Do you know the reasons behind why people behave in strange ways that defy logical explanation – like giving up their high-ranking job, migrating to a land faraway or settling for a much lower paid job?
Many do not understand why and often brush aside such decisions as silly, illogical or there must be something wrong with these people. But, is this the truth? Furthermore, when we understand where they are coming from, this puts us in an advantagous position to understand the world they face around them.
Our ability to understand people’s actions and behaviour is indeed a very important skill that will benefit anyone – especially those people in leadership position. The ability to “size people up” can give one a head start in communicating, negotiating, settling a conflict or solving other issues.
This theory is not new, for even in warfare, the famous ancient philosopher Chun Tzu once said that “Knowing thy enemies” is the most powerful weapon to win a war!
Let me provide you with some information that all leaders should know about why people behave the way they do. The first thing to understand is that people have different “ego states” – of either that of a parent, child or adult which operates autonomously from one another, and generates fairly distinctive behavioural characteristics.
People with a “parent” ego state are usually more serious than others and might have somewhat fixed ways as well as beliefs in their perception of people and situations. They are known to be people who are fond of making instructional remarks like, “You ought to exercise at least four times a week”; “You aren’t hardworking” or “I think you need help in your work”. Usually, they are known to have picked this up from authoritative parents during their early childhood.
On the other extreme end are people with a “child” ego state that causes them to behave exactly the opposite way. This can be seen in how they can be more repressed and fearful than others, and can easily get hurt or be ashamed due to their rather “fragile” nature.
On the other hand, their positive side lies in them possessing curiosity that makes them more adventurous and creative than others. In such a state, they run the risk of living like a “sponge” in their early years – recording everything they see and hear and then later, reproducing the “unedited” versions of themselves in adulthood. The danger Is if these “unedited versions” are not-so-good reflections of their observations in their early lives, they can become an issue to deal with.
In the middle are the “adults” – rational people who are capable of processing emotional information in an objective way. Unlike the parents, they do not have fixed or judgmental attitudes nor the abrupt and uncontrollable emotions of a “child”. Instead, they have the enduring and persistent characteristics we commonly refer to as “passion” which is seen reflected in high achieving people which is very important for success.
You will know people’s ego states through cover-up activities called “games” that they play to indirectly seek attention, acknowledgement and recognition in their daily lives. During troubled situations, games can be translated into strange activities.
For instance, a bored person avoiding boredom may resort to overeating to kill time. Meanwhile, a frustrated child may run away from home to seek excitement elsewhere or an insecure boss may set up impossible expectations to watch his employee failing in the task ahead. In positive circumstances, games are positive activities that can be used to convey hard work, responsibility, sociability and the friendly nature of a person.
The biggest fear of all of these challenges is when these games degenerate to become a person’s “life script” which can be extremely lethal in their lives.
Life scripts can become fixed plans that cause people to have unchanging ways of doing things which can have an impact on a person’s entire life. Some examples of these scripts are:- “No matter what I do, I will fail,” or “I am very unlucky as nothing works for me,” or ‘Nobody in this world can be trusted”.
History highlights how life scripts have led to dangerous stereotyped actions like the notorious M16 Gang who used M16 weapons to rob and kill, or the infamous Jack the Ripper who raped and killed innocent victims in almost identical ways.
Generally, people who use life scripts to govern their lives have usually been in severe problems especially when they have too much of a “child” in them. They urgently need to emancipate the “reckless child” out of them in order for them to be able to be freed from using the same outdated information stored in them to ne used over and over again.
Notwithstanding this, it is not easy for people to change their ego state as early influences could have been too complicated and powerful that have left strong psychological marks on them. Only with understanding and compassion, can leaders help them to gradually change their undesired ego states for better ones through observing and giving them feedback whenever undesired ones behavioural patterns show up.
BY DR MICHAEL HEAH