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Attack & offend, then say "but that's OK" (Covert-aggression, Trump style)

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We talked about covert aggression already.

Just some of them:

And of course, a whole dominance type built around push-pull covert aggression:

This is a different type though, and it's a particularly interesting one.

Why so?
Becuase it allows to first deliver direct talk, and hence to come across as high-power and straight shooter, and only, in the end, mellow it a bit to take some of the aggression away (and go slightly under cover).

Trump does it often.

See here an example:

Trump: we've done maybe a great job. What we haven't done a good job honestly is convincing people like you, because you're really quite impossible to convince (= you're biased, and maybe not intelligent enough to undersand) BUT THAT'S OK

The "that's OK" is what allows Trump to be more offensive and direct, without coming across as too aggressive and confrontational, and more neutral and level-headed.
It's covert aggression, but the covert part is at the end.


Warning: Potentially abusive technique, use it sparingly

I wasn't sure whether to post this one in the "proven techniques" section.

And the reason is that I see this technique has more use cases for aggression, covert aggression, and generally value-taking purposes than value-adding ones.
And this website aims at making readers and users a different kind of high-quality men and women.

It's also not as assertive as it can be, since there is a slight feeling of passive-aggressiveness to it, and passive-aggressive is something you generally want to avoid.

But, there can be some valid use-cases of this technique as well.
Plus, it's good to know how to answer to this class of aggression.


Solution: blowing off the cover

And the techniques we generally discussed to deal with covert aggression apply.

You want to remove the cover, and thread-expand the aggression, surface it, then address it head on.
That helps you control the frame, and doing so from a high-power, leader position.

In this case, Leslie could have said:

Leslie: What do you mean exactly convincing "people like me"? What do you mean "impossible to convince"?

That's "uncovering / surfacing".
Then, address Trump's accusation of bias.
She could have framed herself as a critical thinker who is convinced by facts, and not by salesman hot air (ie.: go from Trump's assertion of being biased, to being rational, which would have been a huge win to sway the undecided viewers).

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JPJohn FreemanStefSerena Irina
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Good stuff! Thanks!

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Stef

Yes, I saw a similar example of this that possibly further validates Lucio's decision to leave it out of the "proven techniques" section.

Here's a link to a 16-second clip of the covert-aggression in an interview.

Interviewee: "Because I...you know...I'm like hiding in the shadows."

Interviewer: "Well, you won't answer the question, but that's OK."

Interviewee: (surprised by interviewer's comment, then feels guilty)

Interviewer: (notices he's made his interviewee uncomfortable and begins to stumble his words) "I'm just saying...I'm just..."

Interviewee: (interrupts to apologize) "Sorry, I...get a little rambly."

Interviewer: (interviewer scrambles to make interviewee more comfortable and save the interview) "It's not you! It's about your ego...it's about you...I mean I'm just really asking whether...'cuz it does...it feels like and not in a bad way, you know I don't like..."

In this case, the interviewee accepted the interviewer's frame that he hadn't answered the question and took full responsibility. He became uncomfortable and what ensued was the interviewee feeling nervous and the interviewer scrambling to make the interviewee feel less attacked.

However, this wasn't really an "attack" such as how Trump uses this technique to be unapologetically direct—sometimes to the point of being rude. Yet, it still held enough power to do damage to the interviewee (note the displacement signals after the interviewer used this technique).

This technique seems pretty value-taking even when not used in classic Trump fashion.

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Lucio BuffalmanoStef

Great analysis, Ali!

And great catch in recognizing the power dynamics going on there.

Facing a dilemma now: leaving it in the "proven" techniques and adding a note like "avoid it most of the times", or removing it.
Thoughts?

In a way, it is a "proven" technique, it's just often not a high-quality one.

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Stef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

It follows the organized category structure you've laid out if you leave this post here, which is valuable to people looking for specific information in a particular subforum.

The driven individuals of TPM are smart cookies. If you add to avoid it most times and why, they'll understand.

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Lucio Buffalmano

Thank you Ali!
I agree with you, so it stays here.

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Stef
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I recognise someone who does this quite often.
He has a bit of the self-amusing dominance style but is not as assertive and smooth as the guy in the video.

He also seems to generally use covert aggression quite frequently in interactions with people.
There's an element of social climbing as well.

People around him sometimes get annoyed but are not sure how to reply.
And he seems to be amused when these people get annoyed.

Overall, he does not seem to be a value-taking person or a nasty person.
But it seems that he enjoys getting people annoyed in a subtle way.

He is an experienced salesperson.
I have not seen him in customer conversations.
Probably he does not use convert aggression on customers.
That would be off-putting.

My Lunch Conversation with Him

Him: What do you have planned on the weekend?

Me: I will have to check my calendar. (Because I like to put things on my calendar to free up my brain; maybe it's best to make something up to not seem evasive)

Him: If you don't have anything planned, that's okay. (Value-taking frame, followed by babying with okay; Suggesting that I don't have much things going on or my social life is boring; then hiding it under the guise of it is okay)

I could not remember exactly what I responded.
But I was not expecting that reply.
So I switched topics and just continued the conversation.

Thinking back, I could have responded with

Me: What do you mean? (Standard uncovering technique)

Or attack his frame with

Me: You seem to be implying that having no plans is bad.

Or deny the frame with

Me: Yes, busy week. Just going to lie on the beach.

Or

Me: Why? Would you like to check my calendar? (Maybe sounds too defensive)

Or

Me: Busy week. It's not easy to remember your weekend plans. (Implying that his week has been less busy with important stuff and he's already thinking of weekend plans)

 

Interaction with Cashier in a Cafe

Him: Tell me about what's on the breakfast menu.

Cashier: You can order the latte or mocha. We have pastries as well.

Him: Interesting, let me look through the coffee. (10 seconds)

Cashier: (From the cashier's expression. I have a queue here. This is annoying.)

Him: Does this meal come with this pastry?

Cashier: Yes

Him: I will have this and that. Sorry for taking so long. Thank you for your patience. (Suggesting she has no choice to wait there)

From the vibe, I could tell that he enjoyed taking his time and feeling important.
But it wasn't so long that the people in the queue became annoyed.

Demanding/value-taking followed by covering it up with "sorry" and "thank you".
This feels like a slightly different dynamic.

I did not say anything at that time but wanted to speak up for the cashier.
I could have said in a joking way:

Me (Looking at the cashier): He takes his coffee very seriously! (implying that he took too much time to decide on the coffee and even had to ask so many questions)

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Lucio BuffalmanoStef
Great analyses, Matthew!
I like these two:
Quote from Matthew Whitewood on November 18, 2020, 5:11 pm

Me: What do you mean? (Standard uncovering technique)

Me (Looking at the cashier): He takes his coffee very seriously! (implying that he took too much time to decide on the coffee and even had to ask so many questions)

First one simple and (almost) always effective.

If they wanna throw a stone, let them at least show the hand.
Most of them won't even do that, and you acquire power and status just by assertively asking.

And if they do show their hand, great, now you can talk openly instead of playing covert one-upping games.

That second one to tell the barista is great.
It's a slight one-upping to the guy, but it's proportionate for the circumstances.
You give power back to the barista and create a good "you and I, who understand proper social dynamics etiquette" kind of bond.

If she was your type, that could have also been a great ice-breaker: high-power, witty, and warm. And then you could have stopped by to (pretend) to get something else, chat a bit, and maybe exchange contacts.

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StefSerena Irina
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

This is interesting!
I could not put a finger on what made the second comment great.
It's a mini version of crafting out an enemy given the circumstances to create a bond.
And also showcasing positive qualities in myself.

Now I'm also thinking about good cop, bad cop frames when being a wingman.
Maybe for another thread in the dating section of this forum.

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StefSerena Irina

Someone used this "Attack & offend, then say but that's OK" power move on me today during lunch.
I have known him for a while, and he has helped me with more technical subjects/domains.
Generally, not a bad person, but he enjoys throwing out patronising remarks from time to time.

There were 3 people.
It was supposed to be a casual lunch.
We were part of a larger professional-like social circle.

The third-party was an acquaintance that I have not spoken to much yet.
The acquaintance and I were sharing stories and experiences of past job interviews and memorable encounters with people.
We were getting along relatively well since we have not spoken much before.

Then came his power move.
I can't remember exactly what he said.
But he is known to make patronising remarks towards people from time-to-time.
After the acquaintance made a casual get-to-know-you question, he repeated the question in a patronising manner followed by "it's okay" with a smirk on his face.

Acquaintance: What did you study in university?

Him (Repeats the question with a smirk and patrionising tone): Yeah what did you study? If you're not comfortable with saying, that's okay.

Me (Went meta to explain but in a joking manner with a smile): He likes to get under people's skin but hides under the guise of "that's okay".

Acquaintance: Sounds like you were over-analysing the question.

Me: How long have you known him?

Acquaintance: 5 months

Me: It takes time to get to know him better. Anyways, I worked on this during university. It was about ...

I went for the meta-level explanation course of action.
I said rather intuitively because I was in a more free-sharing, direct-talking mode.
But not sure if it was appropriate for a casual lunch conversation.
Maybe it is better to surface his intentions as suggested in this thread.

I engaged the group overall as a whole but spent more time building up the acquaintance socially.
While being more neutral towards the person who threw the off-handed remark.

Later during the conversation, my acquaintance shared a situation where he asked a technically skilled individual for help.
That individual was younger but was way ahead of him technically and career-wise. But not in the same circle or workplace.
I could tell that he felt patronised when that person said "This is rather simple." upon his request for help.
So I shared that technically experienced people often forget the first time working on a problem and can be less empathetic when approached with a familiar situation.
And that I have faced similar situations where I had to learn from less empathetic people.

Nearer towards the end of lunch, he said

AcquaintanceYou come across as quite politically correct. (My interpretation is that he means diplomatic)

Me: I do make an effort to be tactful towards people I work with.

The conversation seemed to progress towards a friendlier vibe.
The lunch lasted about an hour.
I am not sure if it was directly caused by subtly encouraging friendlier discourse.

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Serena Irina
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