What Do You Say After You Say Hello?

Ad for What Do You Say After You Say Hello from the New York Times

Copy of the Original Advertisement for What Do You Say After You Say Hello, printed in the New York Times Book Review in 1972

This book is considered by many to be Eric Berne’s sequel to Games People Play. Although Berne published other books since Games was released in 1964, most of those works were oriented towards those trained in psychotherapy and not towards the individuals who made Games People Play a runaway bestseller.

In What Do You Say After You Say Hello? Berne presents a summary of Transactional Analysis, introducing (or to many, re-introducing) structural analysis, ego states, rituals, pastimes, and games.  Berne then introduces the concept of Scripts to the mainstream world audience for the first time.  As Berne and his followers began refining Transactional Analysis since its formal introduction in 1958, Berne began developing many new ideas, such as Scripts.  This was the first “mainstream” book in which the idea of scripts was introduced.

In What Do You Say After You Say Hello, Berne approaches scripts chronologically. He shows how parental programming will lay the basis for the script in the “plastic years” of childhood and how adolescent rebellion may lead to an “anti-script.”  Berne then goes on to analyze the scripts of many familiar fairy tales, such as Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.

Berne then goes on to introduce what he calls the script-breakers.  A script-breaker is Berne’s remedy to parental programming.  With these tools, one is able to break out of a script entirely and change your destiny.  Lastly, Berne presents objectively and fairly some objections and criticisms to script theory.

You can get multiple versions of the book from Amazon.com.

Review of What Do You Say After You Say Hello?

Ad for What Do You Say After You Say Hello seen in the New York TImes

Another advertisement for What Do You Say After You Say Hello seen in the NY Times Book Review in 1972.

Eric Berne was a psychoanalyst who became well known in the 1970s for his system of “transactional analysis”, the transactions in question being mostly those between a young child and its parents. He proposed various structures for this relationship based on the roles parent/adult/child that every person plays and presents life stories as scripts that can be good or bad.

This was his last book completed just before his death in 1970. It nicely ties together his main discoveries and provides a fascinating selection of “scripts” tracing them from their source and presenting them in his very effective parent/adult/child format. The system can be presented diagramatically and one needs to use it to get the most out of the book. However, once over this hurdle the system is very useful and effective. This reviewer has experimented with it on a number of occasions and it really does explain and predict in the way that he claims.

Berne’s bad luck was that he wrote the book in 1970 when psychology was going through a bad patch with a flood of bizarre systems appearing. The good gets lost with the bad and T.A. now tends to be labelled as an outmoded California fashion related to Freudianism.

It’s good to see that Berne arrives at his system empirically with his basic framework being bolstered with all the evidence he can find. He examines accents, voices, vocabulary, types of laughter, names, in fact anything he can lay his hands on to provide effective cross checks to his main structural analysis.

In the preface he says that the book is “primarily intended as an advanced textbook of psychotherapy, and professionals of different backgrounds should have no difficulty in translating into their own dialects the short and simple annals of transactional analysis. No doubt some non-professionals will read it too, and for that reason I have tried to make it accessible to them . It may demand thinking, but I hope it will not require deciphering.”

This is a fair statement as it is a book that has to be read in its entirety to work. He uses handy memorable terms for scripts and their elements and the reader can become familiar with rackets , games and trading stamps along with other tools, and in the last chapter apply a detailed script check list. He also has a chapter that deals with the objections to his theory in an even-handed way.

This book is essential reading.