It wasn’t until the confrontation with her supervisor that Beth began to realise something about her mindblindness.

Before the meeting with Steve she had been reading up on ideas of transactional analysis.

As she thought about how she felt about confronting Steve, she came to realise that she had been reacting to him like a cowering child, avoiding conflict and confrontation with an overbearing parent figure.

Something about his manner and the way that he dominated the team inhibited her ability to speak up for herself and voice her opinion.

She read up on Berne’s ideas about the three ego states: Parent, Adult and Child [1]. 

She realised that from her point of view she was reacting in a childish manner. The two of them were both adults and should be in relating to each other as adult to adult.

As she prepared for the meeting with Steve, she tried to think of herself as an adult rather than as an apologetic child.

With her heart thumping, as she explained herself at the meeting, she felt she vaguely detected Steve’s discomfort.

What she probably didn’t fully realise was that her unexpected assertiveness made Steve feel defensive and infantilised. It was likely he felt like the child being told off by a disapproving parent.

In the meeting something shifted for her, not just in terms of a readjustment of respect for her on Steve’s part, but something which underscored the way that they related to one another thereafter.

Although her sense of it at the time was imprecise, in the meeting Beth was picking up on Steve’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

From her assumed position as an adult talking to an adult, she was able to detect something of his emotional reaction, was able to use the greater emotional control in her approach, and a very general sense of Steve’s emotion to enable her thinking, understand her own and Steve’s emotions and to manage and control her own emotional reaction.

At the outset of the meeting she had been extremely apprehensive but at the end felt a sense of reassurance that she’d done the right thing …




[1] Berne, E. (1964) Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships. London: Penguin.


(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)

(Back to index)