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The Power of Detachment

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Hello guys,

Coming back from holiday, I found myself to use more often a much more effective behavior at work: detachment. I now understand why Jocko Willink speaks about it so much. It is an emotional state where we have a distanced perspective on a situation, when we are the Observer, the Thinker, the Listener This allows us to be able to think more and feel less. This allows for more effective problem-solving and better focus.

I would not recommend it for personal life as it takes from the emotional life. However at work, it is VERY effective. Reminder: I work in a hospital. Maybe in an office setting, this would be considered cold-blooded. Actually, I think this is why Poutine is so cold. He spends most of his time in this rational mode. So this has to be balanced with warmth. It is also helpful at work as it prevents to get too much entangled in the power games. I still feel the hurt some time but since I'm so much focused all the time that it helps me not to take things personally. It helps to think more objectively and to have less pollution of our thinking by our emotions.

For instance, if somebody plays a power move on me I might get annoyed. For instance if somebody invades my personal space. But then I take mental note and it helps me to prepare for a new ocurrence of this behavior. Therefore being detached gives me more control over my thoughts and behavior. It gives me more Power. With a price to pay in Warmth. There is also a dichotomy between Obervation and Action.

So I think I will start from there and I add warmth as needed. But as a beginner in my job, I must use all my thinking power to be able to navigate the job and the nasty co-workers. So I would recommend to switch on this mode at work. It works for me. This is if you don't want to be seen as a cool guy/girl at work and are ok with your co-workers just being co-workers. Paradoxically it helps to care for the relationship as we are not always getting pissed off by small offenses.

To balance the loss of warmth, I focus on adding value as much as possible. I also think it's a more difficult behavior to acquire than the warm behavior, at least for me. And I notice with friends, it's also better to start from a position of Power. Actually I get better treated by everyone by behaving this way.

What do you guys think?

I might post videos from Jocko about this topic later.

Love it, John!

You mean "detachment" as as a higher-level approach of "not taking things personally?".

And I agree with you, in some professions / environments, demoting warmth in favor of power / competence is a smart move.

Interesting when you say that it's better to prioritize power than warmth, even with friends, and that you get treated better. Do you have some example for that?
I'd love to learn more.

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John FreemanStef
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well as Greene said friends can become tyrants or envious (maybe those are not true friends) yet the point my be that being a little feared by the people who love you can get you a better in your face at least treatment

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John Freeman

Glad you guys like it. It’s like a dark little secret. People will not tell you about it but will respect you for knowing it and using it.

Yes, Stef. I agree. Whatever the situation there is always a transaction involved between people. Like Chris Voss said: “you’re always negotiating.” So you want to always be on the side with more power. You want to be the one who has what other wants not the one who wants what other have. Fear might be involved.

I’ll post more about this topic later.

You mean "detachment" as as a higher-level approach of "not taking things personally?".

I mean "detachment" as an emotional state of having distance. It's difficult to explain by writing. It's mostly a state of calm, stoic observation. For instance, if somebody insults you and you're like: "That's interesting. So X got really pissed off when I did that.". It gives space to think and choose the right reaction instead of reacting immediately out of emotion. You don't get pissed off, you just observe.

Regarding the example of friends: I would say that generally by having this distance it makes people respect me better. It gives me an air of power I would say. It's not only friends, it's everybody. I guess it is mostly through my body language. However, my body language and mindset is not to appear powerful, quite the opposite. It is to be detached and to be able to think and make decision and THEN it appears in my body language.

Here are a few videos for a better explanation, I did not try consciously to learn detachment. It came because I was pushed over and over by the nurses. So I had to take a step back to think better and to be able to anticipate and counter their moves. This is how I learned detachment. And now it's part of my toolbox.

And on the topic of detachment and not taking things personally:

Here are a few real life examples:

Many people at work say my name wrong. That being said, now that I'm more powerful, they really make an effort to say it right. Before, it was not going like that.

So I think I earned respect with the team and detachment is an added layer which gives more power.

Interesting, thank you for sharing John.

Yeah, that caring/not caring about a name's pronunciation can be a small, yet significant indicator.

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John Freeman
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Something else that is very important about detachment. Since it puts you in a more observer role, you get to listen.

I cannot tell you how many things I learned about my colleagues in these past two weeks just by listening them talking to one another.

I did not even have to eavesdrop. They just gave free intel away.

Being a good listener is a trait of a good leader, so it’s a plus.

I was giving way too info about myself and my knowledge. That was a big mistake. Now I know. I had to learn it though.

Interesting, John, thank you for the update.
Quote from John Freeman on October 12, 2020, 10:17 am

I was giving way too info about myself and my knowledge. That was a big mistake. Now I know. I had to learn it though.

Do you have some examples of what you thought was sharing too much information? I'd be curious to learn.


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Remember when I wrote about sharing my knowledge with interns through teaching and my peers and nurses overhearing to learn from me without having to go through social exchange?

You rightly said that they were learning my medical knowledge not my social skills knowledge. You were right.

My mistake: I was not valuing my knowledge enough. In a culture where everybody teaches everybody what they know, my attitude is fine. In a culture where people are mostly takers, I will lose.

Now, this is what I think, regarding to most colleagues, but not your brothers-in-arms:

  1. VERY important not to share one's mindset: it gives them insight into how you think. So you're giving away your power and make yourself vulnerable to 1. them taking advantage of your weaknesses. 2. them upgrading their mindset.
  2. Important not to share your knowledge if not necessary: that is the strategy of most people. They share the strict minimum they have to share. That is good for them keeping their power, but not conducive to building alliances.
  3. Selectively add value to people that are in the win-win dynamics: value the value you have to give. If you give it away for free, people won't value it.

So as I'm detaching, I'm rarely speaking at work. I'm speaking maybe 80% less than before. I speak only if necessary.

Another advantage of the power of detachment with your family: let's say you're always stuck in the same dynamics. Well, detachment will give you new options to be able to have a new outcome.

The trigger for detachment: when you feel a strong emotion during a conversation. Previously the emotion was leading you down a path with a given outcome. Example: you're angry so you either defend or attack. Without this emotion, you can now choose more objectively what answer you want to give: ask a question, reformulate, listening, etc.

For instance: my mother was telling me that she's not calling me because I'm working and she does not want to disturb me at work. She's been saying it for years. It's an excuse for her: it's my fault she's not calling me because I'm working and she's such a respectful person and I'm a lousy son. So this time I don't follow the path of anger. I ask her a couple of questions and tell her: well, you can just call me again later. Her: .....

So it is a VERY powerful tool as it gives you a high-altitude perspective where you can more clearly see people's frames and address them properly. It also helps to prevent manipulation as we often get manipulated through our emotions.

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