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Chris Voss pulls power moves and Jordan B. Peterson hits back

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Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 3, 2022, 10:59 pm

Why it's a red flag

This is important to understand.

Why do I consider this a red flag, in spite of the fact it's not a huge power move and it's, on paper, empowering to the Petersons?

Because most people with cordial, collaborative, or "good" predisposition do NOT make those types of comments.

Why would anyone make a comment about being someone's hostage?
You don't make those comments if you feel like you're having a nice talk.

If you feel you're having a nice talk, your mind simply doesn't come up with jokes that are all about dominance and coercion.

Usually, it's people with a dog-eat-dog, confrontational mindset and attitude who make those comments because they think in those terms.


Curious to hear your opinion!

I'd be curious to hear other people's opinions as well.

I agree 100%.

I remember being in situations in my former “boss”’s law firm where he would interpret what I thought were innocent phrases or neutral behaviors of other people (often his own clients) as declarations of war, and would respond arrogantly.

More in general, he had an always confrontational stance that basically created enemies everywhere. He thought others were always out to get him.

He was good at masking it, but he would have periodic “mask slips”, and you could only get a glimpse of his true character by looking at those slips: sudden changes in tone of voice, suddenly getting rigid, jokes, and so on.

Of course, he simply was projecting his own taker attitude on everyone else.

This, by the way, is true of every “bad person”: they always project as an automatic posture to both mask their own behavior and put others on the defensive; and, you can only see their true nature from these sudden mask slips.

It is also a self-reinforcing loop that usually makes these people more and more paranoid while they age and rise. They know what they are capable of, assume others are the same, then strike first, make enemies, then start seeing enemies everywhere (because they created them!), behave even more aggressively to “protect themselves”, and so on.

In the case of Voss, it seems to come more from an internal insecurity. Meaning, he seems to be basically afraid of “not being up to par” with the Petersons and overcompensating for this (probably unconscious) fear.

The end result is the same, however. An (unconsciously) insecure taker is still a taker.

Quote from Ali Scarlett on April 3, 2022, 11:49 pm

In other words, in a course where he was instructing his students to give the other side more power, it felt like he was the one out for power. (He still used his deferential communication, but the look in his eyes and face of "you're not going to beat me" felt off-putting to me as a student.)

This also seems compatible with an insecurity of not being up to par. Like an apparent lack of internal stability, compensated by a need to receive external confirmation by coming out on top of others.

And also very similar to a feint: meaning, he was suggesting students to be submissive, while getting the gain from overpowering them because they followed his suggestion, while he did not (at least not fully).

Maybe that’s the ultimate reason why, according to him, you should “never split the difference”: either you dominate, or you lose.

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Quote from Ali Scarlett on April 3, 2022, 11:49 pm
Yes, in his MasterClass, there were quite a few mock negotiations.

And, before each negotiation, Voss would speak a lot about maintaining a collaborative attitude and leveraging deferential communication in order to give the other side more power so they'll feel more comfortable "giving you your deal". (The idea is that by presenting yourself as weak/low-power, they'll feel like they're still coming out on top giving you what you want).

However, during the actual mock negotiations, it sometimes felt like he had an attitude of, "I'm better than you and I'm going to show you why I'm so great, the more we talk, the more opportunity I have to show how much of a better negotiator I am."

In other words, in a course where he was instructing his students to give the other side more power, it felt like he was the one out for power. (He still used his deferential communication, but the look in his eyes and face of "you're not going to beat me" felt off-putting to me as a student.)

So, with all of that said, being relatively new to negotiation at the time, I wondered back then if it was a strategy to show confidence to the other side. But, now, having seen more of Voss's personality, I'm leaning more to the idea that it's a personality/character trait more than anything else.

Thank you for sharing this, Ali.

Very interesting, it says a lot I think.

Quote from Ali Scarlett on April 4, 2022, 12:01 am

Again, Voss's personality and character may not be the George Clooney we'd all like to see, but there still might be plenty to learn from him in the negotiation department.

Absolutely, agree 100%.

With the very important caveat that the person does influence,  color and potentially "distort" the message.

If one says to be collaborative but he is not collaborative, you also (subconsciously) pick that up.
If one says to be empathic but he has an attitude of "I'm better than you", you might also (subconsciously) pick that up.

As someone famously said "the medium is the message" -technically not true, it's a heavy influence on the message, but you get the point :)-.

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Bel on April 4, 2022, 1:04 am
I agree 100%.

I remember being in situations in my former “boss”’s law firm where he would interpret what I thought were innocent phrases or neutral behaviors of other people (often his own clients) as declarations of war, and would respond arrogantly.

More in general, he had an always confrontational stance that basically created enemies everywhere. He thought others were always out to get him.

He was good at masking it, but he would have periodic “mask slips”, and you could only get a glimpse of his true character by looking at those slips: sudden changes in tone of voice, suddenly getting rigid, jokes, and so on.

Of course, he simply was projecting his own taker attitude on everyone else.

This, by the way, is true of every “bad person”: they always project as an automatic posture to both mask their own behavior and put others on the defensive; and, you can only see their true nature from these sudden mask slips.

It is also a self-reinforcing loop that usually makes these people more and more paranoid while they age and rise. They know what they are capable of, assume others are the same, then strike first, make enemies, then start seeing enemies everywhere (because they created them!), behave even more aggressively to “protect themselves”, and so on.

In the case of Voss, it seems to come more from an internal insecurity. Meaning, he seems to be basically afraid of “not being up to par” with the Petersons and overcompensating for this (probably unconscious) fear.

The end result is the same, however. An (unconsciously) insecure taker is still a taker.

Thank you, Bel, very helpful.

And I also had your former boss in mind.

Having heard a little bit of him, I can imagine that being exactly the case indeed.
(Luckily) You can hardly be a manipulator and taker at that level without also having plenty of slip-ups and "tells".

And I go out on a limb here: if in a parallel universe your boss is a (negotiation) "guru", which is also not so unlikely since the profession attracts plenty of Machs and narcissists, then you'd probably see the signs in interviews like this one as well.

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Another potential (huge) red flag.

Talking about relationships and Voss divorce:

In the interview, the audio says:

Voss: Yeah, I still make mistakes but you know I don't want anybody to regret having had a relationship, although some do

But the transcript, says:

Voss: Yeah, I still make mistakes but you know I don't want anybody to regret having had a relationship with me, although some do

We can't jump to conclusions and we must be careful not to jump to conclusions here.

However, we also cannot make the virtue-signaler, naive mistake of NOT considering the possibility of a post-video negotiation on what to cut out.

As a late top-Machiavellian Italian politician for the Christian party famously said:

To think "bad" you may sin, but you get it right

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Quote from Ali Scarlett on April 2, 2022, 11:43 pm

Power Move 1: Disempowering

(...)

[Voss responds like a good sport and they move on with the conversation.]

(...)

Maybe the Petersons moved on.

Not Voss, though.

Voss wasn't happy with first power move, he still beheld a grudge and attacked once again.

Little later when Peterson's daughter takes the mic:

Voss: (dominant / angry-looking) You're not gonna call me names like your dad did

Notice the timing and type of the attack.

He hits back against JP through a third party.
An annoying type of triangulation that attacks the target through a third party -and calls them into the melee as well, so be careful when people do that to you: they're looking to get you involved-.

As for the timing, he attacks when Peterson has given over the mic -ie.: when Peterson is lower power-.

Of course little later we get the whole "just teasing" run for cover.

Notice that JP does not laugh together with Voss.
Chances are that JP was (subconsciously) aware of the power move and (correctly) decided not to submit and confirm it with his laughter.

Voss then tries to frame the whole interview as "fun" -and how would you call the power mover who just attacks you and then tries to frame it as "fun"-.
But he fails.
Now not even Mikhaila is having it and she says "yeah, this is fun, I'm glad that weird thing from a second ago just happened".
Good move by the way: she bridges to maintain rapport, and then re-sets the correct frame.

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Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 4, 2022, 9:54 am

As a late top-Machiavellian Italian politician for the Christian party famously said:

To think "bad" you may sin, but you get it right

OFF-TOPIC

Robert Greene had lunch with him.

And he also described him as "the most Machiavellian politician" 😀

Greene: the next year I'm having lunch with the ex-president of Italy, you know in his palace and we're talking about Machiavelli (...)

OFF-TOPIC

Less off-topic, Voss in another interview:

Voss: you're not being an academic to start off with. Regardless you know let's take out morality all the other external nonsense out of it, you're phenomenally successful period

"let's take out morality and all the other nonsense", well, when someone tells you that they consider morality "nonsense", then you don't need to do much digging anymore as to where they stand on ethics and morality -and the likelihood they'll cheat and manipulate you if they get the chance-.

As to actual teaching negotiation, if your teaching is based on empathy, vibing and cooperating with people and you're not able to cooperate and entice cooperation well because you're locked into a dog-eat-dog mindset, then also the effectiveness of you as a teacher is called into question.
Also empathy is called into question if you're not able to see that "not everyone is out to get you".

 

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Peterson / Voss - Interview Dynamics

A few observations to end my analysis of that interview.

I think one of the reasons that Voss got confrontational and one-upping -besides his personality, of course-, is the format of the interview.

Such as, it was a format of "I ask, you reply".

A lot of:

  • Tell me of...
  • How do you do X
  • Give an example of...

We know here that answering questions only does put you in the lower-power position and gives judge powers to the asker -remember, asking questions is a mild form of tasking and answering them is a mild form of executing-.

Voss never changed that dynamic, he was just answering questions, providing examples, scripts, and tips.

So it's very possible that Voss' power moves were subconsciously aimed at re-empowering himself -plus, potentially, being a bit of an ahole in general, of course-.

Now a lesson learned for us.

It's very possible to change that questioner/answerer (tasker/executer) dynamic without getting confrontational or one-upping and without pulling power moves.

Some super simple ways to avoid the lower-power position of answering:

Asker: How do you do X?
Social Strategist: That's a great question. How would you go about that
Or:
Social Strategist: I'm curious how come you ask that, have you ever had a similar situation?

 

Asker: Tell me of a time when...
Social Strategist: Yeah, there are several ways to answer that, are you looking for something specific
Or:
Social Strategist: Good question, I'm curious, have you ever had anything similar happening to you

 

Asker: What are the differences between negotiating with men and women
Social Strategist: Ahaha talking about thorny subjects. Jokes aside though, that's a good question. I'd be curious what you think about it, do you think there should be any major differences

Or what I always do here:

Social Strategist: How would you handle it?
Social Strategist: What did you do...

Or the simplest and yet super effective ways of turning questions into power-balanced chats:

Social Strategist: What do you think about it

The goal is to start a discussion

Edit, important:

The goal is NOT to let them answer.

That would be the same mindset of pulling power moves.

The goal is to change the initial dynamic of:

  • "I ask, you reply" (= you do the work, I and the audience get the value without contributing, plus judge the amount and quality your contributions)

Into one of:

  • "We discuss together", create meaning and value together, both can make the pie bigger by building upon each other (what we do on this forum, often)
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