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Ignoring the power differential

Hi Guys,

I have some thoughts on the “Ignore the Power Differential” de-escalation technique from PU’s physical defense section.

Case one

Long ago I had a friend who was sitting with other friends in a crowded public place at night.

Suddenly a group of unknown guys gets by, and one of them starts putting his hands on the shoulders of my friend and starts talking. Then this guy snatches, by pulling it and breaking it, a gold neckchain my friend was wearing around his neck.

My friend looks this guy in the eye, then without thinking he snatches back the neckchain from the thief’s hands and says “Stop it now”, in a calm annoyed tone, and walks away.

The thief stands paralyzed as if he didn’t expect it, and my friend’s status with his friends immediately skyrockets.

I think, among other things, this move was an application of the “Ignore the Power Differential” principle.

Case two

The request I sent to my former boss to get paid also seems an application of the “Ignore the Power Differential” principle, albeit not in a de-escalation fashion, but with the intent of lowering the difference in power with my counterpart.

One of the reasons it worked in getting me paid was probably because it started by “Dear Colleague”. It annulled the power differential between us, and subcommunicated I was on an equal footing. I was helped in this by bar rules who did put us, as colleagues, on a more equal footing in several respects.

So the technique seems to apply even in situations different than where physical defense / force is involved.

Case three

A female friend of mine had just started a new job as HR person at a big hotel. She was called in the office of the general director, and had the impression that he was somewhat playing his power upon her (she wasn’t able to describe it better).

She told me the first thing she did was ask him if she could address him informally.

He was somewhat taken aback, then answered something along the lines of “yes, just don’t do it in front of staff”.

She did not know consciously why she did this.

I now think it comes to another application of the “Ignore the Power Differential” technique.

Asking to address informally a higher-up person (or just doing it) seems a way to lower the power differential and thus to acquire power in itself.

Case four

I myself interpret clients who immediately ask me to speak with me on informal terms (without me offering it) as being trying to somewhat lower my relative status.

I usually respond by agreeing (because I found that not doing so destroys rapport), and then later (unconsciously) saying or doing something that shows my professional expertise.

I think it’s an unconscious way to subcommunicate that I am still the professional, even if they try to annul the distance.

Case five

I read several books on lawyering that exposed the same principle of ignoring the power differential in the context of negotiations.

Albeit they didn’t use the term, lowering or ignoring the power differential seems the principle they tried to apply and teach.

I remember one book that mentioned a negotiation where the opposite lawyer (who was interested in obtaining a more favorable settlement) stated:

I only deal with negotiations where the end result is more than $ 100,000.

The response of the author of the book was

$ 100,000? There must be a mistake here, my clients would never entrust me with anything worth more than a couple thousand dollars.

The answer on the surface seems to reinforce the power differential, but the real subcommunication seems to be that the speaker just doesn’t care about it: he is ignoring it by blatantly acknowledging it and making a joke about it. It’s as if he had said

What you say counts nothing here.

That was one of the reasons the book’s author obtained a very favorable settlement.

The zero investment technique thus also seems an application of the “Ignore the Power Differential” technique.

Lucio Buffalmano, John Freeman and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoJohn FreemanKavalierEmily

Powerful. I have a story that happened to me that will fit right in here.

Lucio Buffalmano and Bel have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoBel

This is awesome, Bel, thank you for sharing!

Also one of the common threads in all of this story is:


Good old confidence and boldness.
Can let you get away with all range of things most people think are not possible -including some incredible stunts-.

The topic might deserve some more space in PU as there's plenty of applications as you've just shown.

John Freeman, Mats G and Bel have reacted to this post.
John FreemanMats GBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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