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Bel's thoughts

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Great insights on the literal and sub-communication levels indeed.

Yes, both matter indeed.

But I'd have to reflect more on the topic, including eventually for a lesson/article (in the meanwhile, happy to read more on it, including on its own topic if anyone wants to go for it).

I think this is one of the key areas that some people "naturally get", while some others have to learn.

Straight and "no game" talk is congruent at all levels

Also worth noting that sometimes the two are the same.

It's both in high dominance communication and in straight communication that the two tend to be more similar (and it's what we encourage also with "whoever can take it", or we could call it "communication among eagles").

Of course, there are always exceptions, but generally speaking, good relationships and straight communication require less reading between the liens and less "games" because the literal meaning covers much of the communication.

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Bel
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

How to handle messages that call off something

I have been asked by a client my availability for a call with other people. This is the exchange that ensued:

Client: Goodday Bel, the director is asking if Thursday at x could be ok for the call. What do you say? I'm verifying with the other participants as well

Me: Hi X, it'd be ok for me

The day after the above exchange, I then receive this:

Client: Dear, sorry for the delay, but the call proposed for Thursday is being postponed to next week. I'll update you timely. Thank you

How to handle this?

In the past I would have said: "No problem, talk soon!". Disastrous consequences and loss of respect ensued.

Now I'm finding myself adopting the "ignore" and don't reply solution.

By the way, this person is a very kind and respectful client of mine, no doubt in my mind he's not power moving in any way.

But maybe I am missing something and there could be a better way. If anyone has any, happy to read.

BTW, in this case it is not really a "call off", as no appointment was really set.

My take: since no appointment was set and called off, but it was only a tentative set-up, no reply can be ok.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

If he's a good person and not power moving, then how about:

OK, thank you for the update.

If it were a friend, I'd easily go with "no problem".
The thing in a professional setting though is that "no problem" is higher investment, and by saying "no problem" you mention the word "problem". That indirectly creates the thread that it might have been a problem, which sub-communicates you were waiting or counting on that appointment.

You may not want that.

Or not replying is also OK (BTW, I'd call this way in this case rather than "ignoring", as "ignoring" is best left for "ignoring a power move").

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Bel
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Thank you Lucio, this is very helpful.

Elaborating a bit on my thoughts here:

On "no problem":

So I now understand that, if I use "no problem" in a professional email, I subcommunicate I was expecting something different from the other side.

It's a way of lightly shaming the other person, so to say. Usable when I want to imply (with a client for example) that I expect a different treatment in the future.

This explains why, after I followed your suggestion here:

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on July 22, 2022, 9:35 pm

Her: sorry if I return on this with this delay
You: no problem, holidays are getting close and everyone's busy to finish work on time :). Now, about that...

Just an example, of course, you use whatever's most appropriate.

I very often use that "no problem, it happens / it's normal" format (it's also in Seduction University as a form of "making excuses for poor behavior" to avoid too much disempowerment).

the client I wrote "no problem" to, later (more than one month later) spoke with me on the phone and apologized for her late replies to my work, saying this was not her standard.

I was very surprised of her apology (I even replied that not having signed the contract yet could be a plus, given the circumstances which had developed in the meantime with the counterpart).

On "thank you for the update" vs not replying

I think not replying subcommunicates being more busy, and might be a plus as a "general rule" in my profession when someone calls off a meeting.

"OK, thank you for the update." is also great!

It's kind, but low investment.

Based on my current understanding, best reserved for established relationships. So it would have maybe been better in this specific case.

With new people, maybe it's best not replying at all (which subcommunicates they could lose me as a lawyer).

Also, I think I'm unconsciously experimenting now with not replying to these kinds of messages, as in the past my replying had (as far as I understand) caused bad outcomes for me (people disappearing).

On replying with the lowest investment possible when the other person asks to move the call/meeting with short prior notice

Recently, I myself asked another professional to postpone a call one hour before the time we had set-up. I apologized and asked if we could postpone it later in the day, or to another day when he was available.

He did this: he waited one minute before the original scheduled time, and sent me this simple message:

5.45?

I immediately thought he had done it on purpose.

Waiting until the last possible moment subcommunicated he was busy before that very moment.

And replying with no words, just another time proposal, dramatically lowered the "submissiveness" inherent in him acceding to my demand.

And the fact that he was acceding to my demand rendered irrelevant his low investment.

Maybe this could even be developed into a technique.

What I used to do in the past instead

Here's an exchange of years ago that went wrong.

Scheduled appointment with a client of a colleague, who had asked me the favor of following her client with her as it was outside of her expertise.

Email exchange:

Colleague: Good day Bel,

the company told me we need to move the call to next week as, now, they are having concurrent work commitments.

I'll update you as soon as I have news, thank you in the meantime and have a nice day.

Me: Good day X,

Thank you for the update, a nice day to You!

Bel

Never heard from her again.

One thing out of place I see in my reply now is the final exclamation mark. And the fact that I capitalized the "You".

But still I'm now thinking the problem here was not my reply, but probably what preceded it (ie what I subcommunicated on the phone) and what followed (because I never followed up).

Being generally higher power gives you more leeway to make mistakes. Being lower power dooms you to losing opportunities constantly for the minimal slips.

On what to say when it's a power move

Assuming a client calls off a meeting as a power move, what to do? I think it's difficult to answer in the abstract, and we should probably wait for a specific instance.

But I am reading one case from my past emails of years ago:

Client: Good day Bel,

are we able to speak this afternoon to speak a moment about this agreement?

Let's say at 4?

Thanks a lot

Bye

Me: Good day X,

at 4 today is perfect.

Talk soon

* click on blockquote to expand

Then he never called, I never called, and I never heard from him again.

Apart from the inherent submissiveness in my message (today I would probably propose we talk the next day if I received a message like this):

I think if it happened today, I would call after 15-20 minutes.

Then, if no pick up, I would wait a day.

Then, if no apologies coming, I would send an email either declining representation (if it were a new client) or asking if everything was ok (if it were an established or a corporate client).

BTW: I am only now realizing that a person calling off with a message or email is kinder than someone setting up a call and then just disappearing.

So this second behavior should warrant a "harsher" response.

Quote from Bel on October 13, 2022, 1:15 am

Thank you Lucio, this is very helpful.

Elaborating a bit on my thoughts here:

On "no problem":

So I now understand that, if I use "no problem" in a professional email, I subcommunicate I was expecting something different from the other side.

It's a way of lightly shaming the other person, so to say. Usable when I want to imply (with a client for example) that I expect a different treatment in the future.

This explains why, after I followed your suggestion here:

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on July 22, 2022, 9:35 pm

Her: sorry if I return on this with this delay
You: no problem, holidays are getting close and everyone's busy to finish work on time :). Now, about that...

Just an example, of course, you use whatever's most appropriate.

I very often use that "no problem, it happens / it's normal" format (it's also in Seduction University as a form of "making excuses for poor behavior" to avoid too much disempowerment).

the client I wrote "no problem" to, later (more than one month later) spoke with me on the phone and apologized for her late replies to my work, saying this was not her standard.

I was very surprised of her apology (I even replied that not having signed the contract yet could be a plus, given the circumstances which had developed in the meantime with the counterpart).

Yes, great insight!

Something I actually hadn't said, but you (brilliantly) came up with.

So two different insights here:

Shaming / convert power move

It is a slight way of shaming indeed.

Just mentioning "problem" and that for you it was "no problem", implies it might have been a problem, and you are granting a "pardon" (same dynamics as covert power moves and same as John's case when a nurse said "I'm not angry". And actually "no problem" can be one of the most common covert power moves).

Opening up a new frame just by mentioning

What we discussed before.

If we wanted to dig deeper, this is a lot about neural pathways in the brain.
Just mentioning some loaded keywords like "problem" lights up brain connection between that word and its various uses and meaning.

A word like that opens up the "problem frame" even in the negative or in denial, and the same goes for some other strong keywords or foundational dynamics that people subconsciously track (ie.: did he need me, is he chasing me, is he high value, etc. etc.)

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

Thank you Lucio for your kind words.

Your observations are incredibly helpful to understand these dynamics, the similarities between them, and to learn how to use these and how to respond in similar situations.

On a related note, it seems I am continuing to encounter lots of controlling people:

On "busy" power moves by a client

Recent exchange (in grey my notes and analysis):

Other: Hi Bel,

we received the new draft. Could you review it? If you deem it necessary (subtly puts the burden on me for inconveniencing them) we can talk in a dedicated call.

You'll find my comments on some clauses on which I need your feedback (comments are not explained in the draft, it's clear I'll need to talk to him and he knows it)It's clear you are free to make other comments as well (subcommunicates I have to adapt to his agenda).

Let me know (tasking) how you would like to proceed.

My answer was one day later:

Me: Hi X,

I examined the draft (to give reason for my delay in answering) and I agree (to neutralize the tasking) to speak in a call to define together (joint frame) the points you made and other needs (to anchor the call on their needs and not mine).

We could talk Friday afternoon, if it's ok for you as well.

I received this answer:

Other: Hi Bel,

thanks a lot for the review (reinforces me being at his service), unfortunately on Friday I'm already full I think (subcommunicates his "busy" move was a choice).

Can we make it on Monday? In the morning I think we are somewhat free (subcommunicates being busy afterwards and his agenda being subject to changes, so I need to act fast).

What to do

My reasoning: this needs to be nipped in the bud immediately.

I am doing a favor to him, not the contrary. It's him who needs to adapt to my schedule.

So I think I will:

  • wait some more hours, until evening (to subcommunicate his "act quick" prompt does not work).
  • then answer with the lowest investment, like this:

Me: Hi X,

Tuesday afternoon after 4? (I don't need to justify my being busy, contrary to him, so I am higher power; I am also curt, thus also higher power, but still available to do this - on my schedule -, so he won't be able to say anything explicitly. And if he can't do it on Tuesday, it will go beyond Tuesday and we'll keep playing games)

Bel

It could also make sense to establish a fall-back, to avoid him playing the game again:

Me: Hi X,

Tuesday afternoon after 4?

Otherwise let me know your availability in the days after that.

Bel

The main point here is that I need to leverage that it's him who needs the work done asap, not me.

Want to make this kind of games? Ok, work gets delayed.

And here's another one.

New client making first contact with me in an indirect dismissive assuming-my-agreement way

This is the very first email (addressed to a group of clients and including me as their prospective lawyer) I am receiving from this person, and I have not ever met her, nor even been informed by her of the matter, nor have I decided whether I can assist.

Analysis in grey:

Email: Goodday all (does not address me, while in reality she is writing to ask for my specific availability, as the other people are my prospective clients and she is the "coordinator": socially scalping and rude, implying I do not matter to her) in view of the preparation of legal actions (assumes I will do what she says) concerning ..., I propose to meet via videoconference on ... at ...

If it's ok for you all, including Attorney Bel, (rudely addressing me incidentally) I will calendar the commitment (subcommunicates I need to adapt to her schedule). Thank you for the usual availability (subcommunicates I am usually at her service on the first interaction!) and kind regards to you all. (doesn't even salute me!)

I have already drafted my answer to be sent tomorrow or even later:

Me: Good day, (indirect reply not addressing the person, like she did to me)

I confirm my availability for the conference call on ... at..., to understand the situation and whether I can be of assistance. (retain agency to decide and voids the frame that I am a) usually of assistance, and b) already on board on this)

Kindly,

Bel

I think my answer will also lightly shame her in front of everyone, because everyone will understand my curtness is due to her disrespect.

Hello Bel,

Just some quick notes and what I note is not necessarily the most important thing, but just what caught my eye while scanning:

Quote from Bel on October 13, 2022, 12:28 pm

Other: Hi Bel,

we received the new draft. Could you review it? If you deem it necessary (subtly puts the burden on me for inconveniencing them) we can talk in a dedicated call.

You'll find my comments on some clauses on which I need your feedback (comments are not explained in the draft, it's clear I'll need to talk to him and he knows it)It's clear you are free to make other comments as well (subcommunicates I have to adapt to his agenda).

Let me know (tasking) how you would like to proceed.

  •  If you deem it necessary (subtly puts the burden on me for inconveniencing them) 

At first, I thought:

I didn't see it that way.
It's empowering as it respects your judgment and gives you the power to choose and decide + provide their availability if you decide so (and you can, I guess, bill for that time. I guess some lawyers would jump on that opportunity).

Then, I realized you knew better.
So yes, based on all the context, you know better.
But, those words alone aren't disempowering per se.

  • Let me know (tasking) how you would like to proceed.

Still, don't see it as disempowering, he's letting you take the lead.

  • It's clear you are free to make other comments as well (subcommunicates I have to adapt to his agenda).

Didn't see it that way.
Now you have the option to ignore his comment and go for the call, or comment straight on the file.

Plus, generally speaking, most people in life are sloppy -I know I often am as well :)- and not very detail-oriented, so I think that sloppy comments on file are more what you can expect from most everyone, than the exception.

  • thanks a lot for the review (reinforces me being at his service)

May be I'm missing something.
Are these guys paying you?
If so, then you are billing them for that, you are at their service, so this seems standard courtesy on his side.

  •  unfortunately on Friday I'm already full I think (subcommunicates his "busy" move was a choice).

Agree, this was an (annoying) power move.
Not so much that he's full, but that he adds "I think", which puts you in a very low prio bracket, as if he's letting anything else that may come up take precedence.

  • Can we make it on Monday? In the morning I think we are somewhat free (subcommunicates being busy afterwards and his agenda being subject to changes, so I need to act fast).

Agree, same as above.
Just one thing to consider: if it's more than one person, then it's somewhat fairer that he keeps his options more open since he's speaking for others and isn't sure whether they can attend or not.


That being said, you know the situation better, as always.
So if you're doing him a favor, you're right to seek re-empowerment.

However, generally speaking, have you thought of sending out your calendar with a service like Calendly or similar?
People see when you're free, and can book.
Easier and quicker than all those back-and-forths looking for dates. And you can even task him: use the calendar in my signature and pick a free time slot.

Alternatively, I'd send "windows of availability", such as "you can call me Tue from 1pm to 4pm", or at least give him 2 options as you mentioned.

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Bel
Community, new content and Confidence University moved here.

Hi Lucio,

thank you so much for this.

So your reading is not as bad as mine. And you are right, they are paying me, and it's more than one person. I was saying "favor" in the sense that I don't want to submit and put myself in a lower-down position anymore.

It's possible I re-read all the interaction in light of his final "I think" moves.

I also understand your point that he would prefer to avoid the call, but I can't really understand his notes in another way; they aren't even notes, just "please review this".

In light of your different reading, do you think I can simply accept his proposal for Monday?

Could write:

Agreed for Monday, let's block the slot.

Quote from Bel on October 13, 2022, 1:09 pm

Thank you so much Lucio for this.

So your reading is not as bad as mine. And you are right, they are paying me. I was saying "favor" in the sense that I always give maximum availability and quick service.

It's possible I re-read all the interaction in light of his final "I think" moves.

Can I ask you this: in light of your different reading, do you think I can simply accept his proposal for Monday?

Yeah, I'd go for Monday because it's also good for you to move quickly.

Also consider that "I think" may be the format of someone who's more on commito-phobic side of things, or doesn't want to say something worrying they may have to cancel later on.
Still a bad choice for him in a professional setting, but it means it's not necessarily malignant power move.

Personally, I may call that out with something like:

"You think, or you are?" 🙂
I am free between... (<- that also constrasts with his style

Or if even better:

  • Monday morning we can do at X or X
  • OK Monday, please give time two-time slots that can work for you for sure (<--- and indirect boundary-enforcement against his waffling ways of setting up calls)
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