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Don't stew: better drawing your boundaries later, than never

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No matter how good you get, it can always happen that, sometimes, someone or a certain situation catches you off guard.

When that happens, you might feel like "it's too late to voice your discomfort".

But that's a mistake.
One because you stew on it and you can become passive-aggressive, and two because drawing boundaries is such an important aspect of socialization that late, no matter how late, is better than never.

When you have been treated unfairly, you have a negative social balance and he has to settle that balance. So it's always your prerogative to go back at any time and settle the account.

How you can do?
The most simple and direct way is the best:

Hi, how you doing man?
Look, I have been thinking about what happened yesterday, and what you said, and I would like to tell you how I feel about it.
I was offended when you said XYZ.

Pause.
He will likely be caught off guard himself, now. Give him a chance. If he apologizes and clarifies, great: you will now be closer than you were before, and he will know you don't appreciate being treated poorly.

If he insists or refuses to backtrack, that also provides you with important information.

JP and rachel have reacted to this post.
JPrachel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

VERY important information. I did it at times and I came to the conclusion to say what's on my mind as soon as possible. But the structure you put around it makes it a clear behavioural pattern.

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Lucio Buffalmano

@lucio-2

@lucio

On another thread you advised against having a talk privately with high mach people.   i think your reasoning was that would put them on the guard and identify you as a threat.

I m curious what is different in this situation to favour a direct approach.

This is a general mindset / approach, exceptions as always apply depending on the individual and situation -as it was probably the case in that other thread you mention-.

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

Absolutely.  And the advice was spot on for the hardened power player and social steam roller person involved in the other thread.  I was wondering if there was a principle that could help you decide when to go talk directly.   I think when a field is developing this is where the rubber hits the road in terms of defining the principles and the exceptions and how to apply them.

Basically i'm trying to work out when a direct talk might yield positive outcomes and when it would be a tactical mistake.  Seems like one of those discussions that might form the basis for an article or PU content.

E.g. is the direct talk safer in social situations rather than work where there is more at stake?

Or is direct more warranted for stronger attacks that might get stuck in your head?

And  what kinds of behaviour might indicate that this relationship is salvageable instead of you re dealing with somebody who has decided up be a social or work enemy?

I say behaviours for a couple of reasons.  Behaviours are less likely to be miss information.  They are the information you will have most quickly when you encounter a new person.  And i have a miss trust of personality profiling - I.e. what 'type' are they.   It seems too slow and have too many variables to be tactically useful. It also seems a bit moot too as it's defined by behaviours they exhibit and you ll have to deal with the behaviours anyway.

 

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Lucio Buffalmano

Yes, it's a very good question, Kevin.

Let me preface that this is a first draft, thinking as I type.

We can take this as a springboard to come up with a larger, power-intelligent strategic guideline.

So at first blush, to generalize from the specific situation to a higher level of "general rule", we might say:

BE DIRECT:

Have that conversation, and feel free to engage in it as a "heart to heart", full-honesty, conversation if:

  • It's a good win-win relationship
  • The other person can be expected to have your best interest in mind, or at least somewhat care for you
  • It's a close relationship
    • Partner
    • Good friend
    • Good colleague you're not competing with
    • ...
  • It's a family member with at least "OK" personality (ie.: not with a track record of manipulation and abuse, in which case "heart to heart" won't work and might be used against you)
  • It's a great guy/lady with a growth mindset, an antifragile ego, and a willingness to go for win-win

These conversations help preserve or even improve and develop relationships, so they can be very important for having good relationships in life.

BE STRATEGIC / AVOID / RETAIN SOME INFORMATION

You might either avoid, or have a direct talk that addresses some issues, but strategically avoids others and strategically avoid full honesty and disclosure when:

  • You're in open competition
  • When "laying low" is a better strategic option (you often want your competitors and enemies to ignore or underestimate you)
  • When your interests diverge too deeply
  • When your loss is their win
  • When they're too thin-skinned, too passive-aggressive, too guarded, and wouldn't be able to have a "man to man" open talk
  • When it was a one-off interaction and they're simply "not worth the trouble"
  • You're in a covert competition (workplaces often fall in this category)

As an example, there is a lesson on PU on extremely high covert competition at work.
A lesson I don't want to put on the public space of the website for obvious reasons. Well, that situation was not the time for full honest talk.

Or take a colleague who attacked you publicly in a meeting.
But they did so professionally, without getting personal.
So you can't have a clarifying talk about their aggressive attitude, because they were smart enough to make it seem professional.

Well, that's probably a situation where there is little to clarify.
You might still feel slighted because you consider it unfair. Maybe a power scalping attempt to take advantage of your mistake to look good. But there is little to clarify because you might already know the real reason of the attack.
The real reason can be anything from wanting your job, wanting more status, being hyper-competitive, disliking you for whatever reason, shifting blame, getting rid of competition, etc. etc.

But you can hardly fix that with direct talk.
They'll never come out and admit their darker motives.
And even in the 1% chance they did, it's probably not going to fix it once and for all (read general rule in bold).
And even in the 1% chance they did, you might have to come out and indirectly admit that "yes, I'm also competing against you" -that's "officializing" and "thread-expanding", potentially turning a competitor into a bigger competitor, who now knows you know and is ready and prepared-.

In cases of (covert) competition, direct talk goes nowhere because it fails to realize that the issue is not necessarily about personality or basic respect, but about conflicting interests.

So in those cases, you might strategically decide not to have it.

You'd just make my mental notes as to who sees you as competition, how others reacted, how you're going to adapt.
You might even strategically go to that person and say "that was a good feedback you shared".

WHEN STRATEGIC SILENCE BEATS DIRECT TALK

So the downsides of direct talk in these cases:

  1. Goes nowhere
  2. Officializes and thread-expands the issue / competition (which might make it bigger, a self-fulfilling negative prophecy)
  3. Warns your competitor that you're competing and ready
  4. Lays too many cards on the table

For example, imagine you have a poor boss.

Poor at a human level.

And he offends you by micromanaging.

A real direct talk would entail you going there and addressing not just micromanaging, but give him feedback on how he can improve as a person.
Issue with that: most people don't improve.
Instead, he might take your direct talk as an affront to his power, and label you as a "potential enemy".
And if you're indeed a better human being, he might resent you for that.

In those cases, you're laying great cards on the table, showing great qualities, but it's not the cards you want to show him.
Not right now, at least.

In a case such as this one, you'd strategically avoid some types of clarification, and you'd definitely avoid total honesty.
If you think that boss is just too deadset and on micromanaging, you might skip the talk altogether.

In the meanwhile, you adapt your strategy, including potentially looking for other possible opportunities while you keep him in blissful darkness.

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

Does that make sense?

Thank you for the opportunity on clarifying this man, indeed I think this might go into PU.

If you or anyone else has anything to add or improve, please let me know.

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

I'm very interested in this topic too.
I would like to think about this further too.

This discussion immediately reminds me of the discussion on why Comey should not assertively call out Trump's remark:

(Power University Module) Assertiveness: How to Be Assertive & High-Power - Comey Example

Against Insubordination As A Leader

Lucio gave an example where someone was stepping over the lines in terms of decision making while he was Toastmasters president.
Direct talk here wouldn't be good because it wastes time and you are giving him too much attention.
If you are the leader and have official authority, one should not entertain overly blatant challenges to authority.

I think it depends a lot on context here.
When to give attention to and have a more direct talk.
And when not ignore and proceed with decision making.

Workplace Poker Book Example

In cases of (covert) competition, direct talk goes nowhere because it fails to realize that the issue is not necessarily about personality or basic respect, but about conflicting interests.

So in those cases, you might strategically decide not to have it.

You'd just make my mental notes as to who sees you as competition, how others reacted, how you're going to adapt.
You might even strategically go to that person and say "that was a good feedback you shared".

I'm listening to Workplace Poker at the moment.
Thanks to Lucio for recommending it.
It's so good that it deserves a few more listens.

There was a specific example that strikes me.
A very capable man was getting smeared by a woman who has been at the workplace longer than him.
Both shooting down his ideas in person and behind his back.
Probably because she feels threatened.
However, she has the power of networks and relationships on her side because she has been there longer.

The man approached her assertively to have an open talk.
Let's give names to keep the scenario clear.

Sam: I think we may have started off on the wrong foot.

Sarah: What do you mean?

Sam: (Explains some situations where he felt uncomfortable)

Sarah: Over here in our office, we aim for open, transparent communication.
Wasn't there what you wanted too?
I was giving you feedback openly.

He was shocked, and it didn't end there.
She approached the HR director and gave a different spin on this interaction.

Sarah: Sam approached me yesterday.
I am rather concerned about how he takes my feedback.
He seemed angry and quite aggressive during our interaction.

HR Director: I will speak to Sam personally to clarify the interaction.

The HR director asked Sam to meet him.

HR Director: Sarah told me that you approached her to have a conversation.
She told me that he were angry and aggressive during the conversation.
She explained that you couldn't take feedback very well.

Sam: (very angry that Sarah span up a story to make him look bad)
Wow, what a bitch.
She is a conniving liar.

The HR director immediately thought that the problem is with Sam with his harsh reaction.

This was an example where Sam destroyed his career by drawing boundaries assertively with a Machiavellian woman.

Relevant Threads on Collaboration Vs Competition

This thread by Lucio is particularly good because it gives a guideline on when to switch on the collaborative mindset vs competitive mindset.
Resolving Conflicts At Work: Competition Vs Collaboration Self Assessment

This thread is on minor conflicts:
Minor Conflicts: Ignore Or Bring Up For Discussion

There was another thread on conflicts of interest in dating.
Lucio also advised that it may not be a good idea to talk about conflicts of interest.
Focus on commonalities instead and "tide" over the situations which bring up the conflicts of interest.
For example, showing nonchalance could be better than having an open conversation about other mates as competition.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Great examples, Matthew.

COMEY: NOT CLARIFYING WITH BULLYING SUPERIORS

Yes, Comey shouldn't have had any direct "talk" with Trump about Trump's modus operandi.

It wouldn't have changed anything.
Trump would have branded Comey an enemy, and would have fired him much sooner.

If Comey had been fired early, he would have lost credibility, and robbed of his chance of speaking his truth, writing a book, and clearing his name.

Comey played it well, fell on his feet after having been fired, and also managed to shoot back at Trump very effectively.

WORKPLACE EXAMPLE

Yes, great example, exactly one the types of scenarios I was referring to.

COLLABORATION & DIRECT TALK: VERY SIMILAR

Great link, Matthew, thank you!

I had failed to remember and to link these two concepts.

But there's a major overlap indeed: when you can collaborate, you likely can and sometimes even should have that clarifying direct talk.

When it's compete mode, you either skip the clarifying talk, or you have the "strategic" one, clarifying only selected part of the issue -to demand respectful behavior, for example something you can always demand even in competition-, and keeping some cards close to your chest.

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Matthew WhitewoodTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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