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My Yale professor responded to my review on his class...

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Quote from Ali Scarlett on December 13, 2020, 11:03 pm

Yes, would love to hear what I could have done better. I can definitely see this being a learning experience that I look back on ten years from now and be grateful for.

OK, let's see if John is also interested, and if not, I'll seek a way to keep it on your end only.

Matthew Whitewood and Maxim Levinsky have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodMaxim Levinsky
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

That one derailed.

Let me know if you both would like feedback on the exchange, I think it can be a good learning opportunity, but you both must be willing to put ego aside (same for the other thread).

Sure!

Matthew Whitewood and Maxim Levinsky have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodMaxim Levinsky

Alright, so here is a quick feedback on this exchange.

The usual disclaimer that I can't read minds, and that this is just my point of view applies.


OVERVIEW:

  • How direct VS indirect approach can lead to arguments (and break relationships)

From a general perspective, one of the reasons that exchange derailed is because of the different approaches to communication.

John was very direct, Ali was more indirect.

As a rule of thumb, the indirect person feels like the direct person is too "curt", while the direct person feels like the indrect person is too "flowery", and time-wasting.
That only gets worse when the exchange gets more heated, as the indirect person feels like the direct person is "rude", while the direct person feels like the indirect person is playing games and being unauthentic.

I know I felt the same John (probably) felt.
Some years back I was dating a Taiwanese girl (indiect/direct is partially cultural), and every time she wanted to say something, she'd start with this long-winded "first of all, thank you for this, and that, and I really appreciate that... " (very indirect) and I'd always rush her to "cutting to the chase".

In PU, this direct/indirect dynamic is under the lesson "effective relationship with your boss", and the advice is to adapt to your boss (of course).
As a rule of thumb, when dealing with higher-power folks, it's safer to start indirect and then move backwards towards more direct if you feel that they either prefer it that way, or that they are more thick-skinned enough to take direct (keep in mind: indirect is a necessity for more thin-skinned folks).

Personally, I prefer direct, but direct can be curt in many social settings (as well as rude) so learning indirect is an important social skill.

In any case, both direct and indirect folks will gain in learning to be more direct/indirect and adapt to people and situations.

  • First message from Ali: there is scope for feedback

The first email Ali sent to his professor was high in judge-role compliments.

Judge-role compliments feel condescending, so there was room here to give value-adding feedback.

When it comes to the title, it was a smart way of increasing CTR.
I can see how "click-baits" can sound less honest but, in this case, it was the truth, and I'd consider it smart marketing, as well as fair marketing

  • John response: feedback delivered in short and direct format

John response was very direct.

This could be a case of "the golden nugget that hurts you, but that can also help you".

Among the most potentially hard-hitting bits:

Even in the title of your thread you say "Yale professor". So it seems you value him a lot and feel inferior to him.

Albeit everything is possible, this is guessing about Ali.

This type of psychology-based feedback often entails a judge-position from the deliverer (think of Freud while you sit on the reclining couch).

These types of feedback tend to be very strong, so to preserve rapport and to decrease the chances of defensive walls going up it can be useful to add some more "softeners".
For example: "I'm just guessing here" or "I might be totally wrong, of course", or even "permission to be frank here".

Such as, instead of throwing that golden nugget, we take some steps to pass the golden nugget, so that it doesn't hurt (it's not written anywhere that strong feedback must always hurt a lot).

John sent the feedback without softners.

That being said, indirect does take longer to write.
So if I had to choose between a strong feedback that can hurt, and a longer one that someone never writes because he was short in time, I'll always go -and encourage- for shorter feedback.

So in this case, we must still keep in mind that, no matter how hurtful it might have been, John was still out to deliver value.

  • Ali 1st response

Again we see the overarching theme of "indirect responding to a direct".

Ali's indirect response follows a typical indirect approach:

  1. "Thank you"
  2. "But I disagree"
  3. But I agree on this one (bridge-seeking)
  4. And I refute this feedback / accusation (the "inferiority complex" bit)

It's a longer format, and that can already negatively predispose a more direct individual, who prefers shorter communication.

There were also 2 quotes in there (Cabrera, Littel), which can make the receiver feel like the sender is trying to position himself as a "erudite" ("smart-alecking").

This part here:

Also, the "Yale professor" in the title is only to draw more engagement to this thread, not unlike the title of your thread: I LOVE toxic workplaces :).

It was fair of Ali to not take on the feedback of "feeling of inferiority", but I'd have personally either let it slip, or denied it / explained it away".

Linking to John's previous is a high-effort, and it can feel like one has gone out of his way just to say "see? you did the exact same, which proves that I'm right".

Imagine you're arguing with a friend and they say "oh, and what about when 2 years ago you said that? And you're like "yeah, OK... But tha'ts 2 years ago, and now is now. Let's stick to now".

  • 2nd John response

Again we see the direct style / indirect style clash.

When the direct insists on shorter responses against longer responses, the indirect person can feel like they are trying to pull a power move by "investing less", while instead the direct guy feels like they're being straight shooters who are "already wasting too much time with the indirect game player".

  • Ali 2nd response: fixed it (for a short while)

Here Ali fully accepted the feedback, including the covert aggression.

He also does it in a shorter format, which is more in line with John's communication style.

At this point, it feels like olive-branch to close the argument and move on.

  • John 3rd reply: does his part to mend the relationship

Ali took one step towards John, and John takes one step towards Ali, which is what you'd expect from a fair player:

So it's all a big mix-up, man. As I said, it's all good.

  • Ali 4th reply

With this reply, Ali re-opens the argument.

Re-opening the argument never feels good to the other part.
After the bridge-building, they will think "cool, now we're good".

But when the argument re-opens again, they will feel like "oh, wait a second, so they pretended to be good, and instead here we are arguing again".

If you're not happy with the tone or resolution, it's better never to close an argument, than to close it and reopen it later on.

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

Thanks for also being open to the feedback John.

OVERVIEW:

  • How direct VS indirect approach can lead to arguments (and break relationships)

Agree with Lucio here.

  • First message from Ali: there is scope for feedback

Yes, a bit of context here so everyone can understand my psychology better.

Before I joined TPM, I was in a place in life where I was alone after having been ostracized by everyone I cared about. I didn't understand why they had turned their back on me when I had done everything I could to be a good friend.

Fast forward to Power University, and I learn that I needed to add more value to set the collaborative frames that would have helped maintain healthy long-term relationships. And, when I wrote that email, something felt off about it when I re-read it for typos. But, I rationalized to myself, "Whatever is wrong, these are compliments. And compliments add value. And, adding value is good. So, I'm sure it'll be fine."

Where I Can Improve: Now, I'm going to have to figure out how to structure my compliments so they come across as value-adding without the condescending tone. Any advice anyone has to offer on that I would be very grateful for.

  • John response: feedback delivered in short and direct format

Direct, yes, but I have a traditional Jamaican father who's similar. And, we argue over feedback that's given this way as well.

By "this way", I don't mean the directness, I'm more used to that these days. I mean feedback lacking the persuasive power of "because". John provided feedback without explaining what led him to the conclusions he drew, which made his feedback feel less like feedback and more like criticism. I felt judged.

John: "Even in the title of your thread you say "Yale professor". So it seems you value him a lot and feel inferior to him."

This made me feel like he was imposing his own beliefs on the situation and onto me. Who says Yale professors are superior to any of us?

So, I was a bit ticked off, but I also felt like I knew better than to retaliate aggressively. So, I figured if I addressed the content of his message then everything would work out since he didn't share any reasons behind where his feedback was coming from.

I'm only realizing now that my approach might have come across as smart-alecky.

Where I Can Improve: I'm usually better at spotting the smart-aleck style in person since there's usually a hint of elitism in the tone of the other side. It's harder to pick up on over text or in words, so I need to get better at spotting that, and maybe I could have avoided it.

  • Ali 1st response

Lucio: "There were also 2 quotes in there (Cabrera, Littel), which can make the receiver feel like the sender is trying to position himself as a "erudite" ("smart-alecking")."

Since John's message was more advice without any reasoning or "because" behind the advice, I was doing my best to provide my reasoning behind the decisions I made in my email.

And, I did know that involving those names (Cabrera, Littel) would be a way of "authority-endorsing" my point. But, I thought that was good. I figured we're both learners, so the more reliable information I provide that backs my point, the more John can learn from my email test, and the more I could learn from John's follow-up response since he'd then be more informed on my reasoning.

Where I Can Improve: I'm going to have to be more strategic about when I use authority-endorsing. It seems that this wasn't about my reasoning or backing my point because this isn't about my point at all. It's about the interaction. And, in the interaction, by avoiding authority-endorsing here, I can respond less like a smart ass.

Lucio: "Linking to John's previous is a high-effort, and it can feel like one has gone out of his way just to say 'see? you did the exact same, which proves that I'm right'."

Exactly. In all honesty, it felt high-effort linking that post and it was my intention to say, "See, you did the exact same, so it's ok." I didn't think John was in a competitive frame, so I didn't think he would interpret it as "that proves that I'm right".

Where I Can Improve: If I'm going to make my point, in the future, I'll have to consider making my point without using any reasoning or backing it up with the persuasive power of "because". By mirroring that direct, low social effort behavior I saw in John, there's a chance I would have come across as more direct and more of a straight shooter.

Lucio: "Imagine you're arguing with a friend and they say 'oh, and what about when 2 years ago you said that? And you're like 'yeah, OK... But tha'ts 2 years ago, and now is now. Let's stick to now'."

I wasn't thinking about how old the post is, I was only thinking about it being a good example that our approaches to headlines aren't that different.

Where I Can Improve: Ali, in the future, make sure you're not bringing up old shit or, even better, don't bring it up at all.

  • 2nd John response

I didn't feel like John was trying to pull a power move by investing less. It felt like he was trying to be respectful but not leaving my response to his comment hanging, but also that he didn't care about the thread enough to invest too much. So, it seemed to me that he was doing his best to be a good social charmer here.

John: "I think you using a title of one my thread to prove a point that was raised only by you is also quite covert aggressive."

This is where I get a bit offended. Because that was never my intention. My intention was to actually establish a bit of common ground by showing our headline styles are sometimes similar. Yet, it felt like I was being framed as someone who's a bad friend since good friends don't purposely try to push you down with covert aggression, they build you up.

And, while I can't officially say John and I are friends, we're both apart of what I consider the "TPM family"— a community of individuals driven towards becoming better people so they can have better success and relationships. So, when he said that, it felt a bit like I was being ostracized as the one guy in the community who seeks to pull negative games on others.

At the same time, a lot happened in this thread. So, after reading that, I figured John might be overanalyzing the situation here due to all of the power dynamics we saw in that other situation.

I also saw a competitive frame here. Covert aggression towards someone can be seen as a way of low-key positioning yourself above them. So, I saw an opportunity to reframe for collaboration.

Where I Can Improve: When he invested less social effort, I should have taken that as my cue to do the same.

  • Ali 2nd response: fixed it (for a short while)

In Power University, Lucio said that you can reduce competitive frames in relationships by increasing warmth. I remember thinking to myself, "That must be a typo. He probably meant to say 'decreasing' warmth, kind of like you have to do with CBs. I mean, if someone is being unfriendly, hence the competitive frame, how is being even friendlier going to fix anything? They're just going to see you as weak, right?"

Then, I realized what Lucio meant. If they're in a competitive frame at all, it means they likely see you as a threat. So, they see you as someone they have to compete with. By increasing warmth, you're letting them know you're not a threat and there's no need for competition here.

So, I did my best to let John know that I value him as well as the value he provided to the thread. And, I still have respect for John to this day as well.

I also made sure to give him the opportunity to explain his side because, once again, he was lacking the persuasive power of "because".

It's like if you go into a salary negotiation with your boss, you say you want a 23% increase, and they fire back saying they can give you 20% and that they think that's fair. They threw the word "fair" out there to subtly accuse you of being "unfair" to and get what they want. But, they never said why they feel that your ask was unfair.

In this case, John said I was covert aggressive but didn't say how. So, I felt like he was just throwing that out as a cheap tactic to "win" against me since he might still be in a competitive frame. Which is what led me to say:

John: "I'm happy to be shown how I've been covert aggressive. I'm open to learning."

I wanted to give him the chance to explain his side because I didn't see any covert aggression.

Where I Can Improve: I think I did a pretty good job here. If anyone has any feedback, I'm open to hearing it.

  • John 3rd reply: does his part to mend the relationship

John: "It's all good man."

Man, I appreciated this. It made me feel less like I was being ostracized, more like the increase in warmth worked, and more confident that my relationship with John would be alright.

John: "...in the following example I will switch our seats:

Example: If I would ask you feed-back and you provide one. Then I answer and I say: 'but when you did this it was also manipulative'."

John said our seats are switched. So, "I" really means "Ali". So, what I read was:

John: "Then Ali answers and Ali says: 'but when you did this it was also manipulative."

I was confused because I never said anything about manipulation. That's what John said in his second response. So, now I feel like he's imposing his beliefs onto me again, this time, going so far as to put words in my mouth.

I believe that effective headlines over-promise and over-deliver. The problem becomes when a headline over-promises and under-delivers, which is where click-bait manipulation happens. In the cases of my headline and John's, I saw it as effective marketing to draw in engagement.

But, John distanced his headline from mine and framed my headline as manipulative despite the similarities in positive CTR effectiveness. And, now he's saying that I actually framed his headline as manipulative first which is untrue.

So, it feels like I'm being lied on in an attempt to be ostracized after I just got done extending an olive branch.

John: "It means I would frame something else you did in the past that is not related to the topic (and to which I did not participate BTW: I did not see your name in the thread)..."

At this point in the interaction, I'm getting upset.

I don't have to be apart of a thread to comment on it the same way he didn't have to be CC'd in the Yale email exchange to comment on it. So, the fact that after expending such little social effort so far, he goes out of his way to throw in this irrelevant detail, is incongruent. And, that makes it feel like he only said "we're all good" to hide the fact that he was trying to attack me back. That, on its own, makes it feel like he really is out to ostracize me (at least, that's how I interpreted it in the heat of the moment. When I stopped and thought about it afterward, John's a really cool person. There isn't enough incentive here for him to try and isolate me even if that's how it felt in the moment).

John: "I said the title is boasting and you justify it by saying it's to increase the engagement of the thread. "

When he frames me providing my reasoning as "justification", it makes it sound like I was defending myself because I was "guilty" the entire time.

John: "So it's all a big mix-up, man. As I said, it's all good."

So, after feeling like I just got attacked again, to read this makes it feel like John is now the one who's being indirect.

Where I Can Improve: Fuck. Clearly, John was doing his best to make amends but I just didn't see it that way in the heat of the moment. And, even if I didn't see it that way, I could have simply let it go. This isn't even about being "the bigger man". It's about prioritizing long-term relationships over "winning". I was just so scared of being ostracized again I felt like I had to respond to everything he said that I didn't like or agree with. In the future, Ali, just move on.

  • Ali 4th reply

Where I Can Improve: Be more direct in response to the directness of the other side. If the argument is closed, keep it that way.


In the end, I made a LOT of mistakes.

John, if you're reading this, my sincerest apologies man. A lot of my irrational behavior came from places of fear, anger, and a lack of understanding of your communication style. If you email me at info@aliscarlett-author.com, I'll send you a gift as a token of my apology that I hope you'll accept.

I'm looking forward to putting this behind us. Thanks again for your friendliness.

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Lucio Buffalmano

Ali: Now, I'm going to have to figure out how to structure my compliments so they come across as value-adding without the condescending tone. Any advice anyone has to offer on that I would be very grateful for.

As a rule of thumb, if you're writing to a professor who's farther ahead in life, deliver compliments not as an equal or a superior, but as someone admiring how far they've come and how much good they've done.

Ali: Which made his feedback feel less like feedback and more like criticism. I felt judged.

It was a fair read.
As a community based on reality-based self-development, of people working on growth mindset and antifragile egos, I prefer people to write their thoughts quickly, rather than not writing them because they're short on time and don't have time to write longer-format responses.

Otherwise, to in the everyday life outside of the forum, it's far better for people to explain and be "less crude".

Ali: By mirroring that direct, low social effort behavior I saw in John, there's a chance I would have come across as more direct and more of a straight shooter.

True

Ali: I was just so scared of being ostracized again I felt like I had to respond to everything he said that I didn't like or agree with.

Much respect to you for having the emotional strength of being so open, man, that really takes courage.

That's another aspect of giving feedback on a forum: it's a public place, much different than giving feedback on a 1:1 basis.


IDEA: THREAD FOR CLARIFYING MISUNDERSTANDINGS?

Since things like these can happen, I'm thinking maybe we can open a thread where to clarify all misunderstandings and give each other feedback on our (written) communication.

So we don't go off-topic, and we can all use more opportunities for feedback and learning.

Edit: the thread is live 🙂

Mist1102 has reacted to this post.
Mist1102
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

So I'm not sure if this thread is dead, but I have a idea. Is it possible you could use this negotiation fumble with your professor as a way to recruit him as a mentor?I'm thinking he seems very passionate on the subject of negotiations and he is a teacher so perhaps this situation could be flipped by stating appreciation for his reply and by stating what you have learned about negotiating from your email, his reply to your email, and then asking him a question that allows him to position himself as a mentor. I learned that value taking is more graceful with high power and accomplished people when they are your mentor and that mentorship amplifies your value adding capabilities with the perk of giving you a powerful ally ( I learned that through this course and then through application this semester.)

Quote from Mist1102 on December 16, 2020, 5:30 am

Is it possible you could use this negotiation fumble with your professor as a way to recruit him as a mentor?

I'm thinking he seems very passionate on the subject of negotiations and he is a teacher so perhaps this situation could be flipped by stating appreciation for his reply and by stating what you have learned about negotiating from your email, his reply to your email, and then asking him a question that allows him to position himself as a mentor. I learned that value taking is more graceful with high power and accomplished people when they are your mentor and that mentorship amplifies your value adding capabilities with the perk of giving you a powerful ally ( I learned that through this course and then through application this semester.)

It's rarely a bad idea to get well-established folks as mentors.

In this case though, it's possible that he Ali would have first to "dig himself out of the social hole".

The professor right now doesn't probably Ali in the best light, and since mentorship requires some time and investment from the mentor, you want to field that request while you have some social capital / leverage.

So, from a social strategy point of view, before even asking for that, I'd try to replenish that social bank account.
How?
For example:

  1. Amend the review to the professor's liking
  2. Reply to him saying "thank you so much for your feedback! It helped me understand your course even better!"
  3. And look, now I even amended the original review

As a matter of fact, if Ali wants to keep a good connection, he might want to send that type of email even if he's not going to ask for mentorship.

Mist1102 has reacted to this post.
Mist1102
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

I'll answer ASAP. I don't have any more energy today. Take care guys!

It took me a very long time to think about this one. As I said one of my motto is: "don't be a dick". So I do my best not to be a dick.

@lucio: thank you very much for your feed-back. I'm not 100% sure it was a case or direct vs indirect, though. But this gets to the point where you have to meet the other person to understand better what's going on in my opinion.

@ali: there were emotions from my side and your side. There were interpretations and now it's gone. It's part of the past. I said it several times, I'll say it again to make sure it's clear: It's all good, I wish you the best for this new year!

So here is one of the reason I was not feeling comfortable with this situation. When I researched Ali's book to understand him better, I found out that there was a relationship I was not aware of. So for me in this case, there was a bias. I don't want to re-start this whole thing again. I want to explain why I was not feeling comfortable with the whole thing. And I was not comfortable with posting this link because it could be interpreted as passive-agressive, which I hope it will not be. So I was in a bit of a double-bind. But the idea was to explain one's perspective, so here is mine.

Alright guys, that's my best in balancing honesty and respect. Thanks for the learning!

Cheers!

John, here are my thoughts on this:

OBJECTIVE FEEDBACK VS PERSONAL ENDORSEMENT

As humans, it's probably impossible to completely separate feedback on a (small) argument, from the feeling that one is assigning "percentages of culpability".
And, in a way, giving feedback on an argument is an act of assigning "percentages of culpability".

That being said, it's still a worthy pursuit trying to separate feedback, from personal assignment of value/blame.
And the goal of my feedback was to give feedback on the exchange, and not to assign virtues or blame.

I might be wrong, but when you talk about my bias, I feel like you're focusing more on the latter, on who's to blame, rather than on the feedback about the exchange.

PERSONAL BIAS

With bias, I say the same from the other: humans can hardly claim to be bias free.
And all I can do, is trying to be objective.

If personal bias affected the feedback, I think (and could be wrong) that it was a different type of bias than the one you're thinking, John (such as, me favoring Ali).

As two esteemed members who add value and whom I feel (both!) close to, my bias is to keep both of you in the community. So if there is was an obvious case of wrongdoing (there wasn't here), my personal bias is to stay more around the middle, so not to drive anyone away.

I still think -and might easily be wrong- that the feedback was largely neutral and impersonal.

But if someone felt otherwise, please do let me know, and why so. That's a great learning opportunity for me as well (yes, that would mean that we carry on with this a few more posts, but if we are going to learn from it, that's what matters).

FEEDBACK IS PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW, BIAS IS INHERENT TO IT

Funny enough, if one had to point a major "mistake" or "guilt" that weighed on this exchange, it was probably all mine 🙂

I created a lot of confusion by not saying this first and foremost:

My feedback was as a user, not as an admin.

This was a small quibble between two smart guys who can clarify things on their own, and that needed no admin intervention.
That, I think, led to much misunderstanding.

Every feedback is one person's point of view, including bias and mistakes.
Mine was no different.

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Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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