Please or Register to create posts and topics.

How to skirt political landmines, maintain win-win, & move forward

A recent example.

I was organizing a meetup of expats and English speakers to meet new people, socialize, gather "local intel", and potentially develop a social circle.

One guy replied that he was happy to meet, but added something about not wanting Israeli in there (or something like that, don't recall the exact words and he later deleted the comment).

See how I handled it:

There were a few risks here:

  1. Start a political discussion / war: as if there wasn't enough of that in the world 🙂
  2. Derail us from the goal: the goal was to organize a meetup, I wanted to move forward towards it, without getting bogged down
  3. Sour the 1:1 relationship: albeit I had to make it clear this was not the place for political wars, Ideally, I also didn't want to sour the relationship with that specific individual

So the perfect answer / strategy should have:

  1. Kept us on track towards the meeting, and avoid getting bogged down in political discussions
  2. Made it clear this meeting was open for everyone: this was crucial and more important than N.3, since an individual who can't accept inclusiveness based on individuals, rather than passports, is an individual you can lose
  3. Also kept a good relationship with the individvidual: important also from a social dynamics point of view. He had been the first one to reply, and you don't want to start a fight with the first supporter of the meetup. Your power to exclude is low when you're just starting out. Plus, he was an important element to help build momentum

In that text you can see several of the approaches we talk about:

  1. Power-protecting
  2. Safe face
  3. Collaborative frames
  4. Make it easy for him to say yes

And later on, there was also:

  1. Confirm the agreement
  2. Rebuild goodwill
  3. Move forward towards the goal
Ali Scarlett, Matthew Whitewood and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettMatthew WhitewoodTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

When is Direct Assertion of Boundaries Not the Best Idea?

Even though the individual used an aggressive, provocative stance, it seems that asserting boundary directly would not be a good idea.

This makes me think about when one should take a hard stance against racism for example.
As you mentioned, this is the first meetup with strangers and the individual replied first so the power dynamics are different.
I think when you are a clear leader and everyone views you in a positive light, you can enforce a no-racism standard more strongly.

One such example would be if you were organising a TPM webinar through the medium of this forum and someone came in with a racist remark.
When organising a meetup with less social capital, it's best to avoid confrontations & escalations and make the meetup happen smoothly.

It seems that in many cases, collaborative reframing and moving towards the goal approach work the best.
At work, this works well too because it avoids an overly competitive frame and gets closer to results which is what matters.

Power-Protecting & Face-Saving To Deal With Value-Taking Comments

Power-protecting and face-saving seem to be important even when someone puts a value-taking comment or is being aggressive.

Or maybe we could argue it's even more important because the individual wanted to gain "power" through that comment so it's even more important to diffuse the situation by "respecting" him with power-protecting and face-saving comments.


OFF-TOPIC

A huge plus point for social media.
Those people who are overly strong against social media don't realise its effectiveness in organising events.
Especially in a different country when you don't have as much sense of the social environment.

The cold approach and make friends along the way could work too.
But we could always combine multiple ways to organise things.

Exciting travels!

OFF-TOPIC

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

So Matthew it seems like you're pitching against each other two different approaches here:

  • Softer approach: collaborative / negotiate / power protect / save face / move on with him
  • Harder approach: draw a strong line / "that's not cool" / "we're against racism here" etc. etc.

Both are valid.

And what's the "best" strategy also depends on the situation.

As you correctly mention, how much power and social capital you already have is an important variable.

The second one, in this case, is that the harder approach takes a first crucial step away from your goal, such as: to organize a meetup in the faster, smoother way possible, and with the most people attending as possible.

It is possible that you can draw that stronger line and then go back to your goal.
But it's also possible that it might take more back forths, and that some more people join his "camp", while some others join the "Israeli camp", and then... Then you lose control of the situation, and the meetup falls on the wayside of the warring factions.

Finally, keep this in mind as a general rule (with some exceptions always applying): it never looks good on you to begin with an altercation, no matter how right you are.

First message, first altercation?
Doesn't look good on you, and in this case, doesn't bode well for your goal.

Thinking in terms of odds, the harder approach has too many potential downsides here.

The softer approach is more likely to help you towards getting things done, quicker.
In the spirit of moving towards the goal, the line in my reply that says:

"I'd rather have this meeting as... "

Gives for granted that the meeting is going to happen, which is a small step towards making it even more concrete.

THE TWO APPROACHES ARE NOT OPPOSITE

Also, note that the two approaches are not opposite.

If he had refused the first collaborative frame and insisted on his stance, then it would have been OK to go into the stronger stance.

And at that point, you can draw a line in the sand from a position of more strength, since you gave him a chance, and he made it even more obvious how doggedly racist he is being.

And the soft approach also can turn into harder approach later.
Once he concedes that "he's OK with respecting individuals", then you can move on and reinforce the "rule" later on.

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

Thanks Lucio.
For the harder approach, I was thinking about the DESOE technique and assertiveness concepts from the article & Power University.
Likewise, for the softer approach, I was thinking about how one handles microaggression, covert aggression and more subtle frame control techniques.

Lucio: If he had refused the first collaborative frame and insisted on his stance, then it would have been OK to go into the stronger stance.

I understand what you mean.
His first racist message is a form of covert aggression or microaggression.
So it's better to forge ahead with your frame collaboratively while giving him a chance to backtrack.

I guess it's a good idea to go on the softer side first and observe his response.
This is because you can always dial up the intensity of your approach.

Or I could view this like in the lesson on microaggression.
Best to match the intensity of the aggression.
If he dials up the aggression, you can go stronger & more direct.

Finally, keep this in mind as a general rule (with some exceptions always applying): it never looks good on you to begin with an altercation, no matter how right you are.

First message, first altercation?
Doesn't look good on you, and in this case, doesn't bode well for your goal.

I'm not sure if I understand this completely.
I sort of get the gist.
Because starting with an altercation paints yourself as a more aggressive and less pro-social person.
It sounds defensive as well.

I guess this applies to new interactions with new people.
And especially for public settings like Facebook posts.

Does this mean if someone replies to your Facebook post in an aggressive manner that you should not reply with direct assertiveness?
But using a softer approach would work better?
Using a slightly stronger example,

My Facebook Post: Organising a meetup at 7pm tonight!
Meet at Restaurant A.
There will be people from all walks of life.

Him: I will not tolerate people of this nationality.
Please do not invite them.

(Paraphrased Shorter Version)
Me
: I totally respect where you stand politically.
I hope you are okay putting that aside to enjoy meeting new people as individuals?
It will be an event with music and beer :).

If he goes stronger and makes a personal attack,

My Facebook Post: Organising a meetup at 7pm tonight!
Meet at Restaurant A.
There will be people from all walks of life.

Him: Fuck you

Me: You are free not to come 🙂

The smiley face keeps a warm and friendly tone while drawing your boundaries by implying unfriendly people are unwelcome.

Altercations & Personal Relationships

For personal relationships, I guess it's more okay to jump straight into more confrontational topics to get started on finding solutions.
Because that is not the first interaction.

The dynamics should not be viewed as an altercation too.
It should be more empathetic and less argumentative even though you need to be strong sometimes.

Should Achieving the Final Objective Be First Priority?

This comes to mind too.
Should you draw lines against people's power moves or go for the path of least resistance towards the objective?
Maybe it's about striking a balance between discouraging value-taking power moves and achieving the objective as smoothly as possible.

For example, in this case as you mentioned, we need to balance a few objectives:

  • Arrange the meetup
  • Get as many people to come to the meetup
  • Get the individual to backtrack from his racist remark while preserving rapport so he still comes to the meetup

So I can see here the social strategy can be complex.
And this becomes challenging in a real-time situation.
For example, someone throws a power move when you end your speech and transition to the networking segment.

Me: Thanks for listening to my speech.
Time for the networking section!

Him: Nationality A is hostile. We will not invite them!

Me: Tonight we will put aside our differences: nationality, race.
Let's enjoy the night and meet new individuals from all walks of ife.

I guess it's challenging to generalise, which is why people do public relations for a living.
Different contexts call for different communication strategies, and there are many factors at play.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

Some quick notes to potentially get back to it later:

I wouldn't have considered his reply a microaggression.

And not even consider it aggression.

Not towards met, at least.

I just considered it a dumb thing to say and a potential risk for what I was trying to achieve.

If there was aggression, it was towards a third party, and that made it easier to go "softer" without looking "weak".

Had he attacked me directly, it would have been a completely different story.

Unluckily the original message wasn't there anymore, or it would have been clearer.

For the harder approach, I was thinking about the DESOE technique and assertiveness concepts from the article & Power University.

I think it would have been out of place.

  1. It didn't deserve that much attention
  2. It's over-investing on your side
  3. It threads expands on idiocy, you don't want to give too much space to that
Ali Scarlett, Matthew Whitewood and Transitioned have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettMatthew WhitewoodTransitioned
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Thanks Lucio, I understand the general dynamics better.

The remark was directed towards a third party.
As such, it can be treated more like a hurdle towards your objective of getting a meetup with a good turnout and vibe.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on June 15, 2021, 12:36 pm

For the harder approach, I was thinking about the DESOE technique and assertiveness concepts from the article & Power University.

I think it would have been out of place.

  1. It didn't deserve that much attention
  2. It's over-investing on your side
  3. It threads expands on idiocy, you don't want to give too much space to that

I do think that sometimes I use direct assertiveness at the wrong place.
This reminds me of the post that Kevin talked about.
When to be direct and when to be indirect.

I think that I need to spend a bit of time thinking about this.
Although, as you mentioned, I probably don't have the full picture as the original message is no longer there.

Transitioned has reacted to this post.
Transitioned

Very nice discussion guys.  Thank you both.  Matthew I love the way you look at applying the PU techniques.  I think I often use my experience to skip ahead and that has a danger that I m making assumptions based on my old patterns of thought.  I think there might be a bad mental frame there too of 'I just need a little top up' where I think the reality based on the breadth and depth of the knowledge here is closer to a 're-build'.

I might be simplifying, to me it's how obviously they re being an A-hole to you.  This time they were just being a general A-hole not specifically in your face and Lucio went higher without breaking rapport.

 

BTW I can give a couple of brief examples of the value of re-framing and power protecting from my current job search.

Had a small recruiter ring up with an underpaid 'doer' role at the end of the day when I was a bit 'over it'.   She tried to talk me into taking the peanuts a little aggressively and I lapsed into my bad old habit of tit for tat debate.  What I should have said was "wow it really sounds a great role for the right person.  I m at a different place in my journey.  I can see you really go the extra mile for your client and that's how I am too.  I d love to work with you on other roles."

Call last night from a company for a manager job that's a bit out of my zone.  Started beating me up for not having experience of various specialist areas.  Instead of debating I said "great feed back of course you guys know - it's what you do".   And then I used questions and statements to point out I d been doing the same stuff in other industries.

Also built rapport by adding little agreeing 'tails' to his statements and stories.

Result is the guy said I can see you're a nice person and he put me forward for an interview.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Always a pleasure Kevin.
I have gained a lot from your posts too from your experience in the IT industry and your challenges as an external consultant.
Sometimes I also find the process of rewiring my brain to be challenging.
Lucio's books on learning do help quite a bit like Peak & Ultralearning.

Great news!
I can see how collaborative re-framing preserves rapport while you forge ahead into convincing them of your skills and experiences for career positions.

Quote from Transitioned on June 16, 2021, 1:24 am

Call last night from a company for a manager job that's a bit out of my zone.  Started beating me up for not having experience of various specialist areas.  Instead of debating I said "great feed back of course you guys know - it's what you do".   And then I used questions and statements to point out I d been doing the same stuff in other industries.

Also built rapport by adding little agreeing 'tails' to his statements and stories.

Result is the guy said I can see you're a nice person and he put me forward for an interview.

This was really good stuff man!

Broke it down here, where I used it as an example of "daily practical examples of positively using power dynamics principles".

Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Processing...