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And finally... I blew up: "power showdown" & enforcing boundaries

Have you read about the "crazy lady" stickler for the rule?

I mentioned our characters were very incompatible, and that I had to be careful.

Lo and behold... We escalated into a power showdown.

FIRST IMPRESSION CONFIRMED

She was what expected... And more.

Both in positive and in negative.

She was a total character.

It reminded me a bit of my neighbor in Berlin in being a highly dominant woman, and an incredible tasker.
Unlike my neighbor though who's a successful professional, she was more like the crazy artist type, and veeery extreme.

I actually got a video of her while she was yelling to another guest to come back in the car -and I was pissing myself laughing in the car, while also encouraging her to yell even harder-.

However, after some time with her, her overbearing attitude also turned towards me.
It was fun a few times, but it eventually started to get grating.
My normal defenses weren't always enough for her level of social dominance, and it started getting on my nerves.

THE ESCALATION

Long story short, we were supposed to have a barbeque all together and we were late because of her.

At the grocery store she started pulling that yelling number on me, shouting for my name across the aisles -I never responded of course-.
She wanted to help by telling me where the wine was, but still: don't fucking yell at me.

She just wasn't good at picking nonverbal signals that I wasn't appreciating.

So while I was selecting the wine, she had another of her number: she passed me a pack with some corn, and told me to carry it.

I immediately put it down.

She said to take it with me.

I said it was hers and she had to take it.

She said she had to go the bathroom.

I said I had to pick the wine.

As you might have noticed, it wasn't much about being rational or about who really had to do anything: she was tasking me, and had an excuse ready to justify her tasking -inveterate taskers always have a credible-sounding excuse. As if she couldn't take a 50 grams thing with her, or leave it and take it back later-.

So I had my own equally nonsense excuse: I'm doing this other thing.

The secret is to be as serious and as convinced about it as they are: her rights do not trump yours.

FORCE YOURSELF TO STAY THE COURSE!

Now most friendly folks like myself -and probably like you, the reader- are going to struggle here.

It would be so much easier to just say "OK", carry the damn thing, and get it over it.

But don't.
After that, it will come to another (micro)aggression, and then another tasking, and then another yelling session, and then encroaching of your boundaries...
Until you become a muppet.
Your self-esteem and your emotional health are also at stake.

You must keep your foot down.

The Emotional Power Move

Obviously, she started getting emotional.

This was the precise description of the article "how women control men" -men don't usually do that-. Just exactly the same freaking dynamics I describe there.

If you'd listen to her voice and demeanor, it was a real emergency: I had to take that damn corn.
It was SO important, and she had this HUGE thing preventing her from doing it herself, and it was SO easy for me to do it, and it was SO bad of me to refuse.

That's the emergency frame: it's super important, you must do it, I cannot do it, and you're so unbelievably bad for refusing to do it.

It doesn't happen often, but I had NO patience left.
We were in front of each other, she yelling "I have to go the bathroom" / "you're being a jerk" / "just take it" / "I have to go the bathroom", and me repeating different versions of "I'm picking the wine" / "No I'm not" / "it's your corn" / "I don't want to carry it".
I didn't get emotional like her, but I was emotional. And I channeled it into pure intensity -I wish there was a camera I could look back at, I'd love to re-watch the scene, but I was super intense, and that also came across as quite aggressive, of the type "not fucking budging, ever... Try me"-.

Then she blurted "you're a jerk", turned around, and hurried away.

Power-aware folks must already know what that meant.

Not perfect, but effective

Since I have a high bar for myself, I thought I had handled it rather poorly for not having lost my cool in a more controlled manner -yeah, "losing your cool" while still being in control is a technique-.

But it was still "good enough" to stop the dynamics of her tasking and bossing people around.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF POWER SHOWDOWN

I thought it was possible that she might have left me and my friend and drove home.

Or that she might file a complaint with Airbnb and kick me out -I was staying at her Airbnb, which gave her good leverage in case she wanted to continue to create problems-.

Instead, she was in the car.

And boy, did the music change on the drive back

No more acting crazy, no more tasking, no more loud BS.
Instead, a lot of effort on her side to make me talk, ask my opinion, and validating my thoughts.

Again, perfectly as described in PU, the power showdown effectively enforced boundaries and kept it that way.

I was planning to tell her right before we left the car that "we should have a quick talk".
And I was planning to tell her during out talk that I'm not cool with her calling me a jerk, and that her attitude of tasking others was not cool with me. All of that with pleeenty of power and ego protecting stuff in between because people like her need it the most.

But it was never necessary.
Instead, we turned it into a joke about the corn-stuff, which was also OK.


The guy I didn't blur, we became friends.

lucio buffalmano in houston

Really cool and friendly guy, we visited the NASA museum together, walked around the city, shared about ourselves, and had a lot of laughs.

We also talked about power dynamics, tactics to re-empower oneself with a woman like her without escalating, how to enforce boundaries, and the pros and risks of stronger escalations while also staying at her place -which gives her some power over you-.

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John FreemanStefKavalierselffriend
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on April 3, 2021, 6:27 am

Not perfect, but effective

Since I have a high bar for myself, I thought I had handled it rather poorly for not having lost my cool in a more controlled manner -yeah, "losing your cool" while still being in control is a technique-.

But it was still "good enough" to stop the dynamics of her tasking and bossing people around.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF POWER SHOWDOWN

I thought it was possible that she might have left me and my friend and drove home.

Or that she might file a complaint with Airbnb and kick me out -I was staying at her Airbnb, which gave her good leverage in case she wanted to continue to create problems-.

Instead, she was in the car.

And boy, did the music change on the drive back

No more acting crazy, no more tasking, no more loud BS.
Instead, a lot of effort on her side to make me talk, ask my opinion, and validating my thoughts.

Again, perfectly as described in PU, the power showdown effectively enforced boundaries and kept it that way.

This reminds me of my escalation with my business partner.
Though the dynamics are quite different.
This was more tasking while mine was more condescending/babying language.
In my case, there's naturally some dominant tasking behaviour too.

I did not regret the escalation.
It was a great way to set boundaries.
Even though I was far from perfect in navigating that situation.

FORCE YOURSELF TO STAY THE COURSE!

Now most friendly folks like myself -and probably like you, the reader- are going to struggle here.

It would be so much easier to just say "OK", carry the damn thing, and get it over it.

But don't.
After that, it will come to another (micro)aggression, and then another tasking, and then another yelling session, and then encroaching of your boundaries...
Until you become a muppet.
Your self-esteem and your emotional health are also at stake.

You must keep your foot down.

I do struggle.
And I need to keep my foot down.
For the reasons you mentioned above.
Self-esteem and emotional health.

I have learnt that an imperfect escalation is usually better than submission.
I think people naturally fear escalations because it may have negative consequences on relationships and socially.
But I realised if you are savvy enough, you can escalate imperfectly, set a rough boundary and navigate from there.

Getting tortured by a thousand paper cuts is not fun.
Get a bigger cut upfront & recover from there.

Then she blurted "you're a jerk", turned around, and hurried away.

Power-aware folks must already know what that meant.

I'm guessing this means you won the showdown.

She just wasn't good at picking nonverbal signals that I wasn't appreciating.

I'm thinking she's not very power-aware or emotionally sensitive.
But very socially dominant.
Seems to match your recent article on the difference between awareness & competence.
Though I would say the crude social dominance, in this case, is not really a socially competent way of navigating situations.

I was planning to tell her right before we left the car that "we should have a quick talk".
And I was planning to tell her during out talk that I'm not cool with her calling me a jerk, and that her attitude of tasking others was not cool with me. All of that with pleeenty of power and ego protecting stuff in between because people like her need it the most.

But it was never necessary.
Instead, we turned it into a joke about the corn-stuff, which was also OK.

I guess the showdown made her realise that she was being too overbearing.
So it was obvious enough to not even need an explicit re-stating.
A joke about the corn-stuff made the situation easier to tide over.

we visited the NASA museum together

Damn, that sounds interesting.
Maybe you will also run into Elon Musk and talk about power dynamics.

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Lucio Buffalmanoselffriend

I do struggle.
And I need to keep my foot down.
For the reasons you mentioned above.
Self-esteem and emotional health.

I have learnt that an imperfect escalation is usually better than submission.
I think people naturally fear escalations because it may have negative consequences on relationships and socially.
But I realised if you are savvy enough, you can escalate imperfectly, set a rough boundary and navigate from there.

Getting tortured by a thousand paper cuts is not fun.
Get a bigger cut upfront & recover from there.

A big yes to all.

I'm thinking she's not very power-aware or emotionally sensitive.
But very socially dominant.
Seems to match your recent article on the difference between awareness & competence.
Though I would say the crude social dominance, in this case, is not really a socially competent way of navigating situations.

Yeah, women like her have the attitude to project power around, but rather low "feel"/emotional intelligence.

Her competence is above average in getting things done, but also capped and handicapped by their low feel.
So she's like a loose cannon / bull in the china shop.
She'll get it her way most of the time, but not with other high-power folks. She can be effective in work environments, but almost always paying a high personal price because they will rarely have truly good relationships -in this case, everyone talked behind her back how annoying she could be, albeit nobody else "stood up" to her-.

Damn, that sounds interesting.
Maybe you will also run into Elon Musk and talk about power dynamics.

It was OK and interesting indeed, but no superlatives.

If there was the opportunity to, say, experience zero gravity, now that was going to be awesome.

But just watching celebratory memorabilia and touching "mars rocks" doesn't take it to superlative levels ("mars rocks" is more a psychological marketing ploy to me: same chemical components we find here, and all coming from the same big bang anyway).

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

Here is what I would do, by no mean perfect:

She: Yelling at me

She: Take the corns for me!

Me: Sure I will take the corns if you ask politely with gentle voice

Most of the time she will yield a little bit as I offered her a favor.

If she compliance and apologize for yelling, I'll do this favor for her. This is a win-win.

If not, I'll further explain something like:

Me: Do you feel comfortable if someone else is also yelling at you?

Well, some people might still insist that they are right. If this happen, I will either escalate or simply leave calmly with giving a f*ck.

I have been a "nice guy", and I don't think it is a real problem to do small favors. As long as my core value is not undermined, spending minutes helping others is not a problem, as long as I am respected.

 


 

This recalls me one fight between me and a female executive, in office setting. She and her team carelessly broke down an instrument worth $500K. I was the primarily user of that instrument, without which I have to spend much more time to finish my current project. Everyone knows the instrument is kind of important to me, but now, with slightly improved EI, I think not everyone knows exactly how important is that instrument to me.

Since it was a long time ago, I forgot the exact conversation or who got emotional first, but at the end we both got emotional:

Me: How can you do this? What am I suppose to do now?

She: You are not entitled. You did not buy this. This division bought it which I contributed the most. You have no ground in attacking me.

Me: Last time I set the water boiler (in kitchen) at 85 degree Celsius. You were yelling at me for 30 minutes because you think the proper temperature is 80. Could you please tell me which one is more, five degrees or $500K bucks?

She was silenced for one minute. I thought I "won" (of course now, with improved EI, I know that nobody will win unless both sides win).

But then she said, surprisingly:

She: Five degrees are more, because that really annoyed me. It is easy for me to buy another instrument for us, but it is not easy to have me feel better.

I said: "someone didn't finish the grade school", and left the scene.

I was finally fired due to "not respecting female colleagues", however, not due to this instance, but due to a younger colleague, whom I never tried to pick-up. That was another long, off-topic story.

Now, I still think that my line, despite being a little aggressive and childish, is fine, as she started the childish talk first. Do you guys think I had a better option?


 

We also talked about power dynamics, tactics to re-empower oneself with a woman like her without escalating, how to enforce boundaries, and the pros and risks of stronger escalations while also staying at her place -which gives her some power over you-.

Hi Lucio, would you mind sharing more wisdom?
Quote from selffriend on April 3, 2021, 5:45 pm

Here is what I would do, by no mean perfect:

She: Yelling at me

She: Take the corns for me!

Me: Sure I will take the corns if you ask politely with gentle voice

Most of the time she will yield a little bit as I offered her a favor.

If she compliance and apologize for yelling, I'll do this favor for her. This is a win-win.

Not bad, not bad.

Anything is better than nothing.

I agree with you that doing (small) favoris is a good thing... As long as it's not part of a string of tasking and from a constant boundary-crosser.

Which is the situation we're discussing here: inveterate taskers and overpowering folks.

So the issue with the first one is that the corn thin wasn't yelling, it just was part of her usual "do this for me please" while she could have totally done it herself.
And even if you ask for an amendment, you're still complying.
Eventually, you do want to draw the line.

Many times with inveterate taskers and overpowering people, it's going to be a struggle, and you better be ready for it.

P.S.:
Man, that lady who reflected and then came back to you saying that 5 degrees were more important than 500k, thanks for sharing, a very interesting scenario.
What could have been improved there is not to ask her "can you tell which is more important", because overpowering folks will always have a reason to win. You need to tell them why you're right.
Questions can work great, but better framed in a way that the conclusion is already drawn.

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Stefselffriend
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Nicely done.  And thank you for sharing that even experts have their chaenges.  Nobody is James Bond under fire.  These psychologucal attacks are always upsetting and unsettling for reasonable people.

I m wondering if ignore and override might have worked?

When she told you to take it say (with an amused smirk):

"I m sure you can handle it." OR just "nah"

Either way then walk off to get the wine

 

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selffriend

Man, I can relate to this.
I haven't gotten to the part in the PU course about "taskers" I think. But I can recognize the behavior. There's a bit of momentum at play as well. Once you get into the groove of helping them, these types take it for granted and there's more difficulty in saying no after a series of tasks from taskers.
A dear friend of mine calls this the "bread of shame"

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Lucio Buffalmano
Quote from JM on April 4, 2021, 4:03 am

Man, I can relate to this.
I haven't gotten to the part in the PU course about "taskers" I think. But I can recognize the behavior. There's a bit of momentum at play as well. Once you get into the groove of helping them, these types take it for granted and there's more difficulty in saying no after a series of tasks from taskers.
A dear friend of mine calls this the "bread of shame"

It's in the career section as it's a behavior more commonly associated to workplaces -plus they're even more relevant there as who tasks often gets promoted, and who executes doesn't-.

But they're also often in real life, and more often than not, it's women who do it.

And yes, there definitely is a "momentum effect".
Once a behavior happens often it tends to become "normal". So the tasker expects you to execute, and for you it becomes harder and harder to avoid it. When you finally put your foot down, it can feel "unnatural" to resist, too.

This is why it's often a good idea to also deploy techniques to decrease the power and effect for tasking.

For example:

Her: can you please get the pan for me (while she's cutting veggies beside the pan cupboard while you're 2 meters away)
You: tell me where is the pan please

Notice that if you say "you're closer", she will say "I'm cutting these now", and very likely increase the intensity of her request, and frame you as combative/unhelpful.
Even if you're right, it can lead to an escalation, and you might not want that right now.

So you're executing, but you're also telling her to tell you where it is, and making her invest more.

Or:

Her: can you please go get the pan for me
You: yeah, and you then go ahead and do your magic with it, great teamwork, I'm so hungry

Which frames the overall interaction as she doing most of the work.

Small techniques like these do not address the core of the issue, but are very helpful in protecting your power, showing you ain't no muppet, and all the while avoiding escalations.

They can also be used to "buy time" for the best moment to strike.
For example, you might not want to escalate while you're all preparing food for the barbeque as that might ruin the atmosphere -you can often count on a tasker to escalate, get emotional, and create drama. Enough to stain what should be a pleasant evening with friends-.
So that's the time for power-protecting, until you can then strike for good.

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JMselffriend
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
Quote from Transitioned on April 3, 2021, 8:15 pm

I m wondering if ignore and override might have worked?

When she told you to take it say (with an amused smirk):

"I m sure you can handle it." OR just "nah"

Either way then walk off to get the wine

Yes, absolutely!

Picking up the corn was a small but significant mistake.

There is a difference between refusing to even start something, and start doing something, and then stopping it.

So starting to enforce boundaries while she was still holding the corn would have been much better.

Still, a good reminder that when you truly decide to enforce boundaries, you can overcome initial mistakes or adverse environments if you do with enough conviction.
There is often no perfect time or circumstance, just the time to be strong and convinced enough to put your foot down.

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

Lucio: "After the second shot of Covid vaccine with some light side effects + a very long day... I better stop for now, I know the quality of my thoughts is declining. As I like to say: knowing your limits (approaching) is the very first of your strengths :)."

Hope you're doing well, Lucio, are you feeling better yet?

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