frank humor. The book itself is informative without being overwhelming, humorous without being overly dramatic, and realistic without being cynical. It’s a bit of a longer read — it was worth it, for what I got out of it. It’s an older book now, and can usually be found on Amazon for cheap, if you would like to read it after reading this review.

What It’s About

The whole book is about what’s called ‘transactional analysis’ and ‘script analysis’, which are mental models that Berne describes as extensions of psychoanalysis.

In the book, the largest premise is that the emotional ‘transactions’ we make (e.g. making you happy makes me happy) are the results of the ‘script’ we’re given as kids, mostly by our parents, and by society.

One such example was the damsel in distress; a woman learned as a young girl that she gained attention from her father (and approval from her mother in doing so) by acting the distressed and helpless victim, even when she didn’t have to be.

Later in life, she goes on to act that way, and men with matching ‘scripts’ (men who got positive attention for swooping in and ‘rescuing’ their mothers from crises real and imagined) find her a perfect complementary role in their scripts.

Some examples seemed a bit contrived, but some, like the one above, seem realistic.

Why I picked it

I used to be pretty fascinated with psychology and the various mental models that people trained in the subject use to predict the world and human behavior. Less so now, but the book has been on my reading list for a while, after hearing about it in a psych class years ago.

From more recent reading about habits, I figured that mental (and therefore behavioral) patterns were just that: patterns and habits.

It makes sense that if you can identify a pattern (habit), you’re that much closer to changing it.

That’s useful.

What I got out of it

I got a few gems out of it – they’ll be included in the favorite quotes section.

Some parts of the book helped me spot patterns in my current behavior.

Other parts left me with a new appreciation for the differences in ways of thinking that separate people who consistently ‘win’ (achieve their goals or avoid incurring too much life damage) and the people who ‘lose’ (fall into addiction, go bankrupt, etc).

It’s not a ‘success’ book, not really, but revealing another piece of the puzzle behind the scenes helps in being more productive and happy, for certain people.

Who I’d recommend it to

I’d recommend it to various specific sorts of people.

Anybody who consistently finds herself bewildered at people doing things that don’t make sense to her would probably benefit from this; knowing a little more about the why helps to make sense of the what that people do, even when it doesn’t seem to make logical sense.

If somebody has an interest in psychology and/or is interested in learning about another area of it, he might also get professional or amateur interest out of this book.

I’d especially recommend it to people who are self-aware enough to catch themselves (too late) doing things they don’t want to, like consistently indulging in vices they’ve sworn off.

They can recognize the patterns behind their actions with the help of this book (and some hard work on their part), and hopefully change them, or at least begin to see where they come from.

Of course, this doesn’t exclude anyone else from reading it – I enjoyed it. Those people would probably get the most out of it, is all.

A few of my favorite quotes

A winner knows what he’ll do next if he loses, but doesn’t talk about it; a loser doesn’t know what he’ll do if he loses, but talks about what he’ll do if he wins. It only takes a few minutes to pick out winners and losers at a gambling table, domestic argument or in family therapy.

After NIGYSOB [“Now I’ve Got You You Son of a Bitch”] anger the patient may smile, whereas genuine anger is usually followed by weeping.

Weeping is also a racket in most cases, or even a dramatic put-on. The group response is the best way to judge this. If they feel annoyed or overly sympathetic, the tears are probably spurious. Genuine weeping usually results in a respectful silence and genuine responses of Aristotelian tragic pity.

Living day-by-day means living a well-planned and organized life, and sleeping well between each day, so that the day ends without reach-back, since tomorrow is well-planned, and begins without after-burn, since yesterday was well-organized. This is an excellent way to overcome the disabilities which might otherwise arise from a bad script, and an equally good way to bring a good one to its happy fulfillment.

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