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CEO Says to Another CEO: "Basically, I Gave Him Shit" in Front of Me

This happened some time ago.
There were 2 separate conversations on 2 separate occasions in different countries.

First Conversation

The first conversation took place between me and CEO 1 who later social climbed.
We were both in another country in Europe for a conference.

I shared with him about what I have been working on, and he kept repeating to me

What problem are you trying to solve?

I thought that he made some good points so he was just being critical with good feedback.
Although the tone was a bit condescending.

Since this conference is in another country, he doesn't have so much power.
Meaning he knows less powerful people in that country, and less powerful people know him.

Second Conversation

I saw CEO 1 during a networking event.
I went up to him and thanked him for the advice during the conference.
Probably, thanking was too submissive so it may have been a wrong move.

Another CEO, CEO 2 overheard the conversation and asked him

CEO 2: What did you talk about?

CEO 1: Basically, I was giving him shit

I wasn't sure how to respond on the spot and ended up not responding.
Because I thought one-upping back or direct confrontation may not be a good idea.

If I said,

Me: That's because you are full of shit.

I think that would not be wise because he may resent me.
Or he has more power in that environment so he could say something like

He cannot really take constructive criticism.

Maybe humour would have worked well:

Me: Yeah, some good shit

I have talked to CEO 2 on several occasions.
He is also power-savvy and speaks with an executive demeanour but doesn't play as many of these games.

I am interested in doing business with and gaining the respect of CEO 2.
As such, I should have said something on the spot to preserve my status.

With all that being said, it is probably not wise for CEO 1 to play social climbing moves.
It is a bit like Obama doing social climbing.
It shows insecurity at the top.

I think that by "giving him some shit" he meant:

I was challenging him with tough questions

If it's what he meant, it wasn't too bad.

But I agree that it's still disempowering to an extent.

And it can be twice as annoying since you didn't even think it was helpful (the "what problem are you solving" also never seemed the best question to me: some of the most massive companies never really "solved" problems).

However, that wasn't full-on aggression, so your answer "you're full of shit" would have likely gone down badly in my opinion (see the calibration scale in "micro-aggression")

Some other option would have been a simple reframing:

CEO 1: Basically, I was giving him shit
You: Yeah, challenging my ideas and plans. He was alright

Three power moves:

  1. Judge role in your reply
  2. Lukewarm compliment: lukewarm compliments are a hidden way of saying "he wasn't that helpful"
  3. You interject to put your own positive spin: you don't allow him to disempower without at least jumping in, shows resolve/power, social awareness

But also something less one-upping like:

You: Yeah, he was asking the tough questions. It's good to be challenged

Or:

You: Yeah, he was asking the tough questions. You need someone to challenge you sometimes

 

 

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks Lucio. That helped.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on June 28, 2021, 12:12 pm

However, that wasn't full-on aggression, so your answer "you're full of shit" would have likely gone down badly in my opinion (see the calibration scale in "micro-aggression")

I didn't realise that "giving him some shit" was a microaggression.

"I was challenging him with tough questions" seems to be much less aggressive to me.

But actually, it may be harder to rebuke because it would be a more polished and professional sounding power move.

Judge Power Move Against Microaggressions or Covert Power Moves

Since judge power moves can be more subtle, I was thinking that it can be used against microaggressions.

Power University does mention using shaming as a form of judge power move against microaggressions.

Getting Caught Off Guard By Power Moves

I recall that we have discussed this before.

But, in this case, I think it's not about drawing quick lines in the sand.
For example, saying

Me: That's rude

I think this would be out of place.

If you are caught off guard by a microaggression, would it better to go on the side of more aggression or less aggression?
I suppose it depends on the situation like your status in the environment.
I recall it's good to ignore and move on if you get caught off guard.

Maybe thinking in terms of reframing would be better.
Make it sound positive while preserving your power.
In the above example, one uses the judge role, lukewarm compliments and giving your own positive spin.

Why Subtle Power Moves Are More Acceptable?

It also brings to mind why subtle power moves are more socially acceptable.
For example, one can throw 3 power moves in 1 statement but, because it's subtle, that's socially acceptable.

Also, would people who don't study power dynamics feel the power difference in subtle power moves?
I would guess that people would subconsciously feel the difference although they may not pinpoint and break it down.

Executive Demeanour

The executive demeanour involves more direct and concise communication.
But I suppose that is in terms of the content communicated.
When it comes to power negotiation, it is more subtle.

As a stock answer in this case the ignore + "what the fuck was that" facial expression might have been a good option.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks for the advice :).

I seem to lack intuition in this case.
Meaning that I don't find these responses so natural.

I watched your video on Sadhguru.
The CEO had similar vibes but definitely not as crude and condescending.

I can see that the main concept is to not give him full authority.
In Tom Bileyu's interview with Sadhguru, you mentioned that Tom could have defended his authority by first guarding:

(Guard) There are many ways of looking what an impact is.

In this case, by either doing

  • (ignore + "what the fuck was that" facial expression)
  • Yeah, challenging my ideas and plans. He was alright
  • Yeah, he was asking the tough questions. It's good to be challenged
  • Yeah, he was asking the tough questions. You need someone to challenge you sometimes

You are sub-communicating that

  • You can take challenges and even welcome them (openness to feedback & criticism)
  • You will evaluate whether you deem those challenges are accurate in your scenario (judge power)
  • The lukewarm communicates nonchalance; "yeah, it was nothing special"

His Initial Power Move of "What Problem Are You Trying to Solve?"

I think his "What problem are you trying to solve?" is one of his go-to power moves.
Because he did that to my friend as well.
And my friend was obviously doing well with his sales and fundraising.

Using your technique, I could use

Him: What problem are you trying to solve?

Me: Well, there are indeed many ways to build a viable business.
One of them is solving a problem.
I'm curious to know why you think that's the best approach.

Then the ball goes back into his court, and both parties can state their own views.

I think the dynamics overlap with the Fixing Mistake workplace power move.
As such, the following techniques could work depending on the exact scenario:

  1. Insist on your point of view
  2. Guide them to correct you while you maintain leadership
  3. Pretend you’re eager to know the truth
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