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Case study: J. The Jester

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Here's an update.

We reconciled, not openly but we did. We now have a good relationship again.

However, all this analysis was helpful, because it helped me to understand his dark side and the jester power dynamics.

Nice to meet you!

We were at a restaurant with JB his friends from the housesharing after having rock climbed together.

At some point I felt happy with them so I said to the group:

Me: I'm happy to know you guys

One of them (who likes me): me too, man. The others were a bit puzzled.

JB (seeing a social climbing opportunity): My name is JB, nice to meet you. Hahahaha (gives his hand for a handshake)

This was a jester power showdown (new term) where what's at stake is how well I fit in the group.

If they say: "happy to know you as well", it solidifies my position in the group and kind of follow my emotional leadership.

By turning a bonding moment of me with the group into a joke, he defeated this action. That's again the power of the jester.

Why is it a power showdown? Because if they would have accepted, I would have gained power, instead I lost power. I could have made a counter-joke, but I did not. I just refused to shake JB's hand as he was handing it out to me, while I was smiling (keeping rapport).

What I will do better next time: I will say it privately 1-on-1. To do what I did with success you need first to make sure that everyone in the group is reciprocating your friendship/bond. So it was bold but considered inappropriate as it was not the right emotional climate and JB was making sure I was not taking too much power. If he was absent, I'm sure I would have grown closer to the group.

There is no punchline!

At the same restaurant another night after having rock climbed, once again with JB and his housesharing mates. (It's close to the rock climbing spot). Him and I were telling Monty Python jokes as the people there did not know them. I tell one, he tells one, I tell one. And then I shared a cute story about my patients since it reminded me of them.

The group: .... (silent)

JB (seeing a social climbing opportunity): There is no punchline! Hahahaha

The group: .... (wondering if they should laugh or not)

JB: There is no punchline! Hahahaha (louder)

The group (following his lead): Hahahahaha

Me: in my line of work, it's only cute stories.

Nobody listened of course as they were laughing too hard. Once again it's a jester power showdown. He took over the group with his joke and I lost as I looked inadequate.

Why did I look inadequate?

Because it was a funny time and I was once again off-track/off-beat with the emotional tone of my story. We went to funny to touching right away. Once again, it did not make sense to share this kind of story with the whole group. Also, I noticed that when I share stories from my work, he tends to attack them quite often as I think he's jealous.

What will I do differently

First and foremost, it's important not to become a jester oneself. I shared two Monty Python funny story and they laughed hard. The second one I also forgot the punchline. But they laughed anyway. So I think it's important to show the ability to be funny and make people laugh. Also it's very different to make one another laugh with a friend than to make a whole group laugh. Different dynamics. With the group, your status is at stake. With a friend it's between the two of you, it's like a conversation. So I think it's better that if you succeed to make the group laugh, you stop there. You don't try to push it too hard as you can become the jester. You show you're very funny but that you're not a clown who can only be funny to the group. You're a strong leader AND you're funny. Very different. So I think it's good to make people laugh. The secret I believe is not to overdo it.

It's very different if you're in a group of friends who likes to make one another laugh. It's reciprocal, you're not addressing an audience.

My current attitude

Now I see JB as my teacher, not a rival. I am learning from him:

  • Storytelling: I went back to expressing emotions while telling stories as in my job it's all about data. He's quite good at storytelling and it's an essential quality for leadership. I had forgotten this.
  • Defense against jester power moves: he's good at taking power through humour (see 2 examples above) and his joy is communicating so he has strong emotional leadership
  • Leadership: he's actually quite a good leader. His mistake is that he does not want to be seen as a leader and to see himself as a leader. He wants to lead but not the role. Leading for him is a means to an end: to do the things he likes (activities, etc.). For me, leadership is deeper than that. It's about providing a positive experience to other people together. That means: pulling one another upward. It's also a skill I want to sharpen.

About him letting his best friend row on the boat while he was giving orders

We went to do Pétanque with JB, Bernard and Michael (his best friend). During the game it came out that Michael actually did not appreciate JB's attitude.

Michael: ... while you were giving advice to everyone (about how to paddle, while not paddling himself)

Me: you call this "advice"? I call this "orders" (surfacing)

So I only had to say one sentence to surface and this brought me closer to Michael as we share the same value of contribution (he was paddling a lot and did more than his share of work). Bernard also commented. So once again, sometimes the taking is obvious to everyone but nobody has the courage to talk about it.

As you said Kavalier, by putting himself above the group (ordering us to paddle while laughing and not paddling), he shot himself in the foot.

Thanks to the new PU update, I also could notice that what he finds funny are jokes about taking. 

Many many lessons in this case study!

Cheers!

Kavalier has reacted to this post.
Kavalier

Hello, John

What I will do better next time: I will say it privately 1-on-1. To do what I did with success you need first to make sure that everyone in the group is reciprocating your friendship/bond. So it was bold but considered inappropriate as it was not the right emotional climate and JB was making sure I was not taking too much power. If he was absent, I'm sure I would have grown closer to the group.

I also fall for this many times, so it's very thought-provoking. I'll also do it privately from now on.

My current attitude

Now I see JB as my teacher, not a rival. I am learning from him:

  • Storytelling: I went back to expressing emotions while telling stories as in my job it's all about data. He's quite good at storytelling and it's an essential quality for leadership. I had forgotten this.
  • Defense against jester power moves: he's good at taking power through humour (see 2 examples above) and his joy is communicating so he has strong emotional leadership
  • Leadership: he's actually quite a good leader. His mistake is that he does not want to be seen as a leader and to see himself as a leader. He wants to lead but not the role. Leading for him is a means to an end: to do the things he likes (activities, etc.). For me, leadership is deeper than that. It's about providing a positive experience to other people together. That means: pulling one another upward. It's also a skill I want to sharpen.

I think it's the right attitude. It reminds me of a quote: "it's lawful to be taught even by an enemy". Ovid, if I'm not mistaken. So definetely it's something very important that you are sharing with us, thank you!

It's also great to read that everything is going well!

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman

Listening to “Power Cues”:

The more active a person is, the more likely they’re going to be influence: a girl giving out her phone number, etc.

That is also the power of the jester. By being active, excited and funny, the jester contaminates other people and excites them. Therefore they respond better to the jester’s influence.

It’s dumb 

The other night as we were drinking beers (we were quite drunk) I said that I found women cute in the way they were moving. He said: « that’s dumb » meaning that it’s also a tactic from women to appear like they are fragile in public. In private they might not be so cute in his opinion, which I understand.

Next time: I’ll challenge his frame. “Well, it’s not very cool to say that what I’m saying is dumb » with surfacing. The other option would be to say: « why do you think it’s dumb?” And then go on to say that if I said it I don’t think it’s dumb. Make him explain himself instead of me explaining myself.

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel

JB is damaging our professional reputation and does not want to work

I learned through a friend Frank that he found an ad for a job perfectly suited for JB's skills and experience at his work. He told JB who said: "Yeah definitely!". So my friend Frank told the direct hiring person who he knew that she was going to be contacted by JB. He even said to JB to send him his CV to help him polish it. JB said: "Yeah definitely!". He did not send him the CV. Frank reminded him of it. He said: "I'm going to send it to you tomorrow". No CV. A week passes, new reminder from Frank. "Yeah sorry, I'm going to send it to you soon". No CV after 2 weeks and no news from him after 2 reminders.

So now Frank has to save face with this woman to whom he engaged his professional reputation. And JB is doing nothing.

In my case I did exactly the same 8 months ago: I proposed him to correct his CV and cover letter. Never did anything. I found a job for him in my previous employment and asked him if he was interested: "Yeah, definitely!". I then called my former boss and told him all the good I thought about JB. He said: "Yes he can contact me with email or phone". I was excited and told JB, gave him the contact. He never did anything with it. I never confronted him though.

Talking with Frank reminded me that I never got back to my former boss with whom I have a great relationship: he respects me and I respects him a lot. So today I'm going to write him to apologise for my friend. Now I look bad, it disempowered me and I lost credit towards my former boss.

So this is definitely an example of taking.

During the conversation with Frank, I learn that actually JB has been in-and-out of jobs for about 2 years, with maybe 1.5 year of unemployment. He never told me that. Also, I learned that he's currently out of a job for the month of August and basically has not been looking for another job. The problem is that I've seen JB 30 min earlier and he did not even told me that. He actually went rock climbing earlier, not allowing me to climb with him and his friend. He said: "I changed my schedule" without explanation. Well, the reason he "changed his schedule" is that he's out of a job and is bored out of his mind so he goes earlier.

My conclusion is: JB does not want to work and just want to enjoy life. He's 35 yo and still is believing that this is possible. He has a goal of owning a hostel in Colombia, this is not going to happen with this kind of attitude.

So, just like with Anthony the nasty social climber, some hidden parts are coming to life once you talk with other people and some patterns emerge: not following through, etc.

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel

Hello John,

my thinking while reading of JB’s inaction here went immediately toward interpreting it as a covert manipulation tactic, meant to deliberately damage other people’s connections.

I may be wrong, but the bottom line is that we have JB’s enthusiastic words when being informed of job possibilities, followed by inaction.

To me the distance between the initial enthusiasm and the subsequent inaction seems a tad too much: a normally lazy person would immediately say something like “I don’t know… maybe…”. While, on the other hand, a person changing mind after having said “definitely!” would probably still go through the effort of submitting the CV and having an interview, and in any case not repeat the move with two different persons.

While you know better about JB, my former boss used to do something very similar. There was a difference though, in that my boss was the initiator.

But if JB had previously mentioned that he was looking for work, then I would definitely consider the “deliberate manipulation” interpretation a possibility. Which may also be in line with his personality, that from this thread seems highly Machiavellian.

John Freeman has reacted to this post.
John Freeman

Hello Bel,

thank you for your answer!

Yes, it's a possibility. However, I don't think that's the case. He's someone who spends his time rock climbing and playing Pétanque. He enjoys having drinks and playing board games. He's a fun loving person.

So I think all of this stems from laziness and selfishness.

He wants to have fun that's it. And also, he has little professional self-confidence so he might have a high fear of failure.

He's selfish so he does not think about the consequences of his actions. I'm going to confront him about this next time I see him though.

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel
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