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Keeping your power when you have to be submissive: a sword & sorcery example

Hello, TPM! I’d love to hear your opinions on this

The idea for this analysis came from John’s awesome thread “Not using because”

Ser Arthur Dayne is in a position to answer to Ned Stark's interrogation, because he's a noble of lower rank. Stark is by no means his master; but he doesn't have a lord to serve anymore, as his was killed in battle. Dayne has to adapt to the new circumstances, including finding a new liege to serve. But he still has to abide to his previous oath of defending the tower, so Dayne cannot back down from confrontation. He believes in honor; and even if he didn't believe in honor, it would be better for him if everyone else saw that he could keep his oath.

So, as long as he's trying to avoid the confrontation against Stark, he does so by signaling submission. So he does answer, but he shows his "submissiveness" in the most subtle way as possible:

  • He looks down when greeting Ned Stark and uses his title
  • When listening to the top dog speak, he looks down
  • He keeps a powerful posture: he takes space, his voice is unwavering, his face and body are always facing Ned Stark (even when he lowers his head, he does it very subtly and very briefly, almost unnoticiably. It's always at the same overall level)
  • He doesn’t say “because”
  • As he answers, he looks Ned Stark straight in the eye and raises his eyebrows (this is confrontational. These we don't want to do to our boss. In the situations where you can do this, though, it shows you still at least keep your own judge power)

So Stark can see that he's submiting, but people who are watching the exchange cannot. If Ned Stark weren't watching his own body language he would have looked the less powerful one.

Stark seemed to have done it well, but there are signs of nervousness. the hilt of his sword is in front of him. he grabs it, ready to draw – compare this to Dayne, who also has his hand on his sword, but in a very relaxed way. He also puts a barrier in front of him: one of his swords. But while it keeps him safe so that he can act cool, it doesn’t look weak. In contrast to Stark’s battle-ready posture, the way he does it makes him look like someone that is not willing to fight.

All in all, to passerby, especially if they cannot hear the interaction, it looks like Stark is the crazy aggressive one.

Bel and leaderoffun have reacted to this post.
Belleaderoffun

Hi Kavalier,

I think it's an awesome analysis and a great video-example!

The first parallel that comes to mind is with the idea to "keep proud nonverbals when your boss yells at you".

The idea conveyed by Dayne's body language seems to me: "I'm still giving formal respect to you notwistanding your bad behavior, but don't mistake my respect for submissive weakness: I'm ready to fight and prevail if necessary".

One thing that to me seems out of place in the scene is Dayne drawing the sword first. In line with his body language, I would have expected him to wait for Stark's move.

I find there is a certain parallel between this "drawing the sword first", which contradicts Dayne's honorable but strong posture, and the way the other side prevails at the end by way of an underhanded move.

Kavalier has reacted to this post.
Kavalier

Hey, Bel

Thank you.

I was analysing the scene until before the fight, because, until at that point, the way both were handling it could be better transposed to challenges we may face today. But you are right, there’s more happening later.

I believe that, in this case, it's not just formal respect. It's real respect. Both Dayne and Stark are archetypical white knights, but are pitted one against the other because of the circumstances. And both have good reasons to avoid confrontation and, at the same time, good reasons to fight. It's an impasse with no resolution at sight. Dayne draws the sword first because he is the first to realize there is no way out from the dilemma, as I explain in more detail below.

SPOILER ALERT

 

 

Stark is the angrier one because he wants to free his sister, who is in the tower. He thinks that she was kidnapped by Dayne’s (now dead) liege. He knows that Dayne is not a true villain, but has to obey orders.

But the truth is that she was in the tower because she had secretly married the prince (Dayne’s master) and was giving birth to the throne’s heir.

Stark, though, is part of a rebellion against the ruling dynasty, and has sworn allegiance to claimant to the throne. If the new king (Robert, who had already won the war) found out about the baby, then the baby would certainly die, because Robert would not tolerate a rival claim to his newly acquired throne. Dayne understands and admires Stark’s motives, but cannot reveal the truth (if he himself knows what is at stake).

Also, Stark is afraid of Dayne, so he’s hesitant to initiate the fight. Stark is young and inexperienced. Dayne is the greatest swordsman that has ever existed, and famous as such. Both are expecting a way out of the impasse that does not imply bloodshed.

Being more experienced, Dayne is the first one to realize there’s no real resolution and decides to be faithful to his duty. So he draws the sword (not before wishing good luck to his opponent)

Bel has reacted to this post.
Bel

Masterful analysis.
And I had even seen all the series, but these points totally escaped me.

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John FreemanKavalier

Thank you, Bel! I'm learning from the best!

The series was great (the last seasons were okay, but had lots of unexplored potential) They totally escaped me too. As I rewatch some sequences after PU, I see that it's a great series to study power dynamics.

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John FreemanBel
Quote from Kavalier on August 11, 2022, 7:15 pm

Interesting find, Kavalier, and good example of not using "because":

Stark: I looked for you in the X (<- high power form of asking for an explanation: doesn't pose a question, but makes a semi-accusatory statement that implies guilt or lack )
Dayne: We weren't there (<- strong frame control to answer without submitting. as a matter of fact, this is more like an "answer-challenge")
Support: (provides the details that Stark was looking for. It helps Dayne by mediating and by being the "social power lightening rod" that takes the hit for the boss. Dayne now could keep asking more questions about that explanation, and potentially find an amicable solution while Dayne can save face/power) 

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

Thanks, man

I'm finding great value in watching films to practice reading body language, an area I'm still lacking, and to internalize PU's core concepts.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on August 13, 2022, 11:13 am

Stark: I looked for you in the X (<- high power form of asking for an explanation: doesn't pose a question, but makes a semi-accusatory statement that implies guilt or lack )
Dayne: We weren't there (<- strong frame control to answer without submitting. as a matter of fact, this is more like an "answer-challenge")
Support: (provides the details that Stark was looking for. It helps Dayne by mediating and by being the "social power lightening rod" that takes the hit for the boss. Dayne now could keep asking more questions about that explanation, and potentially find an amicable solution while Dayne can save face/power) 

And more gold!

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