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"The Friend Zone Decoded" by Casey Zander (YouTube Channel)

Another case study, this time on a "frame battle" that escalated quickly:



*Note: Below is my best transcription based on how they told the story along with my own notes. 

[Girl reaches out to Caden asking to hang out / meet up]

Caden: On one condition.

Her: Oh, what's that?

Caden: (tries to move into the "lover" role by avoiding meeting as friends) The condition is you gotta wear something cute for me

Her: (turns his request into a power showdown) The only type of man I would ever dress up and look cute for just dumped and there's no way I have to do that. Me and you are just friends and I don't have to dress up for you let alone impress you.

Her: (maintains her frame that they're only friends) I was hoping you would actually care enough about me as a friend and wanted to listen

Caden: (realizes he's in the friend role and tries to move out of it) You have girlfriends for that lol

Her: (manipulation technique: "put you on the defensive") Oh my God I hate you. All men are the same. I can't even believe you wouldn't have enough care in your heart to come and take care of me like this...

Her: F off.

Caden: (microaggression technique: "shame and go higher") Based on the level of immaturity, I take it back, I don't think this is going to be a fit

Her: (blocks him)

Looking back through my notes, this one was difficult for me. More than the words being said, but the way they were being said by the storytellers all had to be taken into account when analyzing the dynamics here.

*Note: This analysis and breakdown is my opinion and 100% open to feedback below.

#1. A Power Showdown Begins

I definitely could be wrong about this, but it felt like she had escalated the interaction into a power showdown in response to his condition:

Definition: Showdowns are escalations of disagreements in which both parties want to get it their own way and neither is willing to negotiate or accommodate.

I don't know how, but I could sort of sense / feel that a power showdown had begun.

The way she had "slammed her foot down" seemingly out of nowhere by escalating something that could've easily been resolved with a short and simple response made it feel like she was looking for more than a way to get her way. It felt like she was looking to dominate him, also so she doesn't have to give up what she wants (her freedom to wear what she wants).

It felt like "fire alarm / fiery frames", for sure, but it's also the way that it felt like there was a negotiation being done with no (real) negotiating, both sides wanting to get what they want with neither side wanting to give up any ground. And, the biggest sign for me might have been her trying to get what she wants with escalation instead of (reasonable) conversation or actual negotiation.

#2. The Judge Role Is Introduced

She interpreted his condition as a way of using the judge role on her. A "prove yourself to me" judge role.

That's because he's putting her in a position to dress according to what he judges as "cute". And, if he's unsatisfied, then he could be disappointed (i.e. a negative judge role).

So, since the judge role is like the parent role (due to the parent/child relationship of transactional analysis), she's actually escalating because she's rebelling against Caden's "parental" judge authority—not unlike a child in their teenage years rebelling against the judgment of their parents.

So, saying, "I don't have to dress up for you let alone impress you," was her way of taking Caden out of the parent (judge) role.

Then, she tries to avoid taking the child role by claiming the parent role for herself with, "I was hoping you would actually care enough about me as a friend."

When she says that, it feels like she's using the judge role to shame his frame with the implied frame of, "Putting conditions in place for us to meet is unfriendly behavior that means you don't care enough about me."

#3. Manipulation Technique: Invalidate Their Feelings

When Caden said, "You have girlfriends for that lol," it felt like he was invalidating her feelings (the "LOL" also being a possible microaggression) because it seemed like he was ignoring her feelings that:

  • She wants him as a friend right now: yes, she probably does have girlfriends for that. And, if she wanted to vent to them, she probably would have. Away from dating specifically for a minute, from a relationship perspective, if she genuinely saw him as a friend, completely ignoring her feelings of wanting to talk and spend time with him could be damaging to the relationship and rapport-breaking on its own.

Better, I think, would've been to firmly and assertively hold his ground with the broken record technique:

Her: (maintains her frame that they're only friends) I was hoping you would actually care enough about me as a friend and wanted to listen

Caden: (validates her feelings) I do care about you. (broken record technique: enforces "lover" frame) My only condition is that you wear something cute for me.

#4. Manipulation Technique: Put You On the Defensive

Her: (manipulation technique: "put you on the defensive") Oh my God I hate you. All men are the same.

This felt like a clear attack. And, attacks usually put others on the defensive.

Maybe we could even go so far as to say an "identity-based shame attack" since she's sub-communicating, "You're not a (real) man if you don't (insert her frame here)."

In dating (without stretching this one too far), this could also be a subtle call to the "gentleman frame" where she's saying, "You're just like all the others, where did all of the gentlemen go?" And, that gentleman frame is disempowering for anyone looking to get out of the friend role.

#5. Microaggression Technique: Shame and Go Higher

Caden: (microaggression technique: "shame and go higher") Based on the level of immaturity, I take it back, I don't think this is going to be a fit

Here, Caden shames the maturity of her behavior as a way of taking the parent / judge role again to "rise above the tantrum of a child throwing a fit".

This time, he's also using a negative judge role, punishing her behavior with emotional distance (i.e. "never mind, I don't want to meet with you / be close to you anymore").

And, once again, she retaliates by taking the parent / judge role for herself to hold on to her power, showing even more emotional distance (i.e. blocking him).

*Note: I suppose whether or not Caden's decision here was a good idea depends on whether or not he cared to preserve the relationship.

Quote from Lucio Buffalmano on July 1, 2021, 7:35 am

Actually, I've just thought of expanding the reviews to include YouTube channels / podcasts.

This post is my first move to start seeing if my ready to do reviews of YouTube channels as well. This channel is one I've had my eye on for a while because of its case studies.

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Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew Whitewood

Forgot to note, if anyone has any thoughts or feedback to add on my analysis above, I'd be very curious to hear them.

Matthew Whitewood has reacted to this post.
Matthew Whitewood

Very interesting case study.

Some quick notes as I listen to the video before reading more:

  • Not being the friend: potentially correct approach of not wanting to friendly hang out if he wanted more
  • Wear something cute for me: this might have been a bit too obvious, a bit too sudden, and too big of a jump
  • Game playing? it's very possible the woman wanted to have an emotional shoulder to cry on, so the "loss" of getting blocked might be a gain. But there might have been better ways to play that
  • Some terms are used wrongly, like "collaboratively": it wasn't a collaborative approach he used
Ali Scarlett and Matthew Whitewood have reacted to this post.
Ali ScarlettMatthew Whitewood
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?

Very good analysis on judge roles, Ali.

Yes, she first went ballistic as a way of rebeling to his (higher power) judge role.

Wear something cute: incongruent

That "wear something cute" wasn't the best approach because it was highly incongruent with his previous behavior.

If he behaved like a white knight for a month, or if for a month he was a friend, it's just plain weird to act 360 different and now try this player/macho thing over text.

That's the other issue: you can't act weak in person, then act dominant in text.
That's twice as weak.

It means you aren't even "nice", you just have these mental power trips, but zero balls to put into practice.

People often find those with secrets dreams of power but zero courage whatsoever to be the most disgusting.

It's normal that the girl thinks "who da fuck you think you are, you were a wimp for 12 months and now you heard this wannabe pimp power move from some community of online losers"?

I'd have been annoyed as well.
When I was seeing girls who in person rarely spoke up but then played games on text, it was twice as annoying.

You have girlfriends for that

You have girlfriends for that, LOL

Was not the most effective message.

What Ali mentions as "validating" would have probably worked better, even as a refusal:

Hey, it's not cool you're going through a rough time, I can empathize. At the same time, that doesn't make it my duty to help out and take care. Or at least, not under any conditions, because I also my own things to take care of.

Then he could have started regaining power more gradually:

That being said, I'm glad if I can help somehow.
If you want, we can meet at this place (pick place convenient for him) and have a chat over a drink

That's how you start regaining power more gradually, without being incongruent, and without leading to an escalation -or at least, doing your part not to lead to an escalation. If you're dealing with crazy, then it's crazy's fault not yours, and it's OK to lose contact-.

I hate you all men are the same

This line is a red flag.

I can't judge her character based on a few texts.
But it's possible that she wasn't worth it investing any more time and that this quick escalation was the best thing for him.

But if he wanted to either keep a friendship or have a better shot at sleeping with her, then a different and more gradual approach would have been better.

Actually, it might not have been the best thing for him because any experience, even negative, is a good learning opportunity for a beginner.
That kid seems bright, when he speaks he makes sense and his heart seems in the right place. I see positive signs he can be a high-quality guy. Not sure about the teacher/mentor he's found, haven't seen enough of him.

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Ali Scarlett
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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