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"I'm not angry" power move

Hello everyone,

here is one that I already noticed and that I'm analysing here. It comes from the never-ending source of power moves: yes, a nurse at the paediatric emergency department.

Context

I'm summarising. I sent to the emergency a patient from the normal consult for a blood sample.

There was a problem with the stickers, that is what is used to identify the patients' samples at the hospital and basically allows nurses to do their job. Basically when you change service as in this case, you have to make new stickers. The problem was that it was an urgent situation and that our medical leadership told me to do the stickers at the normal consult. His colleagues also told me to do that. However, it was still a patient under their responsibility. So a confusion here.

So he gave me some feed-back in kind of a condescending way ("Next time etc.") whereas I told him that it was not my decision to do the stickers at the normal consult. He told me: "you're not listening". I was listening, actually he was the one not listening. Not that important anyway.

Anyway, I informed my superior of the situation (several other problems with the nurse). She told me I did nothing wrong and that I did a good job.

So I come the next day for a debrief. And he told me:

Him: I'm not angry but... (I could be angry and lay the law on your ass but I'm being magnanimous, I might not be next time and tell your superiors)

Me: I'm not angry either (I could do the same, so don't fuck with me)

He did it again when we went out of the room, so it proves the nature of the power move.

Him: I'm not angry!

Me: I'm not angry either!

Analysis

As we learned here: being angry is a way to express that someone did something that warranted anger. In many situations: that someone did something wrong or hurtful. That is why anger can be manipulative. If you get angry towards someone, they will automatically think: "What did I do wrong?" and feel guilty and/or shameful. So the manipulation is: "be angry" -> "other feel guilty/shameful" -> net outcome: emotional and behavioural control (judge role and power).

In this case, I prevented this by

  1. Knowing I did nothing wrong
  2. Getting a confirmation from my superior that I did nothing wrong (was not my intention, my intention was to inform of the fuck-ups)

Here it's a bit more subtle and I have to salute the finesse of his power move:

He does not have to be angry to obtain the same outcome: "I could have been angry or I could be angry another time" -> "other feel guilty/shameful" -> net outcome: emotional and behavioural control (judge role and power).

So it's quite effective as he does not have to show or feel anger. He probably felt it, so he does not have to show it. Even if this anger is not appropriate. What does he achieve:

He does not look like the bad person, he looks like he just wanted the work to be properly done and the patient to be taken care of.

So this is highly manipulative:

He looks like a experienced professional to himself, the other person and observers, he makes the other person feel guilty/shameful, gets the judge role and power and does not even have to expand emotional energy to express anger. He also looks magnanimous and an expert (eagle-like) whereas he's not at all.

Because after that he says: "Next time, etc." so he takes the expert role about how things should be. Also it is an expectation of future behaviour modification, so it's a clear form of tasking. So there is a lot of power in this.

So like we talked with Lucio in "Let's meet and talk" on the positive side about creating powerful and complex frames with few words. In this thread this is a negative example of that.

He achieves all of this with just: "I'm not angry. Next time..." Powerful on the dark side. So I think it's a really nasty power move. It looks not so bad, but once I did the analysis I find it really nasty.

Also the "I'm not angry but..." nullifies what comes before, so he's actually angry. So there is definitely a passive aggressive element here. Real nasty.

I do use the "I'm not angry". However, I use it to make the person at ease and make this a learning experience, it's a rational analysis of the situation and I always end up with a smile, reassurance of the other persons's skill and words of encouragement. I don't use it as a power move, it's dark.

Defense

My defense is quite simple: I mirror. He says: "I have this power over you". I say: "I also have this power over you". If you guys have other ideas, you're welcome to share them.

I'll go back to him, as I thought about something he said, so I'll go to him with the: "Next time don't hesitate to come to me, etc." to settle the score.

I'm happy to read your thoughts on this. I think it's a good case of manipulation.

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

Great analysis, John.

The response is also good.

Another option is to semi-surface the move, for example:

Him: I'm not angry
You: I'm not angry either, there's nothing to be wrong as far as I see it (or: "unless I'm missing something", which gives him the opportunity to actually opnely talk about the issue, so you can clarify)

By addressing and framing the event he's referring to as a non-issue, you also address the covert power move.

John Freeman and Bel have reacted to this post.
John FreemanBel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Him: I'm not angry
You: I'm not angry either, there's nothing to be wrong as far as I see it

Meta: repetition for learning.

Thank you very much, Lucio. This goes one step beyond my initial answer. I think this is the next skill I have to develop: addressing the covert power move. It requires a new layer of thinking I see. You address the surface and the depth in the answer. Now I know what it looks like. Powerful.

Also, thanks for the compliment!

Cheers!

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

In case the move comes from a superior at work, would this be a good answer?

Superior: I'm not angry, you're better than this and next time you will do better.

Answer: Thank you boss, especially as there's nothing I can't learn under your teaching.

Or more condensed:

Superior: I'm not angry, in any case.

Answer: Especially as I feel there's nothing I can't learn under your teaching.

Meant to subcommunicate (slightly) that there's nothing to be angry about since it is the boss's responsibility to teach.

Hmmm sound too flattering of the ass-kissing type in my opinion.

Ass kissing works with some sub-types of personalities, but shouldn't be the go-to strategy in my opinion unless you know your boss real well and know that's the best approach.

Now on what to do, if my boss were to use that "I'm not angry" power move on me I'd:

  1. Lose a lot of respect for him, for being so power-movey but in a sneaky and indirect manner. Funny enough, we go back here to what we talked in the other topic about "straightness" and direct talk
  2. Use that info to understand who he is
  3. Adapt to what works best for him
  4. In this case, I'd surface the move. Why? Because:

What bothers your boss and lies beneath the surface harms you.
But if you can surface it and address you can not only avoid festering and annoying him, you can turn it into a plus.

So something like:

Boss: I'm not angry, in any case.
You: Got it, thanks (<- fake appreciation for his "kindness", which is more sneakiness than kindness, but you gotta work with what you have). But just for me to understand and do better (<- power protects, takes the blame for the miscommunication), what do you think I should do next time in a similar situation (<- so simple, yet such a super power move to win the favor of your boss)

Then listen, nod, say "thank you for explaining, next time I will".

BAM, on the way to being your boss' favorite :).

And if it's confirmed is a sneaky power mover, start strategizing, move laterally, or polish your CV :).

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on October 6, 2022, 8:23 pm

Hmmm sound too flattering of the ass-kissing type in my opinion.

Ass kissing works with some sub-types of personalities, but shouldn't be the go-to strategy in my opinion unless you know your boss real well and know that's the best approach.

This is very helpful. I think I picked this kind of communication by being surrounded by those people in the past, and seeing that anger and open push-back do not work. Then I basically went in the opposite direction.

I'll work to get rid of this now, as I find myself continuing to use this kind of talking with some people.

Especially because, I take from your comment that this kind of talk probably has the effect of making them lose respect even more.

I think my doing this with some potential clients (of the power-hungry type) recently may have led them to distance even more.

I think my unconscious thinking was to try to "fool them back". But of course I now understand my way of doing it was probably too explicit and visible.

This confirms the law of optimum balance. Basically everything we are doing here is trying to find the optimum balance on everything.

Now on what to do, if my boss were to use that "I'm not angry" power move on me I'd:

  1. Lose a lot of respect for him, for being so power-movey but in a sneaky and indirect manner. Funny enough, we go back here to what we talked in the other topic about "straightness" and direct talk
  2. Use that info to understand who he is
  3. Adapt to what works best for him
  4. In this case, I'd surface the move. Why? Because:

What bothers your boss and lies beneath the surface harms you.
But if you can surface it and address you can not only avoid festering and annoying him, you can turn it into a plus.

So something like:

Boss: I'm not angry, in any case.
You: Got it, thanks (<- fake appreciation for his "kindness", which is more sneakiness than kindness, but you gotta work with what you have). But just for me to understand and do better (<- power protects, takes the blame for the miscommunication), what do you think I should do next time in a similar situation (<- so simple, yet such a super power move to win the favor of your boss)

Then listen, nod, say "thank you for explaining, next time I will".

BAM, on the way to being your boss' favorite :).

And if it's confirmed is a sneaky power mover, start strategizing, move laterally, or polish your CV :).

That's also extremely helpful. I understand with a subset of bosses this may work to improve the relationship.

I also tend to assume that someone who uses this kind of power-plays is (mostly) not really interested in the matter at hand, but only at social climbing. So to me your suggestion is also a way to try to "box the boss in" on something, so next time one could say:

Boss: I'm not angry.

Answer: Got it. Although: maybe I did not understand, but I thought last time you said if I did this it would be ok?

Though in my experience these kind of people are likely to give only platitudes after being asked what to do:

Boss: Just do your best, you'll learn what to do eventually.

Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Thank you for the notes, Bel!

Quote from Bel on October 7, 2022, 2:10 pm
Though in my experience these kind of people are likely to give only platitudes after being asked what to do:

Boss: Just do your best, you'll learn what to do eventually.

That may happen, in which case you take note.

However, I think that works and it's well received more times than not.

Note that you're not asking how to improve (for yourself, which would be empowering to you and only indirectly to them), you're asking how to serve them better, how to adapt to their preference (for them, which is empowering to them).

That's also an indirect way of saying "I'm on your side, respect your authority".
In a way, you're submitting to them and confirming their power over you.

Few people are going to reject that type of flattery and offer, or reject the opportunity to direct other people's behavior.

But for sure, anything can be.
Still, you play to win with what has the highest odds, if it doesn't work, you learn and adapt.

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