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Bel's thoughts

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Thanks Lucio,

this situation and your last post made me reflect on one point that I remember reading in "The Gervais Principle":

that "sociopaths", far from being enraged by the awakening of a former "naive victim", instead paradoxically are likely to almost always "welcome" the fact that the former unaware victim has "become more like them".

The article mentioned something to the effect that "in a world where being a "sociopath" is a very lonely place, companionship, either in the form of a new collaborator on the same plane, or in the form of a new but aware "enemy", is welcome fresh news".

This seems to fit what's (at least superficially) happening here. Because (and I don't use words lightly) this person here is one of the worst people I have ever met.

It also seems to fit other experiences I am having.

I have gone to one formerly close person I had gone no contact with for more than one year and - contrary to all common advice - I vomited to his face my knowledge of all the abuse and manipulations he did to me.

And instead of being enraged, as I thought he would be, he seemed somewhat "relieved" that I knew, and also "hopeful" that he could now establish a "peer frame" with me.

To me this is total madness.

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Very interesting observation, Bel!

Yeah, that can actually make a lot of sense.

Also makes even more sense if you add the other side of the coin: that low-power attracts abuse/manipulation.
As for the latest article/PU lesson on growth mindset:

And that’s actually one of main drivers of bullying that people miss on: the bullied inadvertently attracts the bullying.
There’s a dark force that almost calls for bullying to naive and submissive people.

Just substitute "bullying" with "manipulation", "aggression", "covert-aggression", "one-upping", etc. etc. depending on context or relationship.

Welcome to the sociopaths' club, Bel! 😀
LOL, jokes aside (albeit there's a backdrop of truth), that's one of the things I never liked too much about The Gervais Principle: there's little sociopathic about being high-power.
There's an overlap, that's true and that's crucially important. But the two are far from being the same. This website, for example, helps turn a lot of non-sociopaths into high-power, effective operators.
The backdrop of truth is that, to be able to deal with snakes, you also need to have some of that poison within you. Even if you don't like it, you still need it.

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I agree with you.

There's no similarity whatsoever between a normal empathic person learning to be "high power" and being able to keep assholes in check and/or retaliate after having been "defected upon", and a sociopath who by definition will actively and covertly aggressively prey on anyone he can.

This is something that anyone who has been preyed upon by these scourges of humanity can attest fully.

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Lucio Buffalmano

I went to a concert with my partner, whom we’ll call Bella.

While waiting for the concert to start, we were sitting on a kind of small side sofa near the stage.

A big guy who was sitting beside my partner Bella started to chat her up.

I saw he was rather innocuous in his chatting and then he also asked for both our names. I made a small comment and basically did not intervene in their small talk, which lasted one-two minutes.

At the end of the concert, my partner and I went out and this same guy stopped us outside.

He said something like:

Him: Hey Bel, it was a pleasure to meet you. (then turning to my partner) And what was your name again? (later my partner told me he clearly did this on purpose)

At this point I intervened:

Me: You have a formidable memory! But I don’t, so what was your name?

Him: I’m Jim. (Again to my partner:) And you are ?

Her: I’m Bella.

Then the guy basically extends both his arms, puts one on my partners’ shoulder and tries to embrace us both, one per side, like Bud Spencer would have done!

I don’t let myself get embraced, and go with my hand to meet his hand (like the “Castro” move), and get his hand, saying something like “Yeah, nice meeting you, what are you doing now”.

He seems confused by the fact that I didn’t let myself get embraced, and answers that the night is young and he’s going to a pub.

I say ok, have a good night then! And I then give him a friendly grab on his opposite upper arm (the one with which he somewhat embraced Bella) on purpose to reestablish some more dominance.

He raises his hand again as if to get mine, and he seems confused when he sees I’m not trying to grab his hand but giving him a grab on his upper arm.

We the say goodbye, I shake his hand again, he goes again to somewhat “embrace” my partner on the shoulder, and we go away.

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The lesson Lucio introduced in PU about growth mindset, and why it's not power, triggered several personal realizations.

1. My former boss deliberately kept me into a “perpetual growth/learning frame” precisely to decrease my power.

I remember tens of things he said or did to that effect, from pointing out inexistent mistakes, to saying I could only learn by working, to devaluing (in words) the importance of money relative to learning, to many many other things.

2. Here a client of mine used exactly the same technique of “imposing a teaching frame” on me to try to gain the upper hand. In fact some of his comments on my contract draft were precisely aimed at “teaching” me how to interpret and/or write legal things relating to his business, including "fake fixing" some inexistent mistakes.

He was trying to “teach me” my job. This explains why my final email to him was basically along the line of “We can’t do what you suggest”. I was unconsciously realigning power on my turf by suggesting he was wrong in his suggestion.

3. Also, on this very forum, John was (unwittingly) adopting an explicit “teacher/learner frame” in his interactions with me. And that had started to irritate me lately, but I couldn’t pinpoint it exactly.

I myself, in the past, had tended to approach others with a "teaching mindset", and I found that this led people to take distance, so much that I tried to limit it in the end. Now I see what was happening: it was an unwitting power move that had the effect of framing the interaction in a way that decreased their power.

4. Finally, I remember a job interview I had in another law firm after leaving my former one and before opening my practice. The interview was going badly (they seemed not very interested in me) until I mentioned something to the effect that I was “willing to learn whatever was needed”. The firm’s partners immediately switched attitude and became interested in my position, and ultimately extended me an offer. But I had sensed something was very wrong, and my gut told me in no uncertain terms to refuse the offer.

Now I see what was happening: they were ensuring that my whole stint at the firm would have been pre-framed as me needing to be stuck in “perpetual learning mode”.

This also explains why more than one of them had said (prior to my "willing to learn" sentence) that my resume did not seem in line with the type of legal work they did (which I found strange).

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And that was also my mistake in the situation where I was teaching health care compliance.

That kind guy from another firm framed himself as the teacher of the teacher. I should have re-taken the top-teacher frame as Kavalier suggested.

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Great stuff, Bel!

Yes, I had missed the possibility of employer manipulation, and that's absolutely the case indeed (added it now).

It works like this: the more they can frame your job as "for learning", the more they're giving, the more you need to be grateful, and the less they can pay you.
Plus, of course, with that frame you're dangerously close to the errand boy, the lowest rung of "learner": they can ask you to do anything and you can't refuse because you have not much utitility except doing menial tasks (and you're so clueless that you don't even know what's best for you, so you just gotta do everything).

That's why the interviewer perked up when he heard the "open to learning anything": he saw it as an opportunity for win-lose and get the most out of you.

Of course, the obvious note here is that it's indeed possible that one can add little value without first learning (that's often the case for beginners), and it's very possible that one can gain personally a lot, even working for nothing.


That's all to be seen.
And since the employer always gains with that frame, one better make extra sure that he's not being shortchanged with that learner frame.

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I have been looking through the net for several former acquaintances of mine that I had lost contact with, some of whom had been really nasty with me when I was unaware of power dynamics.

I see that many of them have reached high public places at local levels in my country. While this is not indicative of real success, it is certainly a proof that being high power, even in a "taking" way, definitely works to raise social status, even though it may make enemies or trump on innocent and naively collaborative people.

I think I am starting to conceive of an objective of mine to become so good at my profession that I may one day receive requests from these people who treated me badly. But then, I will be in a different position.

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The higher level idea that I’m starting to pick up is that, in my work, power moves from clients should better be addressed, as much as possible, by deflecting and using indirect means (to reempower while not breaking rapport).

Power moves from counterparts should instead be addressed more strongly.


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Agree with the clients.  I think it depends on the professional hierarchy a bit too.  If another lawyer is well connected or from a big powerful firm you might be more power protecting.  That's why you have to network enough to at least know the sharks.

The old saying is don't poke the bear.  The fun thing about people hierarchy is that who is the bear changes from week to week.  And if it's too rude too angry you have to face down even the king of bears (power showdown)



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