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Social group: Whatsapp groups are detrimental

Hello guys,

Experience

I created a whatsapp group for my new social group of friends around board games. However, as you know I made the mistake of not recognizing a value-taker. That being said, it's through him that I met two cool guys and I was with him when I met two others. So we had good times together and I got to meet cool people through him.

Analysis

However here are the problems:

  1. Social climbing: whatsapp groups can be a place where social climbing can happen, like a forum or a real-life group.
  2. Loss of control: now I cannot kick people out of a group without looking like a d##k. So I use the group as little as possible. That's the paradox: I'm the administrator but if I kick a value-taker I take the risk that he will make a new group without me. So I have to endure this mistake.
  3. Loss of leadership: in the group, people organized games and then I was not the leader of the group anymore at those moments. I'm ok with this, but still this was the consequence.
  4. Loss of power: Also, people do not need me anymore to connect with one another. This is a good thing. However, by facilitating too much, people don't need me as much as before.

So creating a whatsapp group is convenient but there are disadvantages in terms of power dynamics. It's better if you are the one who organize stuff and then they know where it's happening. You can always tell them: so and so will be there. So they know that there will be a cool group of people and that they're not alone coming. However, the power dynamics is more favorable: you don't face a whole group, just one individual. So it's a bunch of 1-to-1 relationships with you at the center.

Conclusion

I like better equalitarian relationships. But until the group is set up in terms of values (for example: Respect, Trust, Fun) and you are sure of all group members, it's better to keep the upper hand until you are sure:

  1. That all group members are value-givers
  2. That all group members agree with the values that you want the group to uphold (of course this must be positive values

So it's a learning experience. As every leader knows: recruitment is 90% of the work. If you recruit good members in the group, you don't have to police value-taking behavior and you can focus on having fun. People can still organize and connect through you if you don't create a whatsapp group.

So I don't recommend creating a whatsapp group for a social group unless the conditions above are present. We could add a 3rd condition:

3. People recognize you as the leader of the group

Also I think it's better to avoid including machiavellian people.

Cheers!

Lucio Buffalmano and Matthew Whitewood have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew Whitewood

Great, great post, John.

Yes, it all adds up and this is perfect strategic thinking.

Matthew Whitewood and John Freeman have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodJohn Freeman
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
  1. Loss of control: now I cannot kick people out of a group without looking like a d##k. So I use the group as little as possible. That's the paradox: I'm the administrator but if I kick a value-taker I take the risk that he will make a new group without me. So I have to endure this mistake.

Do you think that it is possible to create a new group from scratch and name it something else?

There used to be this running joke among my colleagues that there are always 2 groups:

  • One with the boss
  • One without the boss

Maybe now it could be

  • One with the value-taker
  • One without the value-taker
Lucio Buffalmano has reacted to this post.
Lucio Buffalmano

Thanks Lucio!

Matthew: see the group dynamics above. Not at this point. They would not understand why I’m doing that. These people still think that nasty social climber A. is cool. So I would be the manipulator to their eyes and he would be the victim.

Just like in Star Wars people think that the senator Palpatine has good intentions so they listen to him.

My strategy is to let the whatsapp group die out. I will keep making events and stuff but without using the group. At the end of the year, when the group will be solid in real life, I will delete the group.

Matthew, of course it's possible to create another group without him. However, in this thread I explained why I think it is not favourable in terms of power dynamics at this stage. If you have any questions regarding the content of this thread, let me know.

This is my personal view.

I quote pieces that allowed me to make a point.

It's not an analysis as to who's right, but an analysis of what both can do better going forward (always in my opinion).

Pardon potential mistakes, it's a long text, so proof-reading was spotty.

The beginning

Personally, I’d have felt the original statement, in that context, was direct and “making no bones about it”, but not particularly impolite.

And neither would have I felt it was exceptionally polite.

Maybe a grey area closer to white.

That being said, I don't think it was a smart social strategy, and could have been worded better to avoid negative interpretations (see later in “protecting power”).

Summary: Matthew might have adopted more detachment, John can stick to direct talk, which works well in many situations, but adopting "power protecting" can make him a far smoother, refined social operator.

Raising the issue: more specificity helps

Matthew: John, I don't feel that this is polite.
I am offering suggestions, and this is a demanding statement for me to re-read your post again.

The initial request for clarification could have been more specific about what was it that made it impolite.

Accepting other people’s reality once the issue is raised: always a good idea

Once Matthew raised the issue on this post, there was no validation.

I'd have validated his interpretation. Even if I disagreed.
Because:

  1. Interpretations are (their) reality
  2. Not validating their reality is the best way to escalate -while going nowhere-
  3. Validating their reality is the best way to move towards resolution -and the first step towards persuasion-

See how I approached it in this same thread, on a previous clarification:

Me: Matthew, I think your (sic) raise very valid points (validation)

And:

Me: To clarify some of the possible misunderstandings: (“misunderstanding” frames the issue as shared, now Matthew is more likely to listen non-defensiely)

And:

Me: That's a great point (it's always great to give points to others. And never it is as important as during disagreements and clarification)

After the discussion was reaching a better:

Me: Also, I recognize I'm personally biased on the topic. (takes more of the blame, "cements" the agreement and resolution with some more giving)

So by using the same strategy, this:

John original: I think my statement might have been taken personally. Here is my perspective:

Could have become:

John validating: I can see how it might be perceived that way, that wasn’t my intention (and I’m sorry if you felt that way)
Let me clarify

Then you can go on and say the exact same things.

Of course, it can happen that you truly don’t see their point of view, and you can be very honest about it, I’ve done it many times over, and it sounds like this:

Validation disagreement: I disagree with that, I think you might have taken something that was meant in a factual way, at a personal level.
BUT, if you felt that way, that’s your reality, and it’s true and valid (= I disagree, but still respect and take your point of view seriously)

Then go on and clarify your point.

Power protecting: how to word sensitive feedback / rejections / denials / criticims

Woridng is where the “status-protecting”, and “power protecting” kicks in.

As a rule of thumb, the more driven and high-power/status the individuals, the more important power-protecting becomes.

In a place where people are learning power dynamics and social strategies to achieve goals, we’re likely to be dealing with people where power-protecting is a good strategy.

Matthew: John, I don't feel that this is polite.
I am offering suggestions, and this is a demanding statement for me to re-read your post again.

A more power-protecting way of phrasing it:

Matthew Power Protecting: John, I get your point, and I get my advice wasn’t useful to you.
Fair enough.
That being said, the way it was phrased, it felt impolite to me.

On John’s side, a power-protecting way of rejecting the initial advice:

John Power Protecting: Matthew, thank you for the advice.
As per the dynamics above, I don’t think it would work in this case…

Even more power protecting:

John Power Protecting: That could work if… But not in this case

Any of the two above would have prevented this escalation.

In most situations in life you won't get a feedback though.
So John would have instead lost some rapport, connection, and friendship.

Power protecting in these scenarios is a generally smart strategy at different levels:

  1. More likely to preserve and improve the relationship
  2. More likely to get more present and future contribution from the same person
  3. More likely to get more present and future contribution from others

Why?

Because when people see that contributions are met with value and appreciation, no matter what the contribution is, it encourages more people to chip in.
Yes, you will also get advice that does not apply, but with quantity often comes quality as well.

Clarifying VS winning the argument

Once an issue has been raised, there are two different roads:

  1. Clarifying
  2. Proving we’re right

The two aren’t always and necessarily mutually exclusive, but they often are.

A sentence like this:

I think it was clear to Lucio but not to you.

It’s showing the other wrong (winning the argument).

Even if we think we're right, I’d be careful with this approach.

It moves us away from resolution, and can get people very emotional, since it’s a way of saying “the problem was with you, and the proof is that this other person understood it”.

Specificity VS criticism

I noticed it a few times already: sometimes something is not clear to you (...)

It’s best to either provide a clear example here, or stick to the specif situation.
Otherwise it can be perceived as criticism, even if we don't mean it as criticism (criticism = global attack towards the person).

Criticism tends to move away from resolution, and into either escalation or endless discussions.

A finessing move to avoid raising people’s defenses and to move more smoothly towards quick resolution is to avoidthe word  “you”.

I might sometimes go philosopher here and say something like:

It’s normal sometimes for people to feel...

Imagine power-protection on a scale, from worst to best (don’t make too much of it, I just jotted it down, but it can serve t give you an idea):

  1. You are, you did, because you are…
  2. You did this, you did that, you did this and that
  3. You did this (once, but still with finger-pointing feel to it)
  4. You did this, and I get it
  5. You did this, and I get it, it’s normal,
  6. You did this, and people sometimes do that…
  7. Look, it’s normal that people do this thing that you did here…

Here, I am explaining to you twice why (…)

I’d avoid this wording, it can feel condescending to the receiver.

Some people use this format to increase the “pressure” on the receiver.
It's as if to say “I’ve already done this several times (most people would get it, so the problem is you), and I’m getting exasperated.

That puts pressure on the other individual to “drop it”, but if they drop it, they only drop it externally, while they’ll still feel internally it was unfair

To keep the same wording, equally factual:

I explained twice why it’s not an optimal strategy, so when you accuse me of being impolite, I feel….

Frame Imposing

Matthew, for the last time: this statement is NOT impolite.

This is frame imposing.

I'd keep frame imposing only for fringe cases in which we need to defend crucial boundaries of basic respect, and I'd avoid it during clarifications.

When the focus is on winning, there is only one resolution: total victory on one side, and capitulation on the other side.
Albeit that's OK, and even great in some limited situations, in more cases, those are poor resolutions -in friendships, they tend to dissolve friendships. And in relationships, it starts tipping relationships into toxic ones-.

 

Summary: When the discussion moved on this thread, I think John could have focused (far) less on "proving right", and more on understanding and/or resolving.
There was no understanding, and little to no resolving, and some sentences provided hooks for fruitless, lose-lose escalation.

Keep it short and simple

Matthew, I’d personally try to keep the texts shorter, and focused on a single issue.

When we quote many different parts of an original message, we also open different threads going in a lot of different directions.

The receiver can feel overwhelmed and start wondering “what was the point, and what am I supposed to answer?”.

Then, the receiver is not sure what to answer, and that can be irritating for them.
It feels like “wait, why are we going on a detour, with 3 different paths to it? I thought were discussing a simple issue”.

That might even feel manipulative and covert aggressive in a twisted way.
They thought it was a simple issue, and now they feel like they’re being overwhelmed by the complexity and a form of “word salad”, and they lash out.

When they reply, they go back to the main issue they thought it was all about, which in this case was: polite or not?
But they might do it more aggressively, or angry, because they feel they’re losing control of the narrative.

Social chameleon: moving towards the middle

This was also a case where, in my opinion, social chameleon-ining was going to be helpful.

Matthew could have been more direct, briefer, and maybe replicate with frame-dominance of his own: "you say it's not impolite, but that's exactly what it felt to me".

John could have adopted more of Matthew's pleasantries, validated his point of view, and mirror his frame of "nothing personal towards you".

Being a social chameleon at the more advanced level is about understanding the other person, their style of communication, their psychological make-up, and adapting in a way that reaches goals quicker and more effectively.

Matthew Whitewood, John Freeman and Samson have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodJohn FreemanSamson
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Lucio, thank you very much for this detailed feedback.
I really appreciate the time to write this.

There are some areas where I don't completely understand.
I would like to dig further into them if possible.

Social chameleon: moving towards the middle

I have a key issue or blindspot.
Sometimes I view directness as rude.
And it is sometimes not the case.

Matthew: see the group dynamics above. Not at this point.

I was comfortable with the directness of "Not at this point.".
A direct disagreement is comfortable with me.
Because John understands the context and situation best.

I felt uncomfortable with "see the group dynamics above.".
This seemed to be directed at me, and I felt tasked to do something, which is reading the post in this case.
What I can do in the future is to decline.

John: Matthew: see the group dynamics above.

Matthew: Thanks for pointing out the dynamics above.
That being said, I would not like to revisit the post again.

This would be a smoother way of handling this rather than framing the remark as impolite.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 17, 2021, 3:05 am

Matthew could have been more direct, briefer, and maybe replicate with frame-dominance of his own: "you say it's not impolite, but that's exactly what it felt to me".

I was considering going more direct.
I was afraid that frame-dominance may result in a battle of frames and the conversation would not proceed productively.
Would frame-dominance in this case be stating my perspective more directly and succinctly?

For example, in the following suggestion that Lucio gave

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 17, 2021, 3:05 am

you say it's not impolite, but that's exactly what it felt to me.

In this case, I am not refuting any frame.
I am merely re-asserting my perspective.
That's the subtle difference from what I see.

Keep it short and simple

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on February 17, 2021, 3:05 am

Matthew, I’d personally try to keep the texts shorter, and focused on a single issue.

The issue here is that I overcompensated.
I felt that I did not give enough context in my first clarification.
And John expanded on my post to give his views.
As such, I wanted to give a detailed post on the various points that he brought up.
I believed that would address a wider context.

However, now I can see how it backfired.
I thought that the following was an important point to address because John brought the following point up:

Quote from John Freeman on February 16, 2021, 12:30 pm

I noticed it a few times already: sometimes something is not clear to you (...)

But now I see how important it is for disagreements to have structure.
Going one point at a time.
If not, perspectives, context and different matters may seem to jumble together.
This makes it potentially annoying and confusing to address.

Last Portion of the Conversation

The last portion of the conversation seemed to come back to a productive stance though.
We brought away the topic from a more personal vibe to an objective disagreement.
This was after Lucio gave the suggestion of providing external feedback.

Does John & Matthew Have Different Styles?

From Lucio's feedback, Lucio seems to be implying that John has in general a more direct style of communication.
While I may have a more indirect style and give more social pleasantries.
Would this be only pertaining to this thread or across most of our conversations?

Quote from John Freeman on February 16, 2021, 12:30 pm

"nothing personal towards you"

This is a great observation.
I do feel that John talks to me rather than about my content quite often.
While my preference is to address the content without the person.

This may be a weird question to ask.
Does this mean I should get more personal with John in discussions?